Sunday, October 2, 2016

Paddling the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail

Located in the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is a marked, 9.5 mile canoe trail that meanders through a large freshwater marsh.

The canoe trail has four segments: Recreation Creek, Crystal Creek, Wocus cut and Malone Springs. Each section offers a different look at the Upper Klamath Marsh.

You can launch your canoe or kayak at the Rocky Point boat launch or the Malone Springs boat launch.

I can recommend staying at the Rocky Point Resort which offers both tent and RV camping as well as rental cabins.  Their restaurant is now open 7 days a week and offers a selection of delightful sandwiches and meals at affordable prices. 

Just in case you get skunked at fishing -- as I did -- they have fresh cod and chips.

Rocky Point Resort is located on Pelican Bay and has been in existence since at least 1909 as this old postcard attests too.

Ask about mooring your canoe or kayak at Rocky Point Resort's dock if you plan on staying longer than a day.

For me the canoe trail began at Rocky Point Resort, just north of Pelican Bay, which is aptly named for the American White Pelicans that often inhabit the area. It's great fun to watch pelicans soar with incredible steadiness on a wingspan averaging 9 feet.

Their large heads and huge, heavy bills give them an almost prehistoric look. Gliding on the water surface you'll see them dip their pouched bills to scoop up fish, or tip-up like an oversized dabbling duck. Groups of pelicans can be seen working together to herd fish into the shallows for easy feeding.

A solo White Pelican guided the way as I began my journey up the canoe trail.

There is an abundant variety of waterfowl and other wildlife in the refuge.  I am certainly not an authority on birds, so if you want to know what birds you can expect to see, you'll need to do a little homework.

Mammals along the canoe trail include Mink -- like this one I saw on a boat dock -- muskrats, beaver, occasionally otter, deer, coyotes, and rarely -- a newly located family of gray wolves.

Around every bend in the creek you can expect to see ducks and other waterfowl launch themselves as your canoe comes into view.

On my outward bound journey I passed several summer cabins, on the west, that had been grandfathered in when Recreation Creek became part of the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

Once past the cabins the forest to the west comes down to the creek while the rushes to the east creates an entirely different view of the marsh.

Wocus lilies -- which flower in the spring -- can be seen throughout the marsh. Wocus is a Native American word for the Rocky Mountain Pond Lily.

The Klamath Tribes, formerly the Klamath Indian Tribe of Oregon once gathered seeds of the wocus lily as an important food staple.

One of the many Shore Birds I encountered wading and feeding in the shallows along the edge of Recreation Creek.

I'll call them Cattail Rushes -- because I'm no expert on rushes -- are full of songbirds like these Red-winged Blackbirds.

It's unlikely that you'd ever get lost -- but just to keep you from wandering into areas of nesting birds -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has installed signs that clearly define the canoe trail.

To aid the nesting of the extraordinary bird life in the area the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has installed many of these birdhouses on posts along the water's edge.

About two miles north of Rocky Point an industrious beaver has built a dam across Recreation Creek.

Many canoeists would be undaunted and simply pull their boat over the top, but for me -- with my poor balance it was swim or turn around.  The decision was easy because I had seen a number of likely fishing holes that needed to be explored.

As I turned around on my homeward bound journey I noticed this beaver had his home in the bank of the creek.

Of the two creeks -- Recreation Creek and Crystal Creek -- for me the prettiest is by far Recreation Creek because of the forest.

I paddled this creek twice -- once in the morning, and once in the evening. The bird life is far more active in the early morning, but the evening shadows from the forest are both cooling and intriguing.

For me one of the real delights was spotting several Kingfisher birds. In the past I'd only seen them in Montana's Glacier National Park.

As you near Rocky Point the creek widens and you are again greeted by pelicans dipping for fish.

Friend Kenny kayaking Pelican Bay

To the south of Rocky Point Pelican Bay widens again, but is very weedy and shallow except for a channel that skirts the west and southern shoreline.

When I got back to the place where I had been mooring my canoe I was welcomed by this Great Blue Heron who grudgingly consented to share his dock with me.

I would definitely return to visit the area again.

My only displeasure was not hooking one of the huge Redband Rainbow Trout that inhabit the area. Given that the water is crystal clear and the creek holds thousands of small bait fish and perch these 2 to 3 foot trout are not easy to catch. 

One fellow fisherman said, "The small fish are so thick you can almost walk across the creek on them."

Call me disappointed.

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