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Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife Refuge’

We’re on the road again, having left cold, snowy Maryland behind last week in search of sun and warmer temperatures to the south. It is great to be mobile again, but it was hard leaving family behind.

We lost our Millie just over a month ago. Annie feels the loss of her buddy keenly and we all have found it hard to readjust to life on the road without her.

Brian, Annie & Millie

Brian, Annie & Millie on a picnic in Maryland, Oct. 2010

We had originally intended to stop in the Carolinas for a month or so, but the temps were still too cool so we continued down to Georgia, to do some exploring of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Nights have been cold, but the days warmer than further north, with highs in the 50s to low 60s. There has been lots of rain, but brilliant sun, too.
Okefenokee was a great place to visit. We spent just a couple of days there and saw only a smidge of it. It was a good time to visit. Too early and cold for the hordes of mosquitos and tourists. We strolled along the most popular trails — easy access routes — rarely passing another visitor.
We walked trails that wandered through forests of towering Longleaf Pines which rose from a dense ground covering of Saw Palmettos. These forests, once covering vast areas of the southeast, are carefully managed now in an effort to re-establish their dominance in at least some areas. Undergrowth is periodically burned away to allow young Longleafs a chance to grow.

Longleaf Pine Forest

Lisa beside Saw Palmettos

On the second day, we took a guided boat tour. We bought tickets for the earliest tour, 9:30 a.m., and found ourselves the only customers for that ride. It was crisply cold with a bright sun doing it’s best to melt the light frost. We wore windproof clothes, but felt the sting of icy wind on our faces and on fingertips not protected by fingerless gloves as we were born along on a large tour boat — just the two of us and our own private guide.

Brian on the tour boat

Our guide was knowledgeable about the Okefenokee and told us he was a 7th generation “swamper”, his family having lived in and around the Okefenokee for all of that time. He stopped when we wanted to take photos, answered all of our questions and turned off the motor for an extended period of time to let us absorb the absolute peace of the Okefenokee in the still of the winter’s day.

Great Egret

One of many alligators seen that morning

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Brian fishing from kayak in early morning

We moved away from the noise and bustle of Klamath Falls to Rocky Point Resort on Pelican Bay at the north end of Upper Klamath Lake. We are on the edge of the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and our site is close to the water so when we wake in the morning we can push the blind up and see pelicans paddling and splashing as they feed. With the lake and marsh on one side and the Winema National Forest to the other, we are surrounded by a stunning natural environment. There are a lot of houses set in along Rocky Point Rd., but they are well-spaced with lots of mature trees. It’s a quiet, off the beaten path kind of area and a welcome respite for us after urban living.

We have little sit-on-top kayaks that we easily tote the short distance to the water, making it possible for us to flyfish or just kayak whenever we like. There is a canoe/kayak trail winding through the refuge that we hope to explore more of soon.

Resort’s dock at dawn

View from lake toward resort’s dock near our RV site

Brian tying flies at our site, lake in background

We spotted this insect floating and watched as, in a few minutes, the adult Caddisfly emerged from its pupal skin and prepared to fly

A fishing dock at next door Forest Service’s boat launch

Low in late summer, this creek is a marshy trail through dry woods near the lake

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Interested in seeing more of the Klamath Basin’s refuge system, we went to the Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge in California, just 25 miles from Klamath Falls. Here’s Brian in Oregon. A step over the double yellow line and he’s in California.

The issue of water rights is a touchy subject with such a strong conflict of interest between agricultural usage and nature. For thousands of years, Klamath tribes lived in harmony with the marshes, but European settlers came, saw agricultural opportunities and drained.  They “reclaimed” 80% of the marshlands over a period of a half dozen decades, causing a drastic reduction in waterfowl populations and water quality. Reclamation?!  What an excellent example of the term euphemism.

Objectively speaking, the Klamath Project is impressive engineering, construction and management. Irrigation is a major part of the landscape in the Basin. Roads, railways and irrigation canals crisscross each other over the patchwork of farm fields.

Klamath Project map -- from usbr.gov site

Tule Lake is much smaller than it used to be and farmland marches right up to its edges as can be seen in the following photo. There is a dam on the Lost River in Oregon built to divert water to the Klamath River in order to prevent flooding of farmland surrounding Tule Lake in California during rainy periods.

Tule Lake & farm fields

At one corner of the lake is Discovery Marsh.  We visited the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center across the street and learned about the program of rotation that has been implemented since people realized that marshes need change, not stability.  Some of the leased land beside the lake that was being farmed exclusively is now in rotation — sometimes farmland, sometimes marsh.  Restoring the “reclaimed” marsh takes a lot of effort and management, but the idea is to simulate the periodic creation and destruction that occurs in natural marshlands.  So much effort for so little marsh, but it is a start.

Discovery Marsh, in lower half of image. Tule Lake is the pale blue water.

White-faced Ibis

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