It is quite a sight to see a caravan of 19 vehicles lined up in the campground, each with at least one boat on the roof, waiting to head out like some wagon train from bygone years.
The drive to Rocky Point takes us past fields of grazing cattle. To the north I can see the southern rim of Crater Lake. One has to keep a sharp eye on the road to avoid running over the numerous ground squirrels that dart across the road as cars approach, seemingly as though they have a death wish. Two adult bald eagles stand sentry on a couple of power poles that line the road. Scenes like these are why I make the 5.5-hour drive from my home in McMinnville, Oregon, to southern Oregon each summer.
We run into a snafu when we encounter a rather full parking lot at the Rocky Point boat ramp. I’m not used to seeing it so crowded, and some in the caravan are forced to park and launch at the Rocky Point Resort, which fortunately is adjacent to the public boat ramp. However, the parking dilemma pushes our launch time past 9 a.m. Once everyone is on the water, we convene in Pelican Bay for a group photo.
We paddle south through Pelican Bay, making a brief stop so those who want can photograph Mt. McLoughlin, which dominates the western edge of the bay. Off in the distance I can make out a pair of western grebes. A detour is also in order as I lead the group of paddlers over to where I spot a pair of white pelicans feeding.
Upon leaving the pelicans to continue their feeding uninterrupted, we journey east across the bay to the entrance to Crystal Creek. A Forster’s tern sitting on a sign post greets us as we reaching the creek’s entrance. I typically see these terns swooping overhead, never able to snap a picture of them, so this solitary bird presents a great opportunity to finally photograph a Forster’s tern. Several shots later, I lead my band of paddlers north up the creek.
Crystal Creek provides a beautiful paddling experience. Wocus, not to be confused with water lilies, line both sides of the creek. Behind them, rush line the low banks. Otter and beaver trails can be seen poking their way through the plants. From time to time we encounter a beaver lodge along the water’s edge. The creek snakes it’s way through the marsh. In some spots the wocus is so thick the creek gets very narrow.
We are only three miles into the nine-and-a-half-mile trip and some paddlers have already tired and choose to cut their trip short. I instruct them on how to return to Rocky Point by way of Wocus Cut. Six peel off from the group and head back to the boat ramp while the rest of us journey onward.
We’re treated to the melodies of red-winged blackbirds and the grasshopper-like sounds of marsh wrens as we make our way of Crystal Creek. Forster’s terns fly overhead, but in this trip I don’t encounter any of the black terns I spotted during a previous trip. One thing I have come to expect on the canoe trail is that the wildlife never seems to be the same. During previous trips, I have encountered river otters, yellow-headed blackbirds, harlequin ducks, cormorants, and American coot, just to name a few. The time of year seems to play a factor in what wildlife visitors to the canoe trail are likely to spot.
At the confluence of Crystal Creek and Recreation Creek, a few more paddlers decide they cannot make the two-mile journey to Malone Springs for lunch and choose, instead, to head back to the boat ramp by way of Recreation Creek. The rest of us continue on and arrive at Malone Springs an hour later for lunch.
Lunch was supposed to last one hour but I decide to cut it short by a half hour because the mosquitoes are so thick and bothersome, and most of the remaining paddlers seem eager to escape the bloodthirsty swarm. We climb back in our boats and head back the same way we came.
In 45 minutes we’re back at the point where Crystal Creek and Recreation Creek merge. We’re making good time. We head south down Recreation Creek. The landscape has changed—aspen, willow, and pine trees line the western shore of the creek. We also encounter a motorized fishing boat, which isn’t allowed on Crystal Creek. We pass other paddlers heading in the opposite direction.
Because we’re ahead of schedule, I offer the remaining paddlers the opportunity to accompany me into Wocus Cut, and five take me up on my offer. I lead them into a wide expanse of water that separates Crystal Creek from Recreation Creek. Here waterfowl like to hang out, though we only see a few ducks this time. We spend about a half hour in Wocus Cut before backtracking to Recreation Creek and completing our journey, tying up at one of Rocky Point Resort’s docks for dinner at the resort’s restaurant.
We gather at the restaurant to recap events of the day and take in the scenery of the surrounding marsh. Some of us have plans following dinner to head back out into Pelican Bay in pursuit of rainbow trout that can reach 30 inches in length.