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Reflections on Rocky Point

It had been a beautiful paddle.

We passed along marshes, some with towering tules, others colored with blooming, cup-shaped, yellow wocus. Working our way north along Recreation Creek, we occasionally saw geese and ducks flying overhead, some dipping and gliding in the thermals, while others were far overhead gliding the sky in ever-changing formations. A lone white pelican floated undisturbed nearby.

In the first quarter-mile we exchanged hellos with other kayakers and, less often, paddleboarders heading back toward the Rocky Point boat launch or the docks at Rocky Point Resort. Smiles were abundant. It was sunny and warm but not hot, with just a light whisper of wind.

We followed the Canoe Trail signs, gently meandering our way along the marsh’s thickets of plant life.

The canoe trail guide published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service shows a Wocus Cut about a mile north from the Rocky Point boat launch, but we never found it. There are occasional trail signs, but some are bent or turned backwards, and they’re less frequent after the trail meets the junction for Crystal Creek and the Malone Springs boat launch and bends south toward Pelican Bay.

We paddled on but found no guiding signs. It’s wasn’t the first time that’s happened. A few years ago, going south from the Rocky Point boat launch along Pelican Bay, other friends and I made the turn north along Crystal Creek but never found the Wocus Cut.

It’s an overworked phrase, but sometimes the destination truly isn’t as significant as the journey. Both times, the pleasure was simply being outside and part of the marsh’s tranquil environment.

The 9-1/2 mile canoe trail is part of the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, which spreads over 23,098 acres along the western side of Upper Klamath Lake. Areas along Recreation Creek near Harriman Resort, Rocky Point boat launch and Rocky Point Resort, which rents kayaks and canoes, are the most frequently traveled. It’s possible to do a variety of routes along segments of the trail, whether a 5-mile loop using the Wocus Cut or various out-and-backs.

My favorite section, and the one we took, is the channel north along Recreation Creek. Past the Rocky Point Resort and a series of creek-side cabins, the trail offers a sense of intimacy because the creek narrows along the cattail-bulrush marsh. There’s also a sense of awe, especially where it parallels creek-side stands of towering Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs, which serve as nesting sites for bald eagles and opsrey, along with stands of aspens, cottonwoods and willows.

As we paddled, dragonflies sometimes zipped past, seemingly checking us out, while unseen birds chirruped from the tules.

The trail has another allure — areas of open lake with expansive views of the sprawling Upper Klamath Lake, Mount McLoughlin, Cascades and, especially in the spring and fall, 200-plus species of waterfowl — white pelicans, grebes, swans, egrets, Canada geese, herons, American coots and belted kingfishers.

We were disappointed not to find the Wocus Cut turnoff and make the loop, but turned on by the unexpected. On the return paddle, after following Crystal Creek to Malone Springs, the southbound paddle along Crystal Creek and Recreation Creek transformed into something extraordinary.

The once-clear blue skies were accentuated with billowing, shape-changing clouds mirrored in the still waters. The feeling was one of paddling into the clouds, into the sky.

On the Rocky Point Canoe Trail, anything is possible. The sky’s the limit.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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IF YOU GO

From Medford, take Highway 140 east to the Rocky Point junction. Turn left and travel north about two miles to the Rocky Point boat launch or another 3-1/2 miles to the Malone Springs boat launch. For information and a map of the Canoe Trail, visit the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex website at www.fws.gov/refuge/upper_klamath.

Clouds are mirrored in the still waters of Klamath Lake. Photo by Lee Juillerat
Paddling the canoe trail sometimes involves treks through thick marsh. Photo by Lee Juillerat