Clear Lake Water Loop 6: Long Tule Point Wetlands & Wildlife
Photo © Laura Lamar/MAX Design Studio
A bucolic paddle along Clear Lake’s largest remaining natural shoreline, past cottonwoods and ancient oaks and small waterfront hamlets. Far-reaching views of Mount Konocti, the Mayacamas mountains, and the north shore.
On calm days, this is a gentle paddling experience; when the wind kicks up, it is best to hug the shoreline. A great alternate paddle during summer and early fall when loops like Anderson Marsh and Rodman Slough may be congested with late-season weeds. Mornings are best due to intense
midday sun. Winter and spring months offer spectacular opportunities to watch migratory water fowl.
From the boat ramp at Lakeside County Park (P), paddle toward the lake and turn left to head west. As you leave the park behind, you will pass a small waterfront community on Corinthian Bay (1) before approaching Long Tule Point (2), one of the largest remaining tule wetlands on Clear Lake. At risk from development, the Lake County Land Trust has identified preservation of this expanse of shoreline - from Clear Lake State Park to Lakeport - as one of its highest priorities. Vital to the ecosystem of the entire lake, expanses of tule reeds act as natural filtration for the lake and also provide protection, food, and breeding areas for many species of waterfowl and wildlife.
Continue around the point toward McGaugh Slough (3), a favorite bird-watching spot. Designated an “Important Bird Area” by Audubon California, Clear Lake hosts more than 300 species of local and migratory birds. Here, cormorant colonies roost in lakeside trees. Great Blue Heron and egrets hunt fish on the tule fringes while osprey soar overhead. Migratory flocks of white pelicans, coots, ducks, and geese winter along the shoreline, with an occasional bald eagle sighting.
Today, Clark’s Grebes and Western Grebes are typically present in large numbers. In the 1950s, however, the population was nearly decimated by the pesticide DDT - fewer than 20 pairs existed. Today, both species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Certainly one of the most spectacular displays is the grebe courtship dance (pictured on cover) in early spring. Starting with a rhythmic head bobbing, a pair of birds will then “rush” side-by-side skimming across the water’s surface and ending in a synchronized dive. Later, colonies form, with the females creating floating nest platforms from tules. Newly hatched chicks climb onto their parents’ backs, nestling into the wing feathers, where they are carried for weeks until old enough to fend for themselves.
Recently, grebe reproduction has been sporadic, most likely from human activity around their tule marsh nesting habitat. Paddlers should take care to stay away from tule stands where grebes show any signs of nesting.
Continue past McGough Slough. On a hot summer day- if the water is high enough - paddling into the slough can provide a bit of shade from cottonwood and willow trees. Western Pond Turtles can be seen sunning themselves while otter and mink rustle through the reeds.
After nearly a mile, you’ll approach Adobe Creek (4), one of the largest spawning runs for the Clear Lake hitch, a fish unique to Lake County. The best months to find Clear Lake hitch on Adobe Creek are March and April, from Soda Bay Road.
Soon you will pass Reeves point and the small community at Land’s End, known for its heron rookeries. At waypoint (5), you’ll see a series of docks in a small cove, the Konocti Vista Resort at Big Valley Rancheria. This is a great spot to pull in and have lunch at the restaurant, take a break, or try your hand at a few slot machines.
The Big Valley Tribal members are descendants of the Xa-Ben-Na-Po Band of Pomo Indians that historically inhabited the Clear Lake area for more than 11,800 years. Each summer, the Rancheria hosts a tule boatmaking workshop for tribal members, culminating in a thrilling series of tule boat races.
At this point, head west to poke around the Rumsey Slough area 6or head back hugging the shoreline. The 4- to 5-mile return trip features a spectacular view of Mount Konocti.
Alternate route: For an alternate 6-mile trip, head east from the boat ramp at Lakeside County Park, paddling one mile toward Quercus Point (7) past another huge remaining stand of tule reeds with grebe nesting areas, cormorant rookeries, and wood duck nesting boxes. Two more miles will bring you to Clear Lake State Park for lunch - or a rest - then meander back along the shoreline until you return to Lakeside County Park. See Clear Lake Water Trail Loop 5 for more details on this scenic paddle that includes Quercus Point, Clear Lake State Park, and Soda Bay.
A copy of this water trail brochure can be downloaded or viewed at http://konoctitrails.com/WT6_LongTule0410.pdf
Lakeside County Park
1985 Park Drive
Lakeport, CA, 95453