Middle Creek Nature Area Trail

View of Northshore ridgeline from Middle Creek Nature Trail

View of northshore ridgeline across rice fields from Middle Creek Nature Trail

 

 

Length: 2.8 to 4.5 miles round trip

Time: 1 to 3 hours

Experience Level: Easy, level with 42 foot elevation gain.

Parking: Park on edge of road near county gate.

Park Hours: Dawn to dusk daily

Highlights:
– Blue heron rookeries
– Osprey nests
– Distant mountain vistas
– Migratory bird route
– Wetlands, tule reeds
– Picnic spots.

Download Middle Creek Nature Area Trail Brochure

Trail Description:

Park at the northern gate (1) and head west along the dirt road, passing by an osprey nest on a pole (2) . The south side of the road is bounded by water-filled irrigation ditches – these are wild-rice farming operations, which have been operating for decades.

After 1/3 mile (3) the road reaches a T, and heads north. Turn south on the dirt road, paralleling a levee separating the road from a slough.

After another 1/4 mile you may hear the sounds of bird calls growing louder. You are nearing the Rodman Slough rookeries (4) separated by a slough in the trees to the west. Often numerous egrets, herons and cormorants can be observed, as well as ospreys on a second nesting pole.

At nearly one mile (5) you will reach a dirt crossroad – this is part of the ongoing farming operations. Please respect their property by not hiking on the interior roads.

White pelicans migrating through the Middle Creek Nature Area.

White pelicans migrating through the Middle Creek Nature Area on Rodman Slough.

Continue south along the road, and at 1.5 miles, you will pass by the southern pumping station (6) where the levee has breached in high storms. From the levee top, one can see towards Rodman Slough and Rodman Slough Park. During the fall and winter months, hundreds of migrating waterfowl – including white pelicans, herons, egrets and cormorants can often be seen in the slough. This spot also intersects with Rodman Slough Water Trail 7.

Continue east on the dirt road. Nearly 2 miles into the hike, you will reach another dirt road heading north (7) . The dirt road is bounded either side by water/rice ponds, while a stand of trees – providing momentary shade – is a place to sit. (8) . (Note: a dirt road heading northeast leads to private property – please do not trespass .) Heading north, you will again pass another osprey nest (9) . At roughly 2.2 miles, you will reach a gate at the end of Reclamation Rd. (10) At this point you can re-trace your steps for a 4.5 mile loop, or continue north on the little-traveled Reclamation Rd.

The road is now paved. Continue north, passing the “Cutoff” Rd (11) at 2.65 miles, until the road takes a sharp left. Follow the road west, passing another gate (12) which prevents entry into the active farming area.

After roughly another 3.25 miles, you will reach a gate at Reclamation Rd. near your parking site (1) .

This trail can be started at (1) or (10) . Please note that summer months can be very hot – bring water and sunshade.

For a variation, one can also head northwest along the slough at (3) . This takes hikers along the levee top overlooking traditional grazing fields. (Note: a dirt road heading northeast leads to private property – please do not trespass.) A short side trip (13) meanders down to the Middle Creek/Scotts Creek confluence at Rodman Slough. The trail ends at (14) ; retrace your steps to
to (1) for a loop of 2.8 miles.

MIDDLE CREEK RESTORATION PROJECT

Since the early 1900s, Clear Lake has lost approximately 80 percent of its natural wetlands which not only provided superb wildlife habitat but also filtered excess nutrients from reaching the lake. The Middle Creek Restoration Project will restore nearly 1700 acres of wetlands, which were “reclaimed” by the Army Corp of Engineers for agriculture in the 1930s and 40s, via a crumbling levee system.

Since 2003, the Lake County Watershed Protection District has been actively purchasing properties in the historic Robinson Lake area – via grant funding – to eliminate flood-prone residential properties. By restoring the natural contours and hydrological functions of the area, the project will significantly reduce nutrient-laden sediments that currently cause growth of invasive aquatic plants and cyanobacteria “blooms”, commonly called blue green algae.

The project will also restore damaged wildlife habitat, improve breeding and rearing conditions for the threatened Clear Lake Hitch, and provide significant recreational opportunities.