MIDDLE CREEK NATURE AREA
Located at the northwest corner of Clear Lake, the Middle Creek Nature area, bounded by Rodman Slough to the west and Hwy 20 to the east, consists of hundreds of acres of agricultural land which were originally wetlands. The Middle Creek Nature Area is part of the long-term Middle Creek Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project.
Both Middle Creek and Scotts Creek feed into Rodman Slough, which empties into Clear Lake. It is estimated that the Scotts and Middle Creek watersheds provide 57 percent of the inflow and 71 percent of the phosphorus loading to Clear Lake.
Originally an area of functioning wetlands, 1400 acres below the confluence of Middle and Scotts Creek were “reclaimed” for agriculture in the first half of the 20th century by construction of levees. Never built to a high standard, these levees have deteriorated over time and are now highly prone to failure during flood events.
It is estimated that Clear Lake has lost approximately 80 percent of its natural wetlands over the years, wetlands that not only provided superb wildlife habitat but also acted to filter excess nutrients and keep them from reaching the lake.
During the last few decades, the properties in the Middle Creek Nature Area have been productive as wild rice fields, cattle grazing, and haying.
A 1994 Environmental Protection Agency study recommended restoration of the area — the largest single damaged wetland on the lake — as a top priority for improving water quality and restoring the ecosystem of the lake to health. Additionally the project would eliminate flood risk to area residents and farmers.
Since 2003, the Lake County Watershed Protection District has been actively purchasing properties in the project area. While the long-term plan is to breech the levees and recreate wetlands, plans are to design the project to include hiking on remaining levees and creation of kayaking water trails.
In the interim, the County is allowing hikers and birdwatchers access to this beautiful area.
Middle Creek Nature Area: The Middle Creek Nature Area Trail is a serene, easy 2.8 to 4.5 mile hike along historic rice farming roads through the Middle Creek Restoration Area. With stunning views of the northshore ridgeline, the trail passes along Rodman Slough. The area is a major waterfowl migratory route and boasts several osprey nests and great blue heron rookeries. Elevation gain is 42 feet.
To access the trail, take Hwy 20 in Upper Lake to either Reclamation Rd or the Reclamation Rd Cut-off.
• Non-motorized day use (dawn to dusk) only, except for official vehicles.
• No fires, hunting or smoking.
• Dogs not allowed.
• Hiking only on designated trails.
• The area may be closed during high fire danger, severe weather conditions, flooding and other maintenance, health and safety reasons.