WT2 – TULE MAZE AT ANDERSON MARSH
Length: 6.2 Miles Round Trip
Time: 3-4 hours
Experience Level: Beginner through advanced
Launch Area: Redbud Park Boat Launch, 14655 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake, CA
– Wetlands, tule reeds
– Migratory waterfowl route
– Wildlife nature preserve
– Grebe nesting area
– Historic cultural resource
– State Park
– Picnic Spot.
A favorite among birdwatchers, this is a scenic loop around Indian Island into the tule marshes of Anderson Marsh State Park, and traversing back into Cache Creek and the western shoreline of Clearlake.
Paddling at a leisurely pace, the jaunt takes about 3 hours and is a bird watcher’s paradise. While the marsh itself is quite calm, be aware that winds can whip up large waves in the open waters off Redbud Park.
The loop begins at Redbud Park (P) in the city of Clearlake. As you cross the lake, an island emerges from the background. Indian Island (1) was once a major village and community center for the Southeastern Pomo, housing as many as 1000 inhabitants. While the island is now privately-owned, a portion of these cultural resources are protected by the State Park System through a conservation easement. The extended Anderson Marsh area contains archaeological sites over 10,000 years old, making them the oldest in California.
Paddle around the backside and head south. To your right, is the beginning of McVicar Wildlife Santuary, now part of Anderson Marsh State Park. A nice sandy beach off the tules is an inviting picnicking spot (2). Notice the volcanic rock of Indian Island; it is part of the formation known as Dacite of Thurston Creek. Lava eruptions and flows began approximately 450,000 years ago, forming the ridge you will see to the west as you paddle south from (1) to (5).
After (4) you will encounter very little motorized boat traffic. Kick back and enjoy the quiet, interspersed with sounds of nature. Rolling hills and vineyards are visible to the south. These hills are also lava flows, part of the formation know as the Basaltic andesite of Round Top Mountain. Much younger in age; the flows started erupting roughly 125,000 years ago. Roundtop Mountain is currently the site of a rock quarry; the colorful, red, volcanic cinders are a favorite for landscaping.
You are passing the official marker to the State Park. From (4) to (5) you will paddle peacefully through the area informally dubbed the Tule Maze. Over the years, 84% of the original wetlands on Clear Lake have been destroyed. But here, 540 acres of tule marsh have been designated a natural preserve. This remaining tule marsh is vital to the ecosystem of the entire lake, providing protection, food and breeding areas for many species of wildlife and also filtering water flowing into the lake.
Birds commonly seen are grebes, white pelicans, herons, coots, mallards and egrets with the occasional sighting of bald eagle and peregrine falcon. In the spring, please be aware of bird nests amongst the tules and keep a respectful distance. This area is a grebe-nesting site. Flocks of white pelicans are also a common site at this location, particularly during the winter migratory season. During the spring, spawning carp – some the size of small logs – can be seen jumping, causing quite a stir in the tule beds.
Depending on the lake level you can weave through the tule marsh by following any open channel of water – waypoint (4) is entrance to another canal leg. However, you will have to return the way you came because there is no short cut through the tule maze. If you venture further into the “swamp forest” it is easy to become lost. Follow the ridgelines and hills to orient yourself back out. Best time to visit is in the winter and spring months, due to higher water levels and large groups of migratory birds.
Heading back, veer east at (3) and paddle into the entrance of Cache Creek. This is another great adventure for a different day. Loop north around Garner Island at (6), past the North Flat Day Use area (7) and then hug the western shoreline of Clearlake until you arrive back at the Redbud Park Boat Launch.