Sunday, September 07, 2014

New-pond patrol at Red Haw State Park

First the rain, then the heat, then the rain, etc., etc. --- so I didn't spend near enough time at Red Haw this summer. But that can be remedied this fall, one of our state park's finest seasons.

I headed out Saturday afternoon, when I probably should have been at home cutting grass, to explore the new park ponds --- six have been built this year --- and discovered a bonus, a new route through one of my favorite areas --- the game management acres planted to native grasses and grain for forage just south of the border of the original 1930s park. (The park is a preserve; the game management area is open to seasonal hunting.)

The lakeside trails (four of the park's five miles of trail) through the woods are fine in spring, but once the canopy leafs out --- I want open sky, and the game management acres offer that, plus healthy stands of big blue stem, indian grass and other varieties, walls of sunflowers and other elements necessary for a great autumn show.

That's one of the new ponds at the top, just over the fence in the original park and high above the lake, carved out of previously overgrown woodland. This pond and its companions will control erosion, add another layer of protection for Red Hall's already clean water --- enhance recreation, too.

As I was meandering along, Park Manager Mike Schrader (at the wheel) and Ken Willoughby pulled up. They were riding the trails, checking the new ponds to see if they had filled sufficiently to allow stocking this fall --- all of them had.

The new trail really isn't a new trail an all, but rather an access route developed when this prairie pond --- the first of the six to go in --- was built. It heads from the hilltop into the draw where the pond was built, crosses the pond dam and then heads up and over the next hill onto the big berm that forms the south end of Red Haw Lake's southeasterly leg.

Mike has been debating about leaving an opening, or some sort of access, when the fence that divides the park proper from the game management area is restored. I lobbied for a gap since I really liked being able to head directly over the hill and down to the berm without having to head down into the woods and negotiate the lakeside trail --- sometimes muddy --- to get there. Or deal with chest-high vegetation and barbed wire.

The most visible of the new ponds is in the southwest corner of the park and you can see it through the timber as you're driving beyond the campground toward stone shelter point. Schrader said a trail extension will be built to allow access to this one.

I usually take the alternate scenic route from stone shelter point to the game management acres, parking near the chained access road just before the turn-arounds, walking west on that road, taking a left onto the trail that leads down across the west end of the lake's southwesterly leg, then continuing straight on through the gate into the open fields.

The new woodland pond up top will be visible to your left as you follow the game management trail to the hilltop and the access to the new prairie pond and beyond cuts southeast just beyond the corn field.

Since rain is predicted again for Monday, I'll probably stay at home and mow lawn this afternoon. If you're not thus constrained, head out to Red Haw and take a walk. It's going to be a great day.

No comments: