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The southern terminus is the Forest Service boat launch at a developed resort area called Rocky Point. You are sharing the water with all types of power craft here. But just a short distance up the trail you have only paddlers. The southern part of the trail has 2 branches. One follows the forest edge and lakeside homes, the other is in the middle of the tule marsh. About halfway up the trail to the north the two branches join and it becomes a single trail, to the designated northern terminus at a Forest Service picnic area called Malone Springs. Very little current, it is an easy paddle. Incredible amounts of wildlife, especially waterfowl, songbirds, and shorebirds. About 10 miles of trail total.
The creek continues north past Malone Springs, although it is not designated as water trail on the USFWS website nor the downloadable map. Another 5 miles or so up the creek past Malone Springs is a picnic area called Crystal Springs, and it is labeled as having a boat launch.
So we decided to continue past Malone Springs keep paddling. The creek got narrower and the current slightly stronger. In a few places the navigable channel was only a couple feet wide. But there was even more wildlife on this upper portion, and unlike the lower marked portion of the creek, absolutely no litter or sign of any human use. Really pristine. A bit more variety of vegetation, as a few pockets of cottonwoods and pines could be found where the tule marsh had developed mounds of soil.
Nearing Crystal Springs my wife and I spotted a faded nearly illegible metal sign sticking out of the water, obscured by reeds. The sign said “National Wildlife Refuge. Closed to Public Entry”. Now we knew why this stretch of stream looked so pristine and had so much wildlife! That was the only boundary sign we saw and there is no mention of a closed area on the map. So I am not really sure whether we traveled a closed section of stream or not.
We paddled to the origin of the stream at Crystal Springs, ate lunch on the shore, then turned around and headed back to our launch point. Saw even more wildlife on the trip back. Female otter with young, beaver, startled two sandhill cranes and they literally burst into flight just feet away. Deer on the water edge. We were just amazed at the number and variety of birds.
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