Saturday, July 9, 2016

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge (Blog Hike #584)

Trail: Discovery Trail
Hike Location: Colusa National Wildlife Refuge
Geographic Location: east of Williams, CA
Length: 1.1 miles
Difficulty: 0/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2016
Overview: A short out-and-back with good wildlife viewing opportunities.

Directions to the trailhead: North of Sacramento, take I-5 to SR 20 (exit 578).  Exit and go east on SR 20.  Drive SR 20 east 6.4 miles to the signed refuge entrance on the right.  Turn right to enter the refuge, and drive the gravel refuge road 0.7 miles to the parking area on the right near the start of the auto tour road.  Park here.

The hike: For my introduction to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, of which Colusa National Wildlife Refuge is a part, see the previous hike.  This hike offers a short excursion through the seasonal wetlands that characterize the refuges in the Sacramento complex.  The entire hike follows dikes built as part of the region’s drainage/irrigation system, so wetness under foot is never an issue.  The annual Pacific bird migration peaks in November and December, so plan a visit then to maximize the number of birds you are likely to see.
Start of Discovery Trail
            To get to the trail from the parking area, walk down the concrete sidewalk that leaves the west side of the parking area and crosses the automobile bridge over Powell Slough.  Immediately after crossing the bridge, the hiker-only Discovery Trail starts at a signed trailhead on the right.  Turn right to begin the wide mowed-grass trail.
            The trail heads north through a narrow strip of woods with a seasonal wetland visible to the left and the more permanent Powell Slough on the right.  My approach sent a deer scampering out of the waist-deep water in the slough.  At 0.2 miles, a spur trail to a wooden observation platform exits left.  The platform offers a great view of the seasonal wetland, which was dry on my mid-summer visit.
View from observation platform
            The main trail continues north and soon passes some concrete flood/irrigation control devices that have been built into Powell Slough.  After passing under some high voltage power lines, the trail curves left to take on a more westerly trajectory.  Some colorful moths flittered along the trail during my hike, and a large number of turtles plopped into the slough’s water as I approached them.  Some raspberries grow beside the trail here.
Powell Slough
Trail's end
            At 0.5 miles, the Discovery Trail abruptly ends at a wooden footbridge, the far side of which is blocked by a wooden fence and an “area behind this sign is closed” sign.  There may have been a more extensive trail system at this refuge in times past, but today the refuge’s only trail ends here.  Thus, you need to turn around and retrace your steps 0.5 miles to the parking area to complete the hike.  While you are at the refuge, consider driving the refuge’s 3 mile gravel auto tour route for more views of seasonal and permanent wetlands.

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