Last Day of Summer at Lopez Lake

Lopez Lake has a lot of interesting and uncommon aquatic plants. Near the inlet of the lake, you can see the large, spreading leaves of alpine pondweed (Potamogeton alpinus), the narrow, upright leaves of small bur-reed (Sparganium natans), and the delicate, feathery, trailing stems of lesser bladderwort (Utricularia minor). Earlier in the season, the surface of the wider part of the lake is decorated with the showy white flowers of arumleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria cuneata).

The pretty pool of pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) at Zen Meadow was almost completely dried out. The large fruits were ripening. I’d never looked closely at the capsules or seeds before.

On September 22, I accompanied Alan Butler and Dave Predeek for a trip to the Lopez Lake area, southeast of Oakridge. Neither of them had been there before, so I wanted to show them the lake and some of the other interesting sites along Road 5884. It was officially the last day of summer, but it seemed like a beautiful fall day to me. It was only my fifth trip to Lopez Lake over the course of 11 years, and it was the latest in the year I’d been there. Things were much drier than on my past trips—not surprising considering how long it had been since we’d had real rain, and there were very few flowers left, but it was an interesting trip nonetheless. We headed all the way up the road to the talus slope first, and then stopped at the small hidden wetland John Koenig and I named “Zen Meadow” before walking down to Lopez Lake. On our way back, we checked out another hidden wetland and—new for me—a hidden lake. Here are some photographic highlights of our terrific trip.

Dave was speculating about the development of the potholes near Lopez Lake. This is the first time I’d seen them empty to get an idea of how deep they were. We wondered if maybe this one once had a tree that rotted out, leaving an empty hole behind. You can see a bit of old root in the hole. These have been filled with tadpoles earlier in the summer on other trips, but this time we just saw a few chorus frogs jumping about in the bottom.

The large pond lily fruits were ripe.

I’d never looked closely at the capsules or seeds before. The seeds have an elaiosome (fatty appendage), which was apparently attractive to some little creatures as most of the seed capsules had been ripped open and the seeds removed. The little pile of scat left behind might reveal the identity of the recipient of the tasty meal. I also noticed lots of honey bees on the pond bed. Perhaps the elaiosome was tasty to them as well or maybe it was just the remnants of moisture in an otherwise baked habitat.

Our first stop was at the talus slope at the very end of Road 5884. The very last part hasn’t been drivable for a passenger car since I’ve been going there, but now even the section before that is becoming overgrown with alders. We climbed around on the slope looking for fresh signs of pikas, but there were no hay caches, we didn’t hear any of their cute peeps, nor did any of the latrines look fresh. It’s hard to imagine such a large and suitable talus slope not having pikas anymore. Hopefully, they are still there, just keeping a low profile.

Alpine wintergreen (Gaultheria humifusa) was covered with ripe fruit at Zen Meadow. I encouraged Dave and Alan to try the delicious fruit. They are somewhat sweet with a wintergreen flavor. It would take a lot of berries to fill one’s belly, but they are a fun late-season snack in Cascade wetlands.

Not surprisingly, Lopez Lake seemed smaller than when I’d been there on previous trips. The edges are full of graminoids.

After Lopez Lake, we stopped to explore a hidden wetland I had only been to once before, back in June of 2015 (see More Exploring on Road 5884). I had forgotten that I had intended to check it out again soon after that trip, so all I remembered 8 years later was that it was boggy. We struggled a little bushwhacking down through the woods—I was thankful my companions were so understanding of my not having a better route down. We were happy to [re]discover sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) in the area. The subtle fall coloring of the foliage was especially lovely. Luckily, we found a much easier route back to the road. Hopefully, I’ll get back there before I forget where it is!

This large garter snake was surprised to see us bushwhacking up from the hidden wetland to the main road.

Alan had noticed a lake on the map just west of the road and wondered if there might be good fishing there. On our way back, he and I decided to bushwhack through the woods to find it while Dave stayed by the truck. It was steeper downhill than we expected, and I was surprised to get stung by some unseen and unheard wasp in the forest. Thankfully, we reached the lake soon after, and the cold water helped calm the sting a bit. We were also really pleased to find an old, rough road that led back to the main road. Another route I’ll have to remember for future trips. While there were no aquatic plants and no marginal wetlands, it looked like a great place to go for a private swim at the end of a hot day. Maybe next trip!

2 Responses to “Last Day of Summer at Lopez Lake”

  • Leigh Blake:

    Thank you!! Great hike! grateful you got into this wonderful area. I would love to grow Gautheria humifusa …I’m adding as many high country natives as I can. I’ve lost your email address… Kathy Allen has now closed down for her last year…So Siskiyou Chapter is going to be growing plants at baldassre’s… I have seed coming I’m propagating. I just collected Ceanothus pumilus cuttings from two areas..they look good..air layer rooted… I have been in contact…briefly…with Mark Akimoff… great stuff!! Our garden is growing LOLOL!! Hope to get you down here someday!!

    THANK YOU AGAIN for wonderful hike…Love our wasps never fun to get stung…

  • The hole that Dave Predeek was standing in front of, “near Lopez Lake,” is very likely the product of an unsuccessful (and poorly reported) attempt to create water features in wetlands by using dynamite. Yes, dynamite! The idea was that the hole would develop a good wetland edge and improve diversity. My info on this is buried in notes 30 years ago, so I can’t confirm if this was one of the sites.

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