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Clear Lake State Park- A Walk on the Wild Side

Two days are never the same at Clear Lake State Park in Kelseyville. The morning walk I took was frosty perfection. Upon entering the park I had a choice of miles of hiking trails to choose from that meander throughout the 330 acres deeded to the state in 1947 by then-owners Fred and Nellie Dorn. The park landscape is set at 1,300 to 1,600 feet in elevation, allowing for some breathtaking views.

I chose the Dorn Nature Trail with its beautiful moss-cloaked boulders that sit like meditating monks beneath the oak woodland. The vegetation here along the two-mile trail includes chaparral and manzanita. Spring brings with it a lovely profusion of wildflowers. Within a few minutes, I spy or hear a variety of bird life, including flickers, pileated woodpeckers, crows and more. These birds take refuge here, nesting in the trees. For example, the wood ducks make nests in trees as do the amazing osprey that raise young high above the waters to take advantage of fishing. Many waterfowl species paddle about the tule reeds, along with egrets, herons and pelicans.

When I descend the trail and head down to the ancient waters of Clear Lake, I am treated to the sighting of a river otter whose antics are always a joy to behold! The countryside here at the park and beyond were once home to the Pomo People for thousands of years. The Xabenapo Pomo, known today as the Big Valley Pomo, thrived nearby, while their neighbors, the Lile’ek Wappo, used the lands to the east of Kelsey Creek in the park. The Southeastern Pomo People also lived nearby, in the area east of the Lile’ek.

The park lands provided plenty of game for the hunter-gatherers as well as plenty of fish, and plants like tule reed which they used for boats, mats, huts and more. Nearby Mount Konocti gifted the People with igneous obsidian rock that was formed from the dormant volcano’s cooled lava. This black glass-like rock allowed tool makers to fashion hooks, arrowheads, scrapers and more with which to hunt and fish.

It’s refreshing to see that the park’s creeks, Kelsey and Cole Creek, as well as Clear Lake itself, are all lively and happy due to the copious rainfall we’ve enjoyed in Lake County this year. Now the mallards, buffleheads, coots and other water-seeking birds are busy feeding and floating, bringing to life Clear Lake State Park’s mission which states, “The Mission of California State Parks is to provide for the health, inspiration, and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.” 

Out on the lake, fishermen are making use of this fishing paradise once again, now that boat launches are open. They enjoy catching catfish, crappie, largemouth bass and more. Besides critter watching, picnicking, hiking and fishing, the park’s other amenities include several campgrounds, cabins and an educational visitor center.

Come take a walk on the wild side at Clear Lake State Park. As naturalist Gary Snyder said, “Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.”

Kathleen Scavone

Kathleen Scavone, MA., is a retired educator who has resided in beautiful Lake County for over 45 years. She freelances fiction, poetry, nature writing, curriculum ideas, and local history. She writes for The Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register, News From Native California, Green Prints, etc. She has published three books, a play and a poetry chapbook. The second edition of her locally set historical novella, People of the Water- a novella of the events leading to the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 is available in local museums and stores, as well as on Amazon.com and IngramSpark in both paperback and e-book formats. She has written Anderson Marsh State Historic Park- A Walking History, Prehistory, Flora and Fauna tour of a California State Park, and Native Americans of Lake County. Kathleen is a photographer and potter. Her other interests include hiking, assisting on archaeology digs, travel, gardening and reading.

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