Duck Lake Loop Trail

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Review

Duck Lake is a large freshwater, wildlife-rich lily pond habitat that sits on the broad gentle divide separating not only the northern and central highlands of Cypress but also the drainages flowing down to the opposing east and west shores of the island. In many ways this wetland habitat provides a crossroads for the movement of wildlife and the dispersion of plants into somewhat isolated habitats.

From the northern end of the beach in Eagle Harbor, the loop trail allows visitors to begin in a natural setting of shoreline and lowland shrub with a quick transition into a shadowy maturing forest. The pleasant trail skirts headlands and attractive peek-a-boo shoreline views to the north before joining a former truck road to the southwest. Though losing much of the evidence of its former vehicle use, the open canopy of the old roadway provides both welcomed sunlight for hikers and a varied shrub border habitat enjoyed by birds and birders alike. Groves of tiny and not so tiny conifer seedlings valiantly march from the forest border to the very edge of the trail tread clearly demonstrating the recuperative powers of nature.

With gentle though persistent gain in elevation you’ll pass the two closely located junctions with the Pelican Beach Trail providing access to both Pelican Beach and the Eagle Cliff Trail (for seasonal closure information and pet exclusions see article this website). Less than a ¼ mile further a junction with the Smugglers Cove trail is reached. A short distance down this trail is a view of Duck Lake but for the best lake and wildlife viewing continue on the main trail and past the next minor intersection with Smugglers Cove. Soon the trail circles back to Duck Lake. Paralleling the lake shore you’ll find ideal breaks in the forest margin from which to spy on the wildlife using the lake. Snags from drowned trees spike much of the pond’s surface which even in winter is so covered by lily pads that the waterfowl must sometimes get lost in the narrow complicated channels that remain. Small forest birds flit about the margins of the pond, precariously perching above the water surface somehow clinging to the brown stalks of last year’s crop of cattails. An especially beautiful setting can be found about midway along the lake border. Directly off the trail you’ll find a bench for relaxing and a table on which to set your lunch, binoculars and field guides. The viewing is not only aided by the narrow but dense band of trees and shrubs hiding your presence from the pond’s wildlife but the sun is almost always behind you providing the ideal lighting for your eyes, cameras and binoculars. From here you can also see the cliffy balds high above the lake, golden in the sunlight, thrusting out of the dark forest, often with raptors soaring high above them. Though the lake appears to be an ideal habitat for "fish-hawks" the interference from the lily pads and woody debris make this much less attractive to osprey and particularly eagles. Just before the trail turns away from the lake to the south, you’ll notice a faint spur heading off the trail toward the denser forest that surrounds the lake’s western border. This is the top of a barely recognizable berm that was once built to increase the water capacity of Duck Lake for development purposes.

Beyond the lake a well marked junction with the Duck Lake-Eagle Harbor Connector trail is reached. This connector is the short-cut between Duck Lake and Eagle Harbor but the tread quickly becomes thin, narrow, rocky and brushy before steeply dropping down where it bypasses wet areas of an old logging skid road before reaching Eagle Harbor; so be forewarned if you decide to take this option.

Continuing on the main trail, your path wanders gently down to a junction with the Cypress Mainline. From here you have a number of choices. Return to your start, completing the loop, a little over a ¼ mile north; or drop down and explore the south end of Eagle Harbor. For even more adventures, the Cypress Mainline is your hiking connection to points further south including a variety of interesting lake habitats, and the Airfield Forest.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 3/9/2010

Directions

The trailhead for the Duck Lake Loop is easily accessible from the northern end of the beach at Eagle Harbor (see article this website). Additionally, Duck Lake itself and various points around the loop are accessible from trails at Pelican Beach to the north and Smugglers Cove to the west.

Map

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