Roche Harbor Wetlands Loop Trail

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Review

Photo Credit: Bud Hardwick
The Wetlands Loop Trail of the Roche Harbor trail system provides a variety of short walks through natural areas of swampy forests, open meadows, and around a shallow pond well attended by bird life and other forest creatures. Though the actual loop is short, less than a mile, the many trail connections to areas both inside and outside the loop provide many options for trail users to choose from including: hiking or biking, wetland or pond, distant or close views, and short or long outings.

The Wetlands area is low, level country with few hills but many shallow depressions. Depending on the amount of water contributed by rain; ponds and swampy areas form and then disappear. The size and depth of the large pond also fluctuates greatly adding to the variety of bird life that uses it. When nearly full, the shoreline approaches the forest border allowing hidden observers close-up views of the waterfowl floating by. The wide grassy border provides forage for geese when the water is low, and morsels for diving ducks when water levels are high. The rich shallows also invite the large herons to wade about obviously finding something to satisfy their large appetites. During the migration season, flocks of birds that appreciate freshwater ponds and forest shorelines drop in for a sometimes badly needed break. The dense surrounding forest provides a buffer against strong winds and shelter from a storm. Though surrounded by tall trees, the opening above the lake allows sunlight to pass over much of its surface during the day, bringing not just light, but warmth to an otherwise cool shaded location.

Along the pond’s perimeter, small paths have been worn into the mud by frequent visits from the terrestrial wildlife. Parts of the loop trail are also shared by them. In soft wet sections of the trail, the tracks reveal an interesting record of the local wildlife that while seldom seen are usually not far away; possibly watching from what they feel is a safe distance.

The minor inner trails of the Loop tend to be much less substantial. Narrow treads twists and turn through forests of lichen draped trees. Water droplets fall into black pools surrounding tree trunks; sections of the forest may have an eerie almost bayou feel. The tread tends toward wetness at least during rainy times but the trail makes up for any inconvenience by the close intimate experience it offers. One of these side trails, particularly enjoyed by local hikers, can be found not far from the roadside trailhead. A rustic wooden sign invites you to give Sophie’s Romp a try. Be aware that the narrow and weaker tread of many of these smaller side trails are reserved for hikers only. With so many other options on the Loop as well as the nearby Highlands, trail bikers will have no problem finding many more miles to ride.

While the Wetlands trails are themselves an enjoyable destination, their location near the junction of two main road trails (Roche Harbor Rd Trail, Rouleau Rd Trail) make them a commonly used connector. For those traveling the trail system from Roche Harbor to the Highlands trails (see Highlands Lake Loop Trail article, this website), utilizing part if not all of the Wetlands Loop is almost a given. Along the loop, some trail junctions have been marked by signposts. Many of these, though not all, have numbers fixed to their base that are keyed to the map of the area. These can be helpful but don’t rely on them entirely to find your way. Of the many choices of hikes in the Roche Harbor trail system, the Wetlands Loop Trail may be one of the shortest but it also may be one of the best options if a small sample of the local hiking is all you have time for.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 10/15/2009

Directions

The Wetlands Trail loops through a corner of the Roche Harbor trail system near the junction of Roche Harbor Road and the West Valley Road about 1 ½ miles from Roche Harbor. The closest parking area is at this junction and across the street from the easy to see, electric power substation. Use caution when crossing the road from the parking lot to the trailhead located just east (to the right) of the power substation.

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