Thursday, September 12, 2013

Birch Lake, OK

Birch Lake is a Corps of Engineers lake. There were three public use areas, and we stayed at Birch Cove. It has been an active summer, and it’s hard to imagine I’m now posting about July. I set up our campsite on the first of July, and then did the turn-around to race back home. The tornado shelter was installed the 2nd, and I made the trip back to Birch Lake on the 3rd, getting in early enough to rest a bit. On the 4th, I paddled around the 31 miles of shoreline.

The granddaughters, Maggie & Lucy (L-R), with everything
set up and decked out for the holiday.
Birch Lake was built in 1977 and has 1,137 acres of surface water and then leads into Birch Creek. Only the main basin, extending from the dam to just past the Birch Cove boat ramp, had the forest clear cut before flooding the basin. All the remaining trees in the coves and up Birch Creek remained until they died and rotted off, a process still continuing 36 years later. This has left a tangle of tree trunks on the bottom, and a mine field of trunks and stumps concealing themselves at or just below the surface. While this makes a wonderful haven for fish, a paddler risks a capsize if he slides up on a stump. It would also be risky trying to anchor because of the foul bottom, so you will see most fishermen just resting between a couple dead trees, or tying off to one.

A maze of stumps and rotting dead trees presented a
new surprise every few minutes.
This was only Buddy’s second lengthy paddle, and I knew the still-like-new bottom was accumulating a collection of scuffs and scrapes from running over unseen submerged hazards. I tried to rationalize it as a trade-off of scuffs in exchange for wildlife and interesting sights. I was hoping the conditions would change, and they did. The boulders got larger and the stumps more numerous, so not quite the direction I wanted change to move. I finally decided it was a case of diminishing returns and crossed to the opposite bank of the creek for the return trip. The building wind and darkening skies seemed to validate my decision. As I crossed back over the open basin, the waves were building pretty good. Buddy handled perfectly, but is an ultra-light Kevlar canoe, that even with its cherry gunwales and trim, weighs only 25-pounds. The on-coming waves were flexing the flat bow sections of the topsides. That area, I thought, is just the right size for the food sack, and that should eliminate the flexing. To this day, that seems to be the case.

A nice stand of wild flowers.  I spent a couple hours trying to
identify them.  They are obviously some kind of daisy, but I
couldn't confidently decide which one. 
In spite of checking with several town halls, newspapers, and the campground host, I could find no scheduled fireworks displays for the girls to enjoy. However, the girls enjoyed an afternoon of swimming on the beach, and an outside picnic dinner. Then, as the sun set, we took folding chairs down to the beach, and sure enough, several displays of fireworks could be seen along the north side of the lake to round out their Independence Day celebration.

I tried running up every headwater looking for wildlife.

Even in areas that appeared open, there were still stumps and
snags.  The area is still nice, with a lot of sandstone outcroppings.
Some stones occurred naturally as square columns that farmers
and ranchers used as fence posts.

The further I went, the boulders became larger and the
stumps more numerous.

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