Sunday, May 21, 2017

American Horse Lake

Several of the arms off of the lake have considerable stump fields.
American Horse Lake is located in Blaine County, OK, northwest of the town of Geary.  I spent some considerable time trying to find the source of the name for the lake without success.  The lake came from the damming of Squaw Creek in 1966, which runs through a ravine or canyon.  The lake has a 6.8 mile shoreline and depths of up to 70 feet. 

This was my second attempt to paddle American Horse Lake.  The first visit a couple years ago was when the lake was drained and closed for a reconstruction of the dam.  While water has returned to the lake, according to one visitor, the level is still below normal.  The first visit when the lake was dry was interesting in the number of rods and reels that I found on the canyon floor after being lost overboard through the years. 

Blaine County was created out of the 1892 Land Run across lands promised to the Creek and Seminole Tribes after their forced relocation during the 1820’s and 1830’s.  The area was also the home of Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck.  Not surprisingly, he became known as ‘Ducky’ and passed away in Los Angeles in 1985.

This shot of Buddy was taken on the St. Croix National Scenic River
between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

We had been experiencing April weather in February, when I made this trip, and between warmth and the healing of my bone fracture, it was time to hit the water.  The state was under a blanket of dense fog.  The forecast was for the temperature to climb close to 70 degrees, and the fog to clear off by noon.  Hoping for clearing skies, I took the time to enjoy blueberry pancakes with my wife before heading south.  Just south of town I saw a roadrunner crossing the road in front of me.  It finished its frantic run by taking flight when it reached the shoulder.  I think that was the first time I have ever seen a flying roadrunner.  The new experience sent me to Google.  It turns out that they rarely fly, because they can run at 20 mph.  They are more inclined to fly to evade a predator (Wile E. Coyote) or to descend a steep bank or hill, but can usually fly only for a minute.  The latter was the case this morning, and when the roadrunner reached the edge of the road, it took off to fly down through a deep ravine.  We always think in terms of car travel, but roadrunners got their name from routinely racing alongside horse-drawn carriages and wagons.  Anyone that has spent time at sea is accustomed to seeing porpoise racing alongside boats and ships, and it seems horses provided just the competitive pace the roadrunners enjoyed. 

Looking up an arm of the lake.  The fog still just clears the trees. 

Between the towns of Greenfield and Geary, I headed west on Cty. Rd. E0940.  It is an 11-mile run west to the sign for the lake pointing south on Cty. Rd. N2520.  When I came through a tree clearing, I saw a herd of a dozen white-tailed deer just off the road on my left that I suppose were equally disoriented by the fog.  My camera was still in its dry bag.  That was not going to be an issue, because as soon as I slowed, they threw their tails in the air and headed for the cover of the woods.   

American Horse Lake offers some confusion for those wanting to launch powerboats onto the lake.  Varying signs I saw said no powerboats capable of more than 6 mph, electric trolling motors only, or bank and tube fishing only.  Any of the above is a boon for paddlers.  There is one concrete ramp and a few picnic tables.  Primitive camping is permitted (no toilet facilities) for a maximum of 3 days.  You would need to carry water.  While the lake’s search page mentions a water well, the hand pump has been stolen and not replaced to date.   

Visibility was still limited when I launched, and blowing mist made the camera a challenge, but we paddled the circumference of the lake.  The water is clear.  The ravine was not bulldozed when the dam was built, so many trees that grew there are still in place in the lake.  There are two main braches and a number of fingers that make exploring the shoreline interesting.  The shoreline is blanketed with countless nickel-sized white freshwater clams.  I spotted one blue heron, and three or four kingfishers.   

I turned on the heater and listened to the radio as I headed from the lake for home and the Super Bowl.  The radio announcer said, “Regardless of what the forecasters promised, we just have to admit that the rest of the day is going to be plain yukky.”  It was fine with me.  I had been in the canoe and on the water. 
This was a day very well lived.

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