Loop trails through the beaches, woods and prairies near Olympia, Washington

Tag Archives: Best walks Olympia Washington loop trail beaver pond duck red winged blackbird delphi road cedar nurse log logging history skunk cabbage

A wildlife lover’s paradise, this walk boasts a beaver pond rich with birds, a creek that fills seasonally with spawning salmon and a multi-generational cedar grove.

Distance:  1 mile for the standard loop or 1.5 miles if you add in the wind damaged, but adventurous, upper trail

Time:  30 minutes for the standard loop or 45 minutes for the extended (and damaged/ adventurous) loop

Steep:  Moderately

Challenging:  The standard trail, not so much.  But, you can add in the upper trail which involves hopping over, or ducking under, a few fallen trees and crossing a stream upon a thick log due to a missing bridge.

Trailhead:  Coming from Mud Bay Road/ Harrison Avenue go 3.4 miles west on Delphi Road until you see the sign for ‘Department of Natural Resources/ McLane Creek.’  Go down the driveway until you come to a parking lot and a picnic shelter.

This trail is named after a creek, but in my opinion the show is stolen by the voluminous pond that greets you after your first hundred feet of the trail.  Head out to the overlook bench at the end of the first walkway and take a seat.  The waters are covered in lily pads that bloom yellow in spring, and Red Winged Blackbirds sing their distinct song as they jump from the swinging cattails.  The knocking of woodpeckers in the woods to the west resonates across the water.

Ducks (and in spring, their ducklings!) meander through the water, and if you look carefully you may spot reddish Roughback Newts half floating, half swimming, through the water.   Blue dragon flies chase each other affectionately.  All of this is thanks to the mighty beavers that have dammed McLane Creek in several places.  As you return on the far side of the trail you can see their handiwork, alder tree stumps sharpened like giant pencils.

The trail continues away from Beaver Pond and into the shade of the woods.  You soon come along side McLane Creek and the viewing platform built to keep curious folks out of the creek.  Folks were going into the creek to get a better look at the annual autumn spawning of chum salmon.  And it is quite an event!  Hundreds of sharp toothed exhausted fish have just returned from the Pacific Ocean and are now vying for mating rights in this narrow creek.  After weeks of courting and splashing and fighting, the eggs are laid and fertilized and then all the parents die, right there in the creek, to disintegrate back into the earth.

On the western edge of the loop trail, you come to a fork in the trail.  For some reason, they have not marked this fork, but basically if you want the standard loop experience you go right.  If you would like to add a little adventure to your hike, go left.  Going left takes you across the bridge and into the country above the pond.  You will need to duck under some fallen trees, and climb over others, but it’s very manageable and very fun.  This ‘extended’ part of the trail switches back and forth a few times, and then brings you back to the creek, but behold!  This bridge is missing, destroyed in one of the many nasty winter storms that blow alder trees down like toothpicks.  Thankfully, there are several thick gauge trees laying across the creek, and with some good focus on balance, you can Tom Sawyer your way across.

You’ll notice that you just got set back about a 1/3 mile from where you left the ‘standard loop.’  So hop to it and get back to where you left off, by continuing clockwise.  You will descend lightly into a fascinating area, full of ancient cedar stumps and the younger cedars growing out of them.  The stumps, some 8 feet in diameter, will be marked by axe marks where the loggers placed their standing boards perhaps a hundred years ago.  The younger trees growing out of the stumps shoot their roots down the side and through the middle of the stumps, so that when the stumps eventually crumble, the new tree stands on stilts.

Coming around the north end of the trail, you see that you are on the far side of the Beaver Pond.  Now is the time to look down at the shoreline for beaver’s work.  This swampy area holds impressive Skunk Cabbage, whose leaves can grow 3-4 feet in length.  They bloom yellow in early spring, and you can smell them from yards away.

Up a little hill and you’ve returned to the parking area and the bottle of water in your car.  Feel free to go back and sit at the pond a little while longer, watching the cinematic display of birds as they call for mates and chase down lunch, in all their many colors and calls.