Irrigation Trail to Rainy and Black Lakes 6-18-18

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Irrigation Trail to Rainy and Black Lakes 6-18-18

Post by bobcat » June 20th, 2018, 6:46 pm

When the USFS opened the Mt. Defiance subset of trails a few weeks ago, they listed among the now open routes the Black Lake Trail #409A. Well, I knew from northridge’s report of a couple of years ago that that trail was but a mere shadow of its former self, but I resolved to see how this newly opened trail had fared the closure. Since it is quite short, we combined it with the Kingsley-Wahtum Trail a.k.a the Irrigation Trail, another trail I had never done.

We drove up what is purported to be the shorter route via the Kingsley Reservoirs. It was not shorter: The road was closed below the upper reservoir because they are raising the level of the lakes by 11 feet and moving the campground - this at the instigation of the farmers in the Hood River Valley. The area will be reopened to the public in Spring 2019, but we endured a narrow, rocky detour to get to Dead Point Road. We found the Kingsley-Wahtum Trailhead on Dead Point and started from there. The route, used mainly by mountain bikers, is quite level to begin with, following a contour that carried the old Oak Grove Ditch, which is now a buried irrigation pipeline. A picturesque vent stood out of the brush at one point. Near a ferny face streaming with spring water, some of the old ditch remains.

Second trailhead on Dead Point Road, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Bead Lily (Clintonia uniflora), Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Animal Inn, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Air vent, irrigation pipeline, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Along the irrigation pipeline, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus), Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Old irrigation ditch, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Leafy pea (Lathyrus polyphyllus), Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg

The pipe, which is plastic underground, becomes steel above ground at a boulder field near Gate Creek. Then we came upon the small pumphouse with its solar panels nearby. Water is siphoned off of Gate Creek and sent down to the Kingsley Reservoirs, from which it serves the Farmer’s Irrigation District. Before the reservoirs were built, the ditch, one of several in the area, ran into Ditch Creek, which now is an outlet for the reservoirs. After the pumphouse, we crossed Gate Creek and hiked up the slope to Rainy Lake, crossing another small (dry) ditch before we hit the old Wahtum Lake Road. We ran into a local at the Rainy Lake Campground, and I plied him with questions. He explained that North, Rainy, and Black Lakes were all reservoirs, small lakes that had been dammed at their outlets in the early 20th century. They became log ponds at head of flumes that carried the logs down to the Stanley-Smith Mill at Greenpoint (now Kingsley).

Pipeline above ground, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) on columbine, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Pumphouse, irrigation pipeline, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Gate Creek crossing, Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Broad-leaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius), Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Ditch, upper Kingsley-Wahtum Trail.jpg

We hiked up to Rainy Lake, and then back down to begin our quest for the Black Lake Trail, which departs from the Rainy-Wahtum Trail at the first bend in the old road bed. There’s a makeshift sign for the latter trail at the campground. The number on the sign is actually the spur road number (670), not the trail number (409).

Big noble fir, Rainy Lake.jpg
Bench at Rainy Lake.jpg
Makeshift sign (wrong trail number), Rainy-Wahtum Trail.jpg
Gate posts on the Rainy-Wahtum Trail.jpg

We made a pass and came back to find a small rock arrangement which we guessed indicated the Black Lake Trail. A vague vestige of a trail led into the woods past a decaying signboard. Then the trail headed down the slope. A few old blazes, much subsumed by the bark of the living conifers, helped to guide us. We lost the trail on the edge of a clearcut, but descended to a lush bottomland dominated by Alaska yellow-cedars. Here the huckleberries were woody and high, but we barged through thinking we had lost the trail completely. Suddenly, we found it again at a creek crossing. From here, we were led to a decommissioned road, now a corridor of slide alder. We wormed our way through the alder and picked up the tread on the other side, dropping down the slope until we saw the road to Black Lake below us. We lost the route again, so headed down to the road and hiked up to the deserted Black Lake Campground.

Upper end of Black Lake Trail 409A.jpg
Old sign, Black Lake Trail.jpg
Old blazes, Black Lake Trail 409A.jpg
Alaska yellow-cedar bottomland, Black Lake Trail 409A.jpg
Marsh-marigold (Caltha leptosepala), Black Lake Trail 409A.jpg
Hiking the Black Lake Trail 409A.jpg
North Fork Green Point Creek tributary crossing, Black Lake Trail 409A.jpg
Descending the slope to Black Lake, Black Lake Trail 409A.jpg

After lunch, we explored a little around Black Lake, finding the dam on its outlet stream (North Fork Green Point Creek) but not definitively picking up the trail where it arrives at the lake. We hiked back up the road, getting views down the North Fork valley, and spotted another diversion contraption that fed a pipeline. Then we returned down the Irrigation Trail and drove out of the area via Dead Point Road to Dee.

At Black lake.jpg
Outlet channel and dam, Black Lake.jpg
Diversion gate and pipe, North Fork tributary, Black Lake Road (FR 2820).jpg
Bear-grass, Black Lake Road (FR 2820).jpg

(Run your mouse over the pictures to see file names/captions)

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Re: Irrigation Trail to Rainy and Black Lakes 6-18-18

Post by pcg » June 21st, 2018, 6:44 am

Thanks for the history on those lakes and nice find of the Alaska yellow cedar.
How did you create the mouse-over feature for your photos?

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Re: Irrigation Trail to Rainy and Black Lakes 6-18-18

Post by bobcat » June 21st, 2018, 9:46 am

I label the photos in my desktop photo library and upload them with the file names. In the previous iteration of the Forums, these would show as captions automatically when I placed the photos inline. Since the upgrade, you have to write in the captions separately after upload; unfortunately, when I tried this, it timed out on me and I lost everything (maybe I just post too many photos!) so had to start again. One good feature of the upgrade, however, is that I can add all the photos in one step (as a single upload), whereas before each had to be uploaded individually.

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Re: Irrigation Trail to Rainy and Black Lakes 6-18-18

Post by sprengers4jc » June 21st, 2018, 10:47 pm

Thanks for this info, bobcat! We hiked a short section of that Irrigation Trail from Rainy a few weeks back and I wondered what the whole thing was like. I had tried (not too hard, I am afraid) to find the trail to Black Lake as well but gave up quickly knowing the history of the thing and no one being able to find it. Good work locating it :D
'We travel not to escape life but for life to not escape us.'

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