Saturday and Sunday were spent on the water paddling Shadow Mountain Lake, Grand Lake and Willow Creek Reservoir. Between the two days on the water we paddled over 6 hours and 16.5 miles.
We began our adventure Saturday at the kayak launch on Shadow Mountain Lake just south of the channel leading into Grand Lake. The launch area was quite busy, with several kayaks either entering or exiting the water. We are constantly on the lookout for wildlife as the shoreline borders Rocky Mountain National Park, which is prime habitat to the Osprey with their nests scattered about the lakeshore and islands within Shadow Mountain Lake. Osprey, a medium-sized raptor, are constantly hunting for fish to feed their young nesting high above the shoreline waiting for their day to take flight.
Paddling towards a series of islands dotting the southern end of the lake, we continued to Shadow Mountain Dam. The dam holds back what I would assume to have been the natural flow of the Colorado River. Rounding the southern end of the lake, the shoreline was speckled people fishing, each seeking to land the elusive rainbow or brown trout.
We paddled along the western shore towards a peninsula jutting out into the lake. This portion of the lake is protected from powerboats as it becomes rather shallow. Looking straight ahead, I noticed a large brown object hiding along the shore behind a blue sun bleached catamaran. A large bull moose had taken refuge at the water’s edge, cooling itself from the warm mountain sun. We paddled inside the catamaran and the shoreline to position ourselves for a photograph.
Moving on, we made our way to the end of the peninsula and back through the islands. Because the water is always shallow in this area, this is where waterfowl like to congregate. This day, we happened upon a large gaggle of American White Pelicans patrolling the waters in a coordinated effort to gather fish.
We exit Shadow Mountain Lake and navigated the channel into Grand Lake. Today would have been very similar to any of our other paddles around Grand Lake except for the wind. After circumnavigating the lake in our usual manner, suddenly and with no warning, the winds began blowing hard and steadily from East to West. Making our way back to the channel from the western end of the lake was far more adventurous than we had anticipated.
After taking the full brunt of a wave that breached our kayak, we quickly turned our kayak back into the waves to prevent us from taking on more water. After battling the wind and the waves for what seemed to be hours on end, we were able to make one last turn and head back into the safety of the channel.
Sunday we headed to Willow Creek Reservoir. Slipping the kayak into the water, we paddled west with an ambition to paddle further into Willow Creek than our prior attempt. The creek itself it about 34 miles in length and I have no knowledge of how much of the creek would be navigable this time of the year. After a slow but steady pace, we came upon the entrance to the creek, and gradually make our way into the mouth of the creek, navigating around a few obstacles below the surface of the water.
The creek began to bend North and the depth of the water beneath the kayak had begun to dwindle, so we proceed slowly, once again having to abandon our attempt to go any further. As we continued our paddling journey, the winds start blowing from West to East. Though not quite as bad as the day prior, the wind was strong enough to be irritating. We paddled quickly back to the shore and ended our day on the water.