To detect how many different animals call the beaver pond home. Tally your numbers and send us a picture of what you found. If no one is home on the pond today take a photo of a snag (dead tree) sticking up out of McLane Creek’s beaver pond and send it to us.
This hike will take you around the pond or “the short loop trail.” The trail starts left (west) of the picnic tables. When the trail splits at the end of the pond, stay to the right. Along the way, you will learn about wetlands and some of the wildlife living in the beaver pond which is a freshwater marsh wetland. Trail Map
Welcome to McLane Creek Nature Trail!
Years ago, beavers built a dam across one of the small tributary streams flowing into McLane Creek. Water backed up behind the dam and formed the beaver pond which today can be viewed from the short loop trail. The trees that were flooded by the new pond did not survive. The only thing left of those trees are dead stumps called “snags” which are essential habitat to many wildlife as nesting places.
From the first deck, you can see long straight grassy mounds in the pond. These are old floating logs covered with plants. Do you see any turtles sunning themselves today?
The endangered Western pond turtle is native to this area, but unfortunately an invasive species, from the Midwest, the “red-sided slider” is found in the McLane pond. Like most invasive species, the red-sided sliders likely came from someone dumping their store-bought pet turtles into the pond…not a good idea. Please do not dump pets into the wild!
At this location, you might also find both mallard and wood ducks nesting along the pond. The colorful ducks are the males; the females are their brown-toned partners. Wood ducks nest in holes high up in trees along the edge of the pond. When it’s time for the babies to leave the nest, they must leap to the ground and then head for the pond with their mother.
In addition to the mallards and wood ducks, grebes also nest near the pond, building an intricately woven nest that floats hidden among the pond’s cattails.
What wildlife have you seen using the pond today? Other wildlife frequently seen at the pond include river otter, damselflies, blue green darner dragonfly and rough skinned newts.
FACT! Dragonfly larvae live in the water before becoming dragonflies and some migrate, just like birds!
Did you know? The Washington State insect is the green darner dragonfly!
Next, find the bridge after the second viewing deck.
During late spring through summer, this is a great place to look for rough skinned newts! Rough-skinned newts are a type of salamander. Like all amphibians, the adults lay eggs in the water, and the babies hatch out as “tadpoles,” breathing through a pair of gills. As the newts mature, they develop lungs and migrate into the damp forest to spend their adult lives, returning to the pond in the spring for reproduction. Search the water and see if you can find any. Rough skinned newts can also be seen from the viewing decks. Can you see their bright orange bellies?
This is also a great place to see and hear red winged blackbirds! Do you know what tall aquatic(water loving)plant the male is singing from? Cattails! Can you guess where this plant gets its name? Red wing blackbirds build their nest in the cattails. Can you see the male with his bright red wing patch or hear him singing?
At the trail junction, go to the right for the short loop tail. This portion of the trail used to be a railroad track.
It’s time to search for evidence of beaver! Can you find their dam or new mud that has been added? On the left, you can hear water that is trickling through the dam and heading toward McLane Creek. You might also find trees or wood that beavers have gnawed. They sure have big teeth! In fact, beavers’ teeth are constantly growing so they need to gnaw on wood every day to maintain their teeth as well as to harvest food. They also gnaw off branches for repairing their dams or building their homes. Sometimes you can see evidence of beaver-gnawed wood around the pond. Most people see the beavers only around dusk.
Second Half of the Short Trail Loop
After crossing the dam turn right to finish the short loop and continue going to the right to complete the loop. You will have more opportunities to see the pond, which is a freshwater marsh wetland.
A wetland is land covered by shallow water all or part of the year, with water-loving plants growing in them. Because the water covering wetlands reduces the oxygen in the soil below, wetland soil is referred to as “hydric” soil and sometimes has a sulfur-like odor. Wetlands can be covered with freshwater (such as McLane Creek’s pond) or with saltwater (such as the saltmarsh area at Nisqually River Wildlife Refuge.)
Wetlands can also be classified as either “marshes” which have mainly grass-like and non-woody plants, such as the pond’s cattails, reeds, and pond lilies, or “forested wetlands” which have mainly trees and shrubs. (Forested wetlands used to be called “swamps.)
Last Viewing Platform
Find the last viewing platform.
Besides being a fun, beautiful recreation opportunity, can you think of other reasons why wetlands might be valuable?
In the past, people didn’t always value wetlands. Many freshwater wetlands were ditched and drained to create more farmland. Many wetlands were filled in to create more space for cities to grow. When you travel on Plum Street in Olympia, you are driving over what used to be a creek and saltmarsh wetland. In downtown Olympia, many decades ago, the creek was channeled into a big pipe, and tons of dirt were brought in to cover the pipe and surrounding salt marsh so that the city could expand. Today, those practices are not allowed because we now realize how important wetlands are to our water quality and for storing our drinking water. Here are some of the great things wetlands do for our world:
- They provide the three life essentials for wildlife, shelter, water and food.
- They provide food for humans too. (Blueberries, rice, crabs, clams, shrimp, and salmon all need wetlands.)
- They prevent flooding by soaking up or storing extra water during the winter. Then they release the stored water slowly in the dry summer months keeping our salmon streams flowing.
- The plants and soil in wetlands help to filter out pollution and store carbon.
You have completed your mission to detect how many different animals call the beaver pond home. Tally your numbers and send us a picture of what you found by logging into the Goose Chase App. If no one is home on the pond today take a photo of a snag (dead tree) sticking up out of McLane Creek’s beaver pond and send it to us. Once your photo has been submitted, a park specific sticker will be sent to you!