Freshwater Farms Reserve

Northcoast Regional Land Trust

Click for map.

I set out to hike the McKay Community Forest, some 1000 acres the City of Eureka purchased in 2014, but found the sign at the entry on Harris (at the north end) to state in no uncertain terms that I wasn't to enter. "Appropriate access points and trails have not been developed." The first trails are scheduled to open in "early 2019." The 2019 was clearly edited since the sign went up. A final trail plan was released December 2020. There also seems to have been dedicated parking area constructed in 2018, so maybe I just have to try in different areas. I decided to go see what the land trust has to offer just down the road.

trail map and rules by grassy trail
At the east end of parking for at least a dozen cars, the trail starts with information signs.

The Northcoast Regional Land Trust ranges all across Humboldt County and into the neighboring counties, but this seems to be the only property set up for regular public access. Most of their work is in conservation easements on private lands that promote healthy fisheries and sustainable wood harvests. The goals at this property include reclaiming the lower areas for tidal wetlands habitat while continuing to use the higher areas for farming purposes to educate the public about multiuse land management. As a place of education, it is a natural fit to host a Redwood Edventure Quest. I took in the rules (definitely no dogs except for well trained service animals as it is a working farm) and the unexpected offerings (another unpowered boat launch, which is half a mile down the trail but they have some wheels to help shuttle boats to it) and a nearly empty kiosk. The one item on it advertises the quest but the box to hold them was empty. I was just going to use the PDF anyway.

goats eating at weeds
Generally, animals don't graze in the winter, but I promptly found the goats.

grassy path between fences
Fences line both sides of the grassy path at first.

The first stop focuses on the farm, in particular the barn built 110 year ago of old growth redwoods. It continues on to a stop to learn about some of the seeming more boring plants. Rushes, sedges, and grasses. At first glance, they seem similar, but they have distinct differences to make them quite distinguishable. Unfortunately for me, I could only find the grasses. I wanted to get hold of some triangles (sedges).

marigolds among the vegetables
Marigolds (and a few radish flowers) brought some color to a vegetable garden across the fence.

trees in a planted line
The trees have a tendency to stand in lines or edging the slough. They were mostly planted as wind breaks and soil stabilizers.

I found there was an odd rattling noise as the trail got close to Freshwater Creek/Slough. It confused me a moment until I focused on where it was and found it was actually nothing to do with the water. It was the few hardened old leaves still hanging on the alder trees growing along the banks. The wind stopped once I realized as if noticing I wouldn't be spooked by it after.

water between two banks dropping into it
Freshwater Slough is filled by the high tide and winter rains draining the Kneeland Mountains, but can be left as mud in low tide.

field of green grass, a pond, and trough
The field on the other side of the trail from the slough hosts cows in the summer, but gets too soggy for them in winter.

cone open to allow seeds to disperse
One row was planted in shore pines (lodgepoles) and they had some nice cones on them.

looking back along Freshwater Slough to the distant mountains
Freshwater Creek drains about 60 square miles of the Kneeland Mountains back there.

It was nice walking along beside the gentle water. Robins and others could be spotted along the way and in the distance I found a few Canada geese. When the cows aren't grazing, the geese can find plenty for themselves.

Canada geese in the grass
The Canada geese graze the fields when they are too soggy for cows.

I spotted a hawk across the slough as I sat on the memorial bench to read about birds of prey. I looked out to see another big bird, but it was a turkey vulture. The trail gets narrower past the bench. There, it passes on old levee between the slough and restored tidal lands.

narrower grass trail
Trail beside Freshwater Slough.

algae in a pool
Small pools are in a line on the side of the trail.

The trail comes to a wooden walkway that is built out over the returned tidelands as a wildlife viewing platform. The quest ends at the end of this, but I didn't find wildlife to view from there. I went back and followed the trail a little further along the levee. It gets so thin there, it doesn't look official, but then I came to one last interpretive sign and a gate ending the public trail. It included a few plants with spikes, but was the only place where I actually got to see Woods Creek.

tidal channels in the grass
Woods Creek has been restored as an entry point for the tidal waters into these low lands.

levee between tidal lowlands and slough with a sign and wildlive viewing platform
Looking back from the end of the trail. This last bit could use a tiny bit more maintenance.

I turned back and caught more thorns returning to the better maintained trail than I had on the way out. It wasn't too bad and seeing the bit of creek was worth that little bit of nuisance.

barn with holes in the roof and ravens flying about
The barn on the far side of the slough seems to have got a bit dilapidated.

lines of trees projecting into the field
View across the field and lines of trees to the Kneeland Mountains that Freshwater Creek drains.

wider trail with cedars
Returning on wider trail. There are cedars and a line of redwoods planted by the barn to make a bit more variety than might be expected.

restored barn with a red roof
Back to the restored 110 year old barn.

goats in the sunlight
The goats were out in the sun, a little more visible, when I passed by again.

I have been missing out on the Redwood Edventure Quests recently. I was in the area for three of them as I explored the city trails. One is a "bike quest", which is new since the last time I checked them. It covers a longer distance but is still quite walkable. Here are links to the posts and the quests:

Eureka Waterfront Trail and the bike quest.
Hikshari' Trail and the quest.
Sequoia Park and Zoo and the quest.

©2021 Valerie Norton
Written 19 Jan 2021

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  1. Rushes are round, sedges have edges. :-)

  2. Nah, you've got that backwards, and they added in a bit for the grasses:
    "Sedges have edges, grasses have nodes, rushes are round."
    The middle bit doesn't quite have much of a flow...

    But nothing about that mentions that the edges of the sedges are three. Those few times I've found something with edges, I though I had squares. I'm going to have to pay better attention in the future.


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