Plentiful wildlife greets Chatham adventurer
By: Rod Wellington
As Hell Roaring Creek makes its impatient way out of the mountains and into Centennial Valley, its icy flow merges with the more sedate waters of Red Rock Creek. Here in the flat valley bottom, Red Rock Creek snakes through a thick corridor of leaning willows, prime habitat for moose. Muskrats, beavers, ducks, geese, herons and a multitude of chattering blackbirds greet the hardy paddler who dares to tackle this wonderful little stream on the cusp of a summer solstice.
Clad in multiple layers of clothing, neoprene gloves and a purely Canadian toque, I wound my way ‘round many a tight bend and thicket, my arse neatly wedged between the 12” tubes of my little inflatable boat. Moose sightings were plentiful, with young calves clumsily following their mothers across the shallow stream as aged males, their dark brown bulk and heaving antlers towering high above me as I silently passed by, stood motionless and apprehensive before turning on heel and hoof to crash through the nearly impenetrable willows.
I also encountered several electric and barbed wire fences stretched tightly across the creek, making passage difficult. I surmised that the ranch owners were intent on controlling not only the perimeters of their grazing livestock, but were also keen on imposing a severe deterrent to adventurous types bent on paddling every inch of a river system.
Just inside the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge boundary, itself marked well with a rusty cable fence, secured and soundly tethered to a hidden object buried deep in the creek’s bed, I left the flow to explore an old schoolhouse and homestead. These buildings, some lined with crumbling drywall and the odd light fixture, begged thoughts of what life in the valley would have been like 70 years ago.
As I neared Upper Red Rock Lake, I found myself crouched among the willows, searching for a narrow gauntlet through which to haul my boat and gear. A sizeable beaver dam had forced me off the creek. Close by, a beaver lodge the size of a large SUV stood eerily silent. Surely it housed a host of buck-toothed denizens, their ceaseless work hidden from the view of a curious kayaker.
Read Rod Wellington’s detailed accounts of his journey through the Mississippi-Missouri river system from source to mouth: exclusively on the CKReview. Track Rod on findmespot for his daily progress. Go to his facebook page for more pictures.