Anderson Marsh State Historic Park resides just off Highway 53 in Clearlake and across the street from the Walmart. The highway busily passes around the park’s edge, but once you step into the parking lot, all that disappears. Next to the parking lot stand several outbuildings and the original farmhouse that J.M. Grigsby and his brother built in the 1860s. You may be familiar with the Grigsby Riffle, the rock located at the conjunction of Cache and Siegler Creeks that determines zero Rumsey of the lake. And, if you’re a history buff, you’ll know that the same J.M. Grigsby, along with a mob of people, tore down the dam built there in 1868.
There’s definitely some history at Anderson Marsh. The Southeastern Pomo and Lake Miwok lived there for over 10,000 years before J. M. Grigsby took over, and the land holds several archaeological sites. It’s also home to the largest blue heron rookery on Clear Lake, and its 1,060 acres of land have over 540 acres of tule marsh. That makes it a bird-watching paradise. But today, we’re not talking about any of those things. Today, we’re going for a walk.
For years, Anderson Marsh has served as a perfect place for our family to take a walk. When the weather’s not too hot, we love to head down, park in the parking lot, and wander off on a walk. The place is perfect for a thirty-minute jaunt or a longer afternoon walk. I say walk because it’s not a hike. Years ago, we had a friend tell us the difference. “On a hike, you go up and down,” she said. “A walk is flat.” And Anderson Marsh is definitely flat. The most elevation you’ll find is a slight rise on the Ridge Trail. That makes it perfect for children and people who aren’t looking to commit to Mt. Konocti.
We love to visit in spring. Then, the tules are poking out of the marsh, and many of the birds have returned. We regularly spot several species of herons, grebes, yellow-headed blackbirds, and, one of my favorites, the red-winged blackbirds, whose call sounds like an old door hinge happily squeaking open and closed. They flit through the marsh, chatting with their friends and eagerly warning everyone of possible dangers. Hawks and bald eagles regularly appear, so their concern is warranted.
For a shorter walk, we love to take the Cache Creek Nature Trail, a 1.1-mile stroll over to the creek. It meanders along a boardwalk for a large section, putting us directly in the middle of nature. I love to lean on a railing and look out over the marsh, watching the water bugs flit among the reeds and listening to the rush of wind through the cottonwoods. It’s a place to take a deep breath, smell the tang of the decomposing leaves and the bright notes of the water, and relax.
If we’re in the mood for a longer walk (that feels more like a hike), we hop on the McVicar Trail, a 3.5-mile trail that runs along the marsh. To the left, Shannon Ridge Winery’s vineyards move up the hillside. But the path encourages focus to the right, where the main body of the marsh pulses with life. There, the cottonwood trees drop their seeds, giving the appearance of snow on a warm spring day. They stick to our clothes and catch in our hair. Our feet crunch on leaves as we work our way down the trail. Wild grape vines trail down the cottonwoods, giving the place a primeval feel. The further we get, the more the marsh opens up, revealing Cache Creek, where kayakers quietly paddle down the waterways. A few benches rest here and there, encouraging a moment of contemplation.
But the reward lies at the end of the hike. We pop up and over a rise, and a view of the lake and Indian Island appears. A rocky beach fronts the lake. That’s the best part of the McVicar Trail; the joy that comes as we step out of the marsh and enter the bright sun. We unlace our shoes and dip our feet in the water, then pull out our picnic and plop on a piece of driftwood.
Then, after enjoying the moment, we put our shoes back on and retrace our steps back to the farmhouse, relaxed and filled with the beauty of the moment.
For more information, visit the Anderson Marsh Website.
8400 CA-53, Lower Lake, CA 95457