PORTLAND, Ore. – If you’re looking to venture outdoors this fall and enjoy what nature has to offer, consider McGregor Park at Lost Creek Lake.
Lost Creek Lake is just 30 miles northeast of Medford, Ore., off Oregon State Highway 62. McGregor Park’s 16 wooded acres include well-maintained and handicapped-accessible trails that meander along the scenic Rogue River.
The horsetail, an ancient plant that inhabited the landscape when dinosaurs roamed the land, is one of the most interesting plants along the trails. Prehistoric horse tails were as tall as trees, but now stand no more than four feet. They are easily identifiable by their tall pointed leafless stems, which grow in thick patches and glow see-through green in direct sunlight.
Avid bird watchers and casual onlookers alike will delight at the variety of birds in the park, including black-capped chickadees, piliated woodpeckers and golden-crowned sparrows.
Belted kingfishers are also common at McGregor Park. These elusive birds live exclusively along the banks of rivers, and can be identified by their crested head, bright blue plumage and pointed bill. Great blue herons can be seen searching for small fish and frogs along a gentle stream that weaves through the park and merges with the Rogue River.
An iron footbridge over the stream is also a great place to watch the many drift boats loaded with fishermen.
A boardwalk wanders along a riparian zone, with colorful interpretive signs explaining this unique ecosystem. Wooden benches are available to sit amid majestic fir trees, stately cottonwoods and towering ponderosas and enjoy the sounds of nature.
Red alder and big leaf maple trees provide protection and shelter for residents like the brush rabbit, robin and mink. Beavers and river otters hang out here, too, and an actual beaver lodge can be observed a short distance away, near the bend in the river. An informative display about this full-time resident is nearby.
A late fall visit to McGregor Park also provides an amazing opportunity to witness the spawning of the iconic Chinook salmon. The best viewing area is the handicap overlook, where a descriptive sign explains the salmon’s life cycle. Be sure to bring a pair of polarized glasses to reduce the water’s glare. Look closely and you may actually see bright orange salmon eggs clustered in depressions in the river stone.
A map detailing the park’s layout is located outside of the McGregor Park Visitor Center, which is open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Picnic tables with grills are also available. Two have electric stoves and overhead shelter. No reservations are required.
For more information about McGregor Park and other recreation opportunities at Lost Creek Lake contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 541-878-2255.
Lost Creek and Applegate lakes contribute to a water resource management system that provides flood damage reduction, fish and wildlife enhancement, irrigation, municipal and industrial water supply, power generation, water quality improvement and recreation on the Rogue and Applegate rivers. For more information, visit http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Locations/RogueRiver.aspx.