The last time we visited the Ken Denman Wildlife Area near White City, Oregon, was the day after Christmas 2021. A Great Winter Storm was upon us then and it was snowing – heavily. We had a magical walk in the snow for a couple of hours, got nicely chilled, then headed home for warming libations. Many saw this big snow dump in December as the start of a much needed snowy and wet winter. But, alas, it was not to be, as the following months were among the driest on record. So the drought persists and the coming summer is looking to be increasingly crispy. 😰
But we had a good day of rain earlier this week. And that, combined with ample sunshine 😎 and some higher than “normal” 🤔 temperatures, has gotten Spring going. Leaves are coming out. Birds are chirping. Wildflowers are blooming. Life finds a way. So it seemed to us as good a time to revisit Denman and see what Spring was doing there. To maximize our coverage of the area, we plotted a recursive loop from the TouVelle State Recreation Area parking lot almost to Agate Road and back. We wanted to hit all of our favorite points – Military Slough, the Agate Desert, the upper pond, the old ammo bunkers, the colonnades of old oaks, Little Butte Creek, and the Rogue River – all in one go. And we did. 😁
We had followed the interpretive trail within the Recreation Area and then the Denman Trail within the wildlife area to gravel Touvelle Road. Here, we’d usually continue straight ahead on either the Horse Trail or the old road past the ammo bunkers (remnants of when this was Camp White during WW2). Today we went east on the road to another very faded road, then struck off north across a piece of the Agate Desert we hadn’t visited before.
The very old road took us north, then east, then north again and eventually became a use trail. That lead us to the Horse Trail, which we doubled back on to Touvelle Road. It was along the use trail that we encountered numerous jackrabbits – and one well-fed coyote.
Where the Horse Trail meets Touvelle Road, we doubled back again – this time on the old gravel road that runs past the ammo bunkers. We eventually left that road for a trail that took us through the colonnade of old oaks almost to Agate Road.
Shortly before reaching Agate Road, we turned north to join the heavily used use trail that runs parallel to Little Butte Creek. It leads to presumably popular fishing spots along the creek. We would follow this use trail back across Touvelle Road to where it merges with the interpretive trail at the wildlife area/recreation area boundary.
Overall, a good Spring hike and one that was quite a change from our last visit here. We’re supposed to get a little more rain in the days ahead – which may encourage a few more wildflowers to appear. But the next few weeks may be the lushest Denman gets this year. This twisted visit-our-favorites loop came to 6 miles (9.6 km) with just 150 feet (46 m) of elevation gain. Not a hard hike but enough of one to justify lunch at Kaleidoscope Pizza – best pie in the valley! 🍕😁