Looping Through the Denman (Southwest Oregon) 06-Apr-2022

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. ๐Ÿ˜ฐ

But we had a good day of rain earlier this week. And that, combined with ample sunshine ๐Ÿ˜Ž and some higher than “normal” ๐Ÿค” 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. ๐Ÿ˜

Starting out from TouVelle
One of the now full ponds in lower Military Slough with Upper Table Rock in the distance
The Fawn Lilies were blooming in great numbers
Mount McLoughlin and industrial steam looming over the Agate Desert
The pond in lower Military Slough and Upper Table from the Agate Desert
The Agate Desert was lush (temporarily)
Mount McLoughlin from the Agate Desert
Duck boards in upper Military Slough
The pond near the trail in upper Military Slough is now full

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.

Passing a pond in Military Slough on Touvelle Road
On the very old road across another piece of the Agate Desert
A view to the south across the desert: (1) Roxy Ann Peak, (2) Mount Ashland, (3) Wagner Butte, (4) Grayback Mountain
Turning north toward the center of the wildlife area

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.

Doubling back on the Horse Trail
The wildlife area is home to many, many Acorn Woodpeckers

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.

On the old road toward the ammo bunkers
#6 Bunker – one of 12 that is still here after 80 years
Bunker lock detail
Through the colonnade of old oaks

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.

Little Butte Creek
Back through yet more oak trees
Trees along Little Butte Creek
Mount McLoughlin
The confluence of the Rogue River (2) and Little Butte Creek (3) with Upper Table Rock (1) in the distance
On the interpretive trail not far from the parking area

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! ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ˜

Our double back loop through Denman
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