Kayaking on the Colorado
Mar 18, 2001

Kayaking from Walter's Camp to Imperial Dam with bird guide  Bob Miller--put together by Tom Camp for the San Diego Kayak Club.  Along for the fun were Dee, Esteban, Jeanette and Debbie.
54 species total (list is at bottom of page)

Summer had arrived early in the Southwest and the season went from Winter right straight into Summer practically overnight. We all met and  camped out the first night at Walter's Camp on the California side just south of Blythe CA.  Six adventurous souls. We were awakened numerous times throughout the night by the haunting sounds of several dozen Coyotes howling and wild burrows braying.  Just before sunup there was a Western Screech Owl calling very close to camp.  

Putting In on the Colorado
Bright and early Friday morning we had enough stuff packed in our kayaks to go for a week so down river we went!
We pulled out a few hours later to explore an old settler’s cabin on the California side called Draper’s Cabin.  It is my understanding that the original cabin is long gone and this is the old smoke house but it is very well preserved and there are numerous bits of old things that people have deposited over the years. Back onto the water and away we went through the heart of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. 

Draper's Cabin -- There is a log book inside with the names of people who have visited the site.
Most of the winter resident birds had moved on and the most common waterfowl seen were Common Goldeneye. Up ahead we could here a Greater Roadrunner calling. What an unusual sound! As we drew nearer we finally found it perched in a tree along the waters edge. It kept calling with indifference as we drifted by very closely. It turned out to be two birds calling over their territory and neither one was going to let a few kayaks get in the way of their pronouncement of who had what territory. One was claiming California and the other had staked it’s claim on Arizona as they were on opposite sides of the river!!

Soon we were in sight of Bear Canyon Bluff. A very imposing cliff face that the Colorado River has been beating up against for more time than I can imagine.  We paddled up to the cliff face and drifted by beneath the great height.
At the end of the bluff is a sudden clearing in the phragmites...

Paddlewheeler Camp
and here we were at our next campsite, Paddlewheeler Boat-in Camp. Tents were pitched and gear stowed so off we went to explore the desert.
We hiked up to and along the top of the great cliff we had just drifted under and the view was forever.  A small herd of wild Burros moved on ahead of us as we hiked.
A Jenny and her young one wanted nothing to do with us and stayed well ahead but the young Jack seemed adventurous and would wait till we got fairly close and then break out running and braying at us. As we made our way back into camp we found a Common Poorwill camouflaged on the desert floor. After enjoying the campfire till way late..oh about eight o’clock!..six tired, happy kayakers hit the sack. 

Sometime in the middle of the night, when everyone was truly sound asleep, one of the Burros silently wandered into camp. Candid Camera could not have pulled off a funnier stunt as that Burro suddenly busted out in the loudest, longest, tent shaking HEE-HAW you ever could wake up too!! Every tent had campers hanging from the ceiling by their fingernails! I literally laughed myself back to sleep…..well, after I checked my shorts anyway.  The Coyotes howling and the Great Horned Owls calling were a peaceful serenade for the rest of the night.


On the Colorado

The new day started early and after a nice hot breakfast we were headed down the river again. We explored hidden backwaters along the way but there were too many to see in a single trip. 

Soon we were pulling out at another old cabin called Watchman’s Cabin. It was built by the 49’ers during the gold rush days and it too is in good shape. 

Watchman's Cabin--We all signed the guest book and were soon back on the water.
Ferguson Lake was our next campsite. After the tents were pitched we paddled two miles down the river to Martinez Lake resort for an ice cold drink.  Being Saint Patty’s Day, the restaurant was serving
Corned Beef and Cabbage so we grabbed an order to go and headed back to camp. The paddle back up river to camp was a workout but a lot of fun. As we settled into camp, the sky blazed with colors, several hundred swallows swirled around us, Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroats and Yellow-rumped Warblers worked for their dinner in the vegetation all around us. 
That evening we enjoyed the campfire, a bottle of wine and a few stiff- drinked toasts. For medicinal purposes you understand! It happened to be that my birthday was the next day…18 ?!? Unbeknownst to me, the others had sneaked a chocolate pie and a candle while at the restaurant and surprised me with a birthday cake, rough out style!! 

Bob's Birthday--

Cause for another toast for sure! 
The Coyotes and the Great Horned Owls serenade our sleep again that night. Sunday dawned bright and we had our breakfast before setting off on our final leg of the trip. As we rounded a big bend in the river we were met by the Colorado King II. It is a big paddlewheeler that tours the river with lunch and dinner cruises.  What an amazing sight! It was easy to imagine the days when numerous paddlewheelers plied the wild waters of the Great Muddy bringing supplies to the miners and settlers of the area all the way from San Francisco by steaming around the Southern tip of Baja California. By noon we were paddling in to our final destination, Hidden Shores Marina at the Imperial Dam. We all enjoyed an ice cream and said our so long till next times and were on our way home.


Overlooking the Colorado    

# Species
1 Pied-billed Grebe
2 Western Grebe
3 Clark's Grebe
4 Double-crested Cormorant
5 Great Blue Heron
6 Common Merganser
7 Turkey Vulture
8 Osprey
9 Northern Harrier
10 Red-tailed Hawk
11 Gambel's Quail
12 Clapper Rail
13 Virginia Rail
14 Sora
15 Common Moorhen
16 American Coot
17 Black-necked Stilt
18 Killdeer
19 Spotted Sandpiper
20 Ring-billed Gull
21 Mourning Dove
22 Inca Dove
23 Greater Roadrunner
24 Barn Owl
25 Western Screech-Owl
26 Great Horned Owl
27 Common Poorwill
# Species
28 Black-chinned Hummingbird
29 Anna's Hummingbird
30 Costa's Hummingbird
31 Gila Woodpecker
32 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
33 Northern Flicker
34 Black Phoebe
35 Say's Phoebe
36 Tree Swallow
37 Northern Rough-winged Swa
38 Barn Swallow
39 Phainopepla
40 Cactus Wren
41 Marsh Wren
42 Northern Mockingbird
43 American Robin
44 Verdin
45 Common Raven
46 European Starling
47 Orange-crowned Warbler
48 Yellow-rumped Warbler
49 Common Yellowthroat
50 Song Sparrow
51 Red-winged Blackbird
52 Great-tailed Grackle
53 House Finch
54 House Sparrow

Photos © Henry D. Detwiler