Algae Update at Lake Billy Chinook

Health Advisory Lifted – New water monitoring has confirmed that the level of blue-green algae toxins are below guideline values for human exposure.  It is safe to boat/swim in the Crooked, Deschutes and Metolius River Arms of Lake Billy Chinook at this time.

The Oregon Health Authority recommends that people continue to be cautious with their pets in the lake because toxins are still above the very low exposure levels established for dogs. (Health Advisories may still be in effect at Perry South)

Round Butte Dam and the Selective Water Withdrawal Tower. Photo by Greg McMillan.

Why is the lake green?

The term “Algae” refers to a broad scope of organisms.  Algae can range from the microscopic single celled organisms that can be floating in a lake, to large seaweed plants that are found in the ocean, like Giant Kelp.  Your common lake variety of algae is known as green algae.  (This is different from the toxic blue-green algae, which is actually a form of bacteria known as Cyanobacteria, that can make some people and animals sick.)

Single celled Green Algae, photo credit

Green algae is the single cell variety of green algae that most commonly turns Lake Billy Chinook green.  These tiny little micro-organisms live off of the nutrients in the lake and use the sunlight to photosynthesize, much like the plants and trees above the water.  These little organisms contain large amounts of “chlorophyll,” which is a pigment that makes all plants green.  (Chlorophyll is the essential pigment that allows plants to photosynthesize sunlight into food.)

Green Algae in Lake Billy Chinook

When the weather and the water temperature warm up, typically in late spring or early summer,  the entire lake can resemble a huge pot of split pea soup.  This occurs when the number of algae organisms begin to reproduce at an astounding rate.  These algae are able to reproduce because there is an excess of nutrients found in the water.  The algae can become thick and doesn’t smell very good.  Algal blooms are a naturally occurring phenomenon, and are essential to the overall health of the lake.  This excess bloom of plant life provides tons of food for other microorganisms and fish.


Algea at Lake Billy Chinook Update

As of Saturday, July 9, 2016 –

Deschutes Arm – No advisories at this time
Crooked River Arm – Swimming Advisory, use caution; additional testing in process

Additional information will be posted if and when conditions change.

4th of July 2016

Come to the Lake Prepared for Heat

(by the Oregon Health Authority 06/03/16)

Extreme heat conditions this weekend prompt Oregon Public Health warning
Oregonians should stay hydrated, limit sun exposure and stay safe in the water

lake traffic (1).JPG

As the state’s temperatures break into the upper 90s and possibly triple digits by this weekend, health officials are recommending Oregonians take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses that can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Summer-like weather in Oregon is great and people want to be outdoors, but temperatures at or above 100 degrees can be dangerous,” says Katrina Hedberg, M.D., state epidemiologist and state health officer at the Public Health Division. “Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real problems that can lead to death, so people need to take precautions to protect their health. As people seek to beat the heat they often head to the rivers and lakes where drowning and hypothermia are concerns.”

According to the National Weather Service, the hottest weather of the year so far is expected to arrive throughout Oregon Saturday and Sunday. The forecast for most of the state calls for temperatures in the high 90s to just over 100 degrees in lower elevations and above 90 in higher-elevation areas.

photo credit:

The Oregon Public Health Division offers the following tips for staying safe and healthy during extreme heat conditions:

1. Stay cool
• Stay in air-conditioned places when temperatures are high, if possible.
• Limit exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest. Try to schedule activities in the morning and evening.
• Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate, especially during morning and evening hours, and close shades on west-facing windows during the afternoon hours.
• Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
• Wear loose-fitting clothing to keep cool and protect your skin from the sun.
• Use cool compresses, misting, and cool showers and baths.
• Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; they add heat to the body.
• Never leave infants or children in a parked car. Nor should pets be left in parked cars – they, too, can suffer heat-related illness.
• Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
• Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when going outside.

2. Stay hydrated
• Regardless of your level of activity, drink plenty of fluids, even if you are not thirsty and especially when working outside.
• Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar.

3. Stay safe in and near the water
• Be aware that rivers are running fast with spring run-off and may be a challenge for even the most experienced simmers.
• Keep an eye on the water temperature. Even though it is hot, if water temperatures are 60 degrees or lower you could develop hypothermia if you stay in too long. This can cause disorientation, fatigue, and even drowning.
• Young children and non-swimmers should wear properly fitted life jackets in and near the water. Air-filled and foam toys such as water wings, water noodles, and inner tubes are not designed to keep swimmer safe and should not be counted on.
• Make sure children do not have unsupervised access to the lake.
• When supervising children or non-swimmers, stay focused and avoid distractions like reading, texting, talking on the phone, or doing chores.
• Don’t consume alcohol before or during boating, swimming, tubing or other water activities.

People with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, or kidney disease may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category should be closely monitored to make sure they’re drinking enough water, have access to air conditioning and know how to keep cool.

photo credit:  better backpacker

Those who exercise or work outdoors in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illness and should pay particular attention to staying as cool and hydrated as possible.

Children and those with seizures are particularly vulnerable to drowning, so special attention should be given to their water safety.

For more information, visit the Oregon Public Health Division Extreme Heat page at or the CDC Heat Stress page at Information on Extreme Heat for vulnerable groups is available in English and Spanish and can be found at

10 Tips for Boating Safety

Canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards were responsible for 23% of all boating casualties in 2015, up from 17% in 2012 according to the latest U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics.

The ACA partnered with Anzovin Studio to create this fun video  aimed at empowering paddlers to take responsibility for their safety on the water!

Enjoy Central Oregon Rivers Safely this Summer!

What’s Up With The Red Lights?

You may notice that all of the utility hook-up stations throughout the Crooked River Campground at Cove Palisades State Park are all now red lights rather than the traditional white lights.


During the summer of 2015 a study was undertaken at the campground where 10 campsites’ utility stations were changed to red lights for illumination. Each evening the campers at these 10 campsites were asked their opinion of the change to red lighting. After they responded, they were told that the red lighting offered several advantages over the white lights.

The reasoning included:
• Most animals cannot see the red spectrum of light thereby making the campground look completely dark and more natural to the animals
• Red lights offer the same levels of illumination as white lights while allowing us humans to better adapt to the nighttime
• Red lights are not as intrusive to tent and tent trailer campers

The results of the study were more positive than anticipated. There were no negative comments and several people asked why red lights weren’t being installed at all Oregon State Parks.  As an additional benefit, placing a red film over the existing white lights cost less than $0.50 per campsite.

So… enjoy the new lighting at Cove Palisades’ Crooked River campground. It is beneficial to the wildlife while being less intrusive to us humans.

Thank you to Park Host Scott Spence for spearheading this project!

Light Pollution Hurts Us All

What Is Light Pollution?

Light Pollution is the illumination of the night skies by mankind. We are all responsible for the causes of Light Pollution yet very few of us understand the cause and consequences of Light Pollution.

Simply put, Light Pollution is caused by manmade light sources point up or reflecting upwards.

Although picturesque, cityscapes of all sizes create Light Pollution


Highway billboards shine light upwards, wasting as much as 85% of the energy consumed

Light Pollution wastes energy, disrupts wildlife and whites out our naturally dark skies. Light pollution is a new term to most people

How Does Light Pollution Hurt Us?

Nocturnal animals that come out and make nighttime their “daytime” suffer the most. Deer fall prey to their natural predators more easily. Mice and other nocturnal rodents are easier for owls to see. Hatchling sea turtles use the moon to guide them to the safety of the ocean but bright city lights lure them away from the ocean.

Recent studies have found a link between breast cancer and bedrooms illuminated by Light Pollution.

Fewer than 2 in 5 children born today will ever see the Milky Way in their lifetimes. Less than ½ of the population of North America, Japan, Europe, India and other populated locations can see the Milky Way from their backyards.

night sky
Night skies are naturally beautiful

Light Pollution in the United States at night from the ISS


Look At Your Home

Check your home at night. Do you have light sources pointing up or horizontally? Do you really need 60 watts of light when 20 watts will work? Are your exterior lights under eaves?

Bad and good light sources

Get together with your neighbors and evaluate all of the light sources in your neighborhood.

Look At Your City

Take a look at your community. Are flag poles illuminated from the ground rather than from the top? Are billboards illuminated from the top rather than from the bottom? Does your community have lighting ordinances that reduce or eliminate certain Light Pollution sources? Consider going to a city council meeting and suggesting changes to ordinances if necessary.

As an example, Flagstaff, Arizona has had strict lighting ordinances since the early 1960’s. Any clear night of the week a person can stand in the middle of highway 66, downtown Flagstaff and see the milky way. The Flagstaff police department reports a lower crime rate than many comparable sized cities.

Become an advocate for your community. Ask business owners who contribute to Light Pollution to make changes to their exterior lighting to become more dark sky friendly. Investigate the subject of Light Pollution and offer to make presentations on the subject to middle and high school students.
Additional Resources


International Dark-Sky Association

International Dark Sky Association

The Ottawa Centre’s Light Pollution Abatement Program

The Journal Of The Royal Astronomical Society Of Canada

Neighbor-Friendly Lighting

Lowes Home Improvement Centers

Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society

Light Nuisances – Ambient Light, Light Pollution, Glare

How Does Outdoor Lighting Cause Light Pollution?

Dark Sky Society


Every once in a while, a great program, turns out something even more amazing…

The last week of April is STEM week in Oregon.  Culver Middle School hosted their annual “STEMFEST” which showcased the student’s STEM accomplishments for the year. Not knowing what to expect, I was amazed when I walked into a classroom that had been transformed into a tiny portion of The Cove Palisades State Park. Students had recreated the ponds that they’ve been restoring to give students, staff and special guests, a glimpse into restoring a fire ravaged wetlands.

(They had painted murals of the cliffs and even had real sagebrush and juniper in the room so it smelled like the park.) They displayed the showy milkweed that they’ve been propagating in class; as well as some butterfly larvae that they are caring for.

milkweed garden.jpg

This student lead event engaged elementary and high school students to make a topographical map of The Cove in a sand box which had a projected image of the wetlands on it. They handed out milkweed seeds to students so that they could plant them at home. Mrs. Naomi Little and Mr. Mark Habliston said, “This is a collaborate effort of the students as well as the teachers.”


Looking For Summer Adventure?

Sign Up to be an Interpretive Park Host

July 1 – August 28, 2016

P1030561Have you ever wanted to teach others about nature, geology, history, astronomy, fishing, or outdoor safety skills? Have the Central Oregon High Desert as your classroom? Do you like being around people? You can do all these things as an interpretive host at The Cove Palisades State Park. This is a fun and rewarding opportunity in a breathtaking location. As an interpretive host you will be an important part of hundreds of family’s summer vacation memories. Just to name a few resources to inspire your creative energy… the Cascade Mountain Range, Lake Billy Chinook, a rich and interesting local history that includes Native Americans, pioneers, homesteaders, farmers, fisherman and more, a variety of wildlife from bats to cougars, birds of prey and the unusual whip-tailed lizard, and a vast dark night sky filled with billions of stars, planets, galaxies and of course the full moon. 4th of July weekend and National S’mores Day are extra fun events here in the park with campground parades, family fun games and campfire programs. If you like to work with kids, we offer Junior Ranger Programs daily in the summer. You even have the opportunity to dress up as the Oregon State Parks mascot J.R. Beaver! Each host site provides water, power, and sewer service to make you feel right at home while you are here with us.

For more information or a full job description, please contact Ranger Erin Bennett or Monday – Friday from 7:30 – 3:30 pm at 541-546-3412 x 229.  We hope you will come join us at The Cove!


JR loves to hang out with our Hosts!

Wetlands Restoration Update

As spring is budding at The Cove, Culver Middle School continues their work in the wetlands.   165 students came to the park to plant 200 osier dogwood whips and 200 coyote willow whips.  This labor intensive work required students to trudge through hard muddy ponds, dig holes, plant the whips and net them so voracious herbivores would not eat them before they had a chance to sprout and then haul water by hand in buckets – not unlike the routine of homesteaders in the late 1800’s at The Cove.  Students raked the new interpretive nature trail that has been put in by park staff.  Mr. Habliston showed students how to put in GIS plots to track and map the plant growth near each pond.  Culver High School also came out to visit previous STEM projects and monitor their progress.



Irrigation water filled the ponds last week which will increase the growth rate of the new whips.


In the classroom, students are planting showy milkweed by seed.  This week they were rewarded when the seeds sprouted new growth.  Next month the new Certified “Milky Way” Monarch Way Station will be planted along the new Crooked River Wetlands Nature Trail – check back for photos.



The Cove Rattler


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