Monthly Archives: August 2013

Rattlesnakes at the Cove

Many of our visitors don’t realize that they’re in rattlesnake country when they descend into the canyon walls of the Cove Palisades, but with a little bit of awareness, there’s very little to fear.

We only have one type of venomous snake here: the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). There are lots of misconceptions about rattlers, formed out of fear and misunderstanding. Sadly, lots of rattlers get killed for these reasons. Rattlesnakes are important members of the ecosystem and deserve our respect, not our disdain. Knowing the facts will keep visitors and snakes alike happy and healthy!

Juvenile Western Rattler, from Wiki.

This post is designed to give you all the information you need about rattlers at the Cove, so it’s a little longer than usual posts, but knowledge is power! Click on “Read the Rest” to go to the full article. Read the rest of this entry

Messages in the Rocks #3 – Crooked River Petroglyph!

Rocks are like little history books – sometimes what they’re made of can tell us a lot, and sometimes they record other kinds of history for us!

Here’s a photo of a very special rock at the Cove Palisades. It’s saying something – can you figure out what it’s telling us? I’ll give you a hint – the messages are in another language!

cp5c

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Clever Coyote

A coyote in Arizona, by Flickr user Marya.

At the Cove, we know there are coyotes around because of the scat they leave behind. They’re very good at being secretive, and sightings are rare – but recently, I lucked out and spotted an older pup! It was so exciting!

Coyote pups, image by John Harrison.

Coyotes are one of my favorite animals, despite their bad reputation. They’re not as aggressive as we tend to believe they are, and prefer to stay away from people if they can. This doesn’t mean they’ll stay away from our communities; on the contrary, modern human habitat is quite coyote-friendly! But as far as human contact is concerned, they’re wary of us: in 40 years, there were 160 human-coyote conflicts reported, which comes out to around 4 per year. Did you know there are 4 million dog bites reported in the U.S. each year? By comparison, humans are responsible for more than 100,000 coyote deaths each year. Coyotes are also responsible for much less damage on ranches and farms than they are accused of, and attempts at getting rid of them actually trigger behaviors that cause them to breed more.

Coyotes are intelligent and curious. Sometimes this gets them into trouble because inquisitiveness can be misconstrued as boldness or aggressiveness. They also have very strong family units and seem to “mourn,” or go into a state of chaos, when a family member passes away.

An illustration from a 1917 book by Frances Jenkins Olcott. In this Caddo story, Coyote tries to persuade Opposum to give him some persimmons.

Many First Nation tribes, including those local to the Cove (Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute), viewed the coyote as a trickster figure, grandfather figure, or a right-hand helper of the Creator. Coyote was so good at fooling people that he often fooled himself in the process!

You can tell a coyote track by a couple of clues: animals in the dog family do not have retractable claws, so you can see the tips of the claws above the toes. Also, the whole track is oval shaped, as opposed to cat tracks that are more circular. See if you can notice the 5-armed star that’s colored light gray in between the toe pads in the image below – this is another helpful way to recognize a coyote track.

Coyote track, from Wild Things Unlimited.

Coyote track, from Wild Things Unlimited.

All creatures have their place in the ecosystem, even if they get a bad reputation. Will you give the coyote a chance? When you’re at the Cove, keep an eye out on the Tam-A-Lau trail for tracks and scat from this clever critter!

Early Morning and Late Evening

These are two of my favorite times at The Cove, and two of the times of day that I remember how lucky I am to work in such a beautiful place. The warm sunlight reflected onto the cliffs, the ticking of the sprinklers in the cool morning air, the quiet lake, the happily sleeping campers that are just getting their vacations started – it all reminds me to be grateful for having such a great job.

There’s an old Karuk story about how Coyote brought fire to the people, and in the process got his tail burned – which is why even today, the tip of a coyote’s tail is black. As sun sets in the park and it fills with the sounds of clicking insects, I know the coyotes are running, the deer are grazing with their spotted fawns, and the rattlesnakes are starting their evening hunt.

cliffs.late light reflections h2

Messages in the Rocks #2

Rocks are like little history books – sometimes what they’re made of can tell us a lot, and sometimes they record other kinds of history for us!

Here’s a photo of a rock on one of our trails. It’s saying something – can you figure out what it’s telling us? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not what it seems, and you can find a whole lot of it at the Cove!

IMG_0897

Click on the “Read more” link to see the answer!

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Pretty in Pink Penstemons

When I moved to Central Oregon from the East Coast, I was worried that I would miss all of the amazing wildflowers there. To my surprise, the high desert possesses just as much wildflower beauty! Even more impressive, these plants prosper with little water but are every bit as vibrant and spectacular as their Eastern cousins.

We have lots of wildflowers in the early spring here at The Cove, like Balsamroot, Lupine, and Daisies. Once the real heat of mid-to-late summer sets in though, it’s a little harder for things to blossom. Some pioneers survive, though, like the spectacular Rabbitbrush you may have spotted a couple posts ago about the Tam A Lau trail.

I got a special surprise last week when I took another trip up the Tam A Lau – a beautiful penstemon in full bloom! I read in one source that this one is called a “rock penstemon,” but the trouble with common names is that they sometimes refer to several different species depending on where you live. If you type “rock penstemon” into Google, you will get lots of different results. Especially with penstemons – there are more than 80 species in the Pacific Northwest alone!

I narrowed it down to what I believe it is: Penstemon rupicola, also known as rock penstemon, or cliff beardtongue.

Here’s a photo from Wikipedia, since I, er, forgot my camera that day. (Doh!) Pretty cool, huh?

Penstemon_rupicola_(1)

Messages in the Rocks #1

Rocks are like little history books – sometimes what they’re made of can tell us a lot, and sometimes they record other kinds of history for us!

Here’s a photo of a rock outcropping. It’s saying something – can you figure out what it’s telling us? I’ll give you a hint – this kind of recording is a “sign,” and it doesn’t last much longer than a rainstorm or two.

IMG_0861

Click on the “Read more” link to see the answer!

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