Anderson Marsh State Historic Park
Cache Creek, Anderson Flats, Ridge, Marsh Trails
2 to 3 miles round trip
One of the most populous Native American groups in California, the Pomo occupied the Anderson Marsh area as far back as 10,000 years ago. The Pomo, known as some of the best basket-makers on the continent, found an ample supply of raw material in the marsh.
Anderson Marsh is also a nature preserve, which protects the habitat of a tule marsh, itself an integral part of the Clear Lake ecosystem. The marsh, located on the southeast shore of Clear Lake, offers food and breeding habitat for mammals, fish, birds and amphibians. The crappie, catfish, bass and blue gill spend parts of their life cycles amidst the tules.
Anderson Marsh is a remnant (about 8 percent) of a once-vast tule marsh that nourishes Clear Lake, California’s largest natural lake. Marsh and park are named for Scottish immigrant John Still Anderson, who started a cattle ranch here in 1885. Anderson’s descendants continued to live and work the ranch until the late 1960s. Some of the original ranch buildings are open for tours on the weekends.
Two trails lead along the wetter parts of the park—Cache Creek and the marsh. Two other trails—Ridge (which ascends through an oak woodland) and Anderson Flats (which crosses a grassland) explore drier parts of the park.
Directions to trailhead: Anderson Marsh SHP is located just off Highway 53 between the hamlet of Lower Lake and the town of Clear Lake. The park is a short distance north of Lower Lake and the Highway 29/53 junction. Leave your car in the lot by the visitor center or, if the park gate is closed, in a turnout across the highway from the park entrance. The park is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.
The hike: Head west through the meadow along the park’s southern boundary fence. The flat path through the Anderson pastureland forks: Anderson Flats Trail (a possible return route) is on your right, but you bear left, angling with the fence line.
The path ascends through a blue oak woodland, passes a junction with Ridge Trail, then turns left to an interpretive display about bald eagles that drop in on the marsh during winter months. (Those seeking an up-close look at the marsh, will join McVicar Trail that heads into the Audubon Sanctuary.)
Otherwise, join Marsh Trail, which offers a good view of the marsh as it descends from the oak woodland toward the marsh. A bit more than a mile from the start, you’ll top a low ridge and meet up with Cache Creek Trail. Atop this ridge, amidst plenty of poison oak, are Pomo grinding holes and petroglyphs. For a moment, you’re able to imagine Pomo life, at least until you look into the distance and spot the vacation homes fringing the marsh.
The quick way back—a straight line across the meadow— is Anderson Flats Trail. A more interesting return is along Cache Creek, Clear Lake’s main outlet, and a watercourse that eventually empties into the Sacramento River.
Cache Creek Trail meanders across meadowland, then turns east to follow the cottonwood-lined creek. The path nears the highway, then veers right and returns to the ranch house.
© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author. To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.