Hidden Lake -- Natural History

September 9, 1984

Hidden Lake is in the Blue River Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest, about 55 miles from South Eugene High School Parking Lot. To reach the lake area, take the Cougar Dam turn off from the McKenzie Highway and then take the first road off to the right after passing the French Pete Creek area. From that point on, you’ll need a guide or a detailed Forest Service map since the lake is truly hidden. The lake region is an area of incredible beauty, ecologically rich and supporting plant and animal species that are among the rarest in Oregon.

The floating sphagnum (peat moss) bog at the outlet end of the lake was the first stop for the 16 Hidden Lake Area explorers. There are logs extending into the bog that enabled our group to avoid breaking through the bog cover into the mud and water below the floating sphagnum mat. Gary Chinn jumped up and down on the bog surface, producing waves that demonstrated its floating nature. The bog is distinguised by a profuse growth of the round-leaf sundew, Drosera rotundifolia, a carnivorous plant capturing small flying insects by the flypaper-like secretion produced at the tips of the leaf tentacles. Those Obsidians who observed the PBS television program dealing with the behavior of spiders (a superb film, broadcast a few weeks ago) will recall a sequence of time lapse photography displaying the behavior of a sundew leaf as it caught and enfolded an insect.

Six species of salamanders reside in the forests surrounding Hidden Lake, including the rare Oregon Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps wrighti. The total range throughout the world for this species extends in the Cascades from the Columbia River Gorge to Shadow Lake in the vicinity of Waldo Lake. Searching under logs and pieces of bark, we found specimens of B. wrighti and also specimens of Oregon Red Salamander, Ensatina eschscholtzii oregonensis. Champion salamander collectors were Tom Ellis, Anne Montgomery, Marj Mountainsong and Gary Chinn, each of whom collected for the first time in their lives the rare endemic salamander that’s found only in Oregon. After detailed examination by the group, the salamanders were released to continue their lives as a part of the Hidden Lake forest floor fauna.

Back into the cars, to move them to a location near the trail leading into the inlet end of the lake. That trail is not marked and isn’t maintained, but all Obsidians should know about it since it leads through a magnificent stand of old growth timber, one of nature’s cathedrals. We hiked the trail to the inlet stream eating lunch along the cascading water in an area of unsurpassed beauty. On a visit to the inlet stream a number of years ago, I observed a dipper feeding on the floor of the stream and later that day I found a dipper’s nest in a bush spanning the stream that flows out of the lake. After lunch we explored a pond from which the inlet stream originates and then made our way cross-country to pick up the trail back to the cars. Several members of our group had gone on ahead to harvest the huckleberries and blueberries that festooned the borders of the trail.

A short distance back down the road from the parked cars, there is an open area that becomes a temporary pond during the late fall rains and then dries upduring the summer. It’s an astounding fact that in the basin of this dried up pond, there are literally thousands of plants of the adder’s tongue fern, Ophioglossum vulgatum, a species that’s known from only one other location in the Cascades, a locality discovered several years ago by Herm Fitz. The plant consists of a single sterile blade associated (when mature) with a spore bearing stalk, from which the name “adder’s tongue” is apparently derived. The plant is so inconspicuous that members of our group, although standing among the ferns, didn’t detect them until they were specifically designated. A related fern, the leather-leaf grape fern, Botrychium multifidum, grows in association with Ophioglossum in the dried up bed of the pond. It’s a species found occasionally in the wet meadows and bogs of the Cascades. Although exceedingly rare in Oregon, the adder’s tongue fern is widely distributed throughout the world, with a circumboreal distribution. Obsidian members will be interested to know that our own Dave Wagner, curator of the University of Oregon herbarium, is an authority on the Ophioglossaceae, the family of ferns to which the above two belong.

Here’s a warning to those who explore the Hidden Lake area: there are ground-living bees in the forest around the lake and on three different occasions members of my field groups have been stung, a situation that could be extremely dangerous to those who are bee sting sensitive. On this occasion, it was Tom Ellis who experienced a painful sting from a bee that caught him while we were collecting the salamanders. Fortunately, Tom isn’t allergic to bee stings and was able to stick with us for the rest of the trip.

During the drive back to Eugene, Gary Chinn revealed that our Hidden Lake exploration had been experienced on the day of his 23rd birthday. A birthday celebration was irresistable, requiring a stop at ‘Vi’s Pies’ where, after refreshments, the traditional happy birthday song reverberated throughout the stacks of pies and among the resident pie consumers.

Hidden Lake field trippers experiencing all of the above events were Dee Bray, Ruth Coffman, Gary Chinn, Tom Ellis, Dot Leland, Rose Hess, Helen Lynch, Ruth and Frank Sumich, Anne Montgomery, Dorothy Turner, Marj Mountainscng, Paula Vehrs, Lois Schreiner, Bob Walden, and leader Jim Kezer.


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