Lower Tors Trail Flora and Fauna

Lower Tors Trail Flora and Fauna

On Monday morning, after Team Ascension’s running club and climbing practice, Cat and I drove out Chena Hot Springs Road to the Granite Tors Trail to take a short walk along the lower trails and hopefully spot some new wildflowers.

The flowers weren’t quite blooming as they were at Table Mountain a few days earlier. The boardwalk was lined with lots of bog rosemary and cloudberry. The floral buds were starting to appear on the Labrador tea.

Bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) [poisonous – despite the name]
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)

It was nearly perfect hiking weather: warm but overcast with a cool breeze. There were a few raindrops now and then, but it never started to rain hard.

We first walked up to one of the older beaver ponds, which had been unkept and mostly drained the last two years. There had definitely been some new activity in the area, and it looked like the dam had been partially rebuilt.

Beaver ponds along the trail – the lodge is visible within the stand of spruce trees on the left.

From here, we tracked back to the trail that heads to the northern side of the loop and to the old, short 3-mile loop that has been closed for years now due to the bridge washing out. The old trail was still easily navigable but very overgrown. The area had a lot of dwarf marsh violet (Viola epipsila). Cat found a little cluster of Calypso bulbosa while I focused on the violets.

Dwarf marsh violet (Viola epipsila)
Fairy slipper orchids (Calypso bulbosa)
Close-up of Calypso bulbosa var. americana with its signature yellow beard

As we neared the Chena River, there were multiple stages of beaver dams, a pond completely covered in stick debris, and some big downed cottonwood.

A meticulously constructed beaver dam composed of freshly gathered, densely packed branches.
Cat crossing one of the trees felled by the beavers in the area

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Shortly after arriving, we heard the distinctive slap of a beaver tail against the water, quickly followed by another. A single beaver soon resurfaced, and for the next ten minutes, we observed swimming in circles, occasionally slapping its tail, and diving to warn others of our presence.



The brave beaver frequently swam up to us, only a few feet away. The slapping became much less frequent the longer we sat and watched.
View of the Chena River where we turned around

It was a great, short little hike to end our day. It would be great if the State would repair the trail and bridge to reopen this short loop; it’s an awesome little nature hike. At just over 2 miles and negligible elevation gain, it’s much more accessible, especially for families with kids, than the 15-mile loop. It doesn’t get the views of the tors, but there’s still a lot to see. I think it’s been closed for about five years (maybe more) now, and I haven’t heard anything about plans to work on it.

Terminal inflorescence of leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata)

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