Cottonwood Lake Three

Recently, I enjoyed a Friday afternoon at Cottonwood Lake Three watching the natural cycles of the animal kingdom as the day faded into dusk.


The constant yet subtly changing flow down the waterfall in the northwest corner of the lake.

Spiders sailing on silk, riding the slightest updrafts inches above the surface of the lake.

Rainbow trout, out to catch the airborne spiders.

As I babbled to my friend about the lake as a simulation machine for atmospheric change, it was the arrival of the mammals that made me feel like I was in a National Geographic documentary. With the sun was sinking behind the edge of the cliff that rises above the lake, many bipedal mammals began their evening’s water ritual.

There were the mammals that stopped to draw water at the water’s edge in the northeast.

Another pack of similar mammals that passed them to draw their water from the waterfall. As they returned, they crossed paths. Cautiously approaching, they eventually relaxed and began to share information about water availability and routing suggestions.

There was the mammal who approached the lake quietly about 20 yards south of where I was sermonizing, pretending not to notice my friend and I, but clearly taking his time in filling. I made a comment that the mammal was probably amused by my yammering, and the gatherer’s sun etched face flushed. Caught in the act, it stood its ground and raised its voice in a friendly reply.

Evening’s chill inspired us to move, and we passed another mammal that did its best not to notice us. When I greeted it, I saw that he did not want to acknowledge us because we were exactly the type of animals he’d hoped to escape in his journey to the tree line. Too reminiscent of his usual competitors.

We drew our own water, demonstrating our inexperience by putting off the chore until it was difficult to warm up again.

On the way out, we saw a few members of the local herd. They didn’t have to say anything to let us know that this land was their territory.


It’s incredible up there. The walk up Cottonwood Creek is a walk into the distant past, a sideways portal to the Cretaceous… a living reminder that we are not the motivating force of our world.

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