Here’s the story about OKC Parks and Rec building a proper bike trail around Draper Lake. I spotted the survey markers a couple months ago and first assumed it was a new water line. But then I saw it wasn’t trenched, but being packed, and neither wide nor heavy enough to support heavy motor traffic, I assumed it was a bike path. From what I’ve seen of the route so far, it should be fun to use.
Continuing to take advantage of having my own car, I carried my bike out to the Draper Marina today. My intent was to visit some of the area south of the lake. I took the regular ring road clockwise around the lake, but at Westminster Road I headed south a couple of miles to Indian Hills Road.
This is how hilly it is out there below the dam. This shot looks west from Westminster along SE 164th. At that corner was a collection of ancient farming equipment and tractors displayed. I picked out the most unusual item: A tow truck marked with the Goddard Concrete logo and a giant fishing float hanging from the winch. There other items like an ancient dump truck with the “Tonka” logo on the doors, various tractors and other things I couldn’t identify.
Some of the land out here has been occupied for at least a generation. This cattle pasture must have been cleared before I was born. The cattle tracks crisscrossing it were at least knee deep on me in some places. And did I mention how hilly it was?
My primary goal was to see how Elm Creek looks below the dam. It’s a pretty deep cut. This first image is upstream (north) from Indian Hills Road. The second is downstream. Our green-up is well under way. Most of the short grass and shrubs are already green, and the oaks are putting out buds and tassels (depending on the particular breed). These are softer trees along the creek bank and the budding leaves were quite visible to me.
This image from across a pasture on the valley floor called to me. In this, Elm Creek is like Hog Creek was in a previous survey. There is plenty of wide flat bottom with rich soil, surrounded by some very steep ridges — wait, I said that already.
I rode west from Westminster along Indian Hills Road over some big humps all the way to Douglas Boulevard. I turned north at that point and came back again to SE 164th. From this angle, it was a pretty flat ride to find the creek again. This is looking downstream from SE 164th. This next image is the same spot looking upstream. Somewhere just about 200-300 meters upstream from here is where East Elm Creek and West Elm Creek converge. Keep in mind that Draper Lake in its current form is also known as East Elm Creek Reservoir. Someday they will expand and add a West Elm Creek Reservoir. This was a lovely and refreshing spot where I stood for quite some time listening to the creek gurgling out from under the bridge.
(Edit: I was mistaken. The confluence is about a half-mile south, not north of SE 164th.)
It wasn’t too bad taking almost a mile of the mostly flat valley road back to Douglas Boulevard again. Then I turned right and headed up over the ridge and back down to the valley, this time with just West Elm Creek. I couldn’t find any vantage point to take a shot of the confluence of the two branches. This first shot is looking downstream. The next shot is looking upstream. My understanding is the plan calls for this spot to be roughly the bottom of the dam. It will run north-south just upstream a few meters. It would stand quite high, probably to match the current dam on East Elm Creek. I have no idea how high that is, probably more than 100 feet (30m).
There aren’t that many one-lane bridges in this part of the state. All the washed out bridges I’ve shot over the past two years along West Elm Creek were the same design as this, but somewhat older versions. When a bridge like that is closed, it’s first piled with dirt and gravel. Eventually the wooden deck rots through and leaves some interesting patterns of dirt humps and holes. I decided not to hide the obscene graffiti on this shot. I managed to ride straight north back up past the water treatment plants just off the Draper dam. From there it was a slow slog getting back to the marina where I parked.