JAMES M ROBB COLORADO RIVER STATE PARK
CORN LAKE SECTION
I arose early on a Saturday morning to get to the lake before sunrise. When I got there, I was alone, except for several Great Blue Herons, some ducks, a few geese, and a river otter, all of whom were very confused about my presence at that early hour. I always figure that if I’m out before the dog walkers, I’m out in time. Turns out, none of the dogs or their owners arrived until well after sunrise. I had about 30 minutes to myself there, waiting for sunrise and just enjoying nature’s beauty at this lake, which is right on the edge of suburbia and not too far from my home. Timing is everything on these kinds of outings. I don’t want to get there too early, and be there in the complete dark, but I can’t be too late for sunrise either. This time, it worked out perfectly.
I’ve lived in Grand Junction for a little over four years now, and I’m getting used to it, but before I moved here, I lived in the Denver area, right beside a beautiful lake. Oh, how I miss that now, but this is the next best thing. While I’m sitting beside the lake with my camera, I turn my iPhone on to do a timelapse of the sunrise. I got a little selfie stick for it that makes into a small tripod. I set it beside me and wait for the sun. The lake is situated beside 32 road, and the only noise I really hear at this time of the morning is the sound of the occasional car or truck going by on the road. Other than that, it’s mostly quiet. I feel my stress level deflating perceptibly.
Herons are particularly fond of this lake and like to fish for their breakfast here. There’s probably a half a dozen or maybe more stationed along the shore of the lake. Occasionally I hear a splash as one of them makes a catch. This lake is stocked with trout and has a population of bluegill and perch as well. At about sunrise, a fisherman shows up on the other side of the lake. He unpacks his pole and bait and sits beside the lake near the parking lot.
A river otter huffs by checking me out. He swims back and forth as if he can’t really believe his eyes that I’m out there. I start to feel a little awkward, like maybe he’s going to charge me and try to scare me off, but after making a few passes, he swims away.
Corn Lake is a part of The Colorado River State Park system that runs along The River beginning east of Palisade with The Island Acres section, where you can camp, and then down through Clifton, Grand Junction and Fruita with different sections and different names. They call this a “string of Pearls” within an otherwise urban area. It’s an interesting mix of both urban and natural environment. When I’m short on time and need to get a little natural beauty into my experience, I head for one of the local state park sections along The Colorado River. As a nature photographer, I’ve come to believe that you can find a little slice of beauty wherever you are, even in your own neighborhood. That’s what I try to do. I rarely have to go far to find something.
As with some other parks and lakes in the area, Corn Lake was once a gravel pit used by a construction company to make asphalt for paving. Now, I like roads as much as the next person, but I do think a lake is an improvement over a gravel pit. I have no idea why they sold their gravel pit to make a state park, but I’m glad they did.
After sunrise, I started to pack up my camera, my phone, my little tripod and so forth, and pack everything into my backpack. As I looked behind me, there stood a Great Blue Heron! I snapped a couple pictures of it. I never heard it land and I had no idea it was even there until I turned around and saw it. It was maybe 8 to 10 feet away from me, just standing there waiting for me to leave as if a que had formed and it was just patiently waiting it’s turn. As soon as I vacated the spot, it jumped into the shallow water and took its usual fishing position. I must have been its favorite spot!
I usually take a short walk around the lake with my camera to see what else there might be to photograph. The south end of the lake, closer to the river, has lots of cottonwoods and a few other kinds of trees. There’s a picnic area there as well, but it was empty at this early time of the morning. Part of the trail is paved, and I sometimes walk a way up the paved section of the trail towards Palisade. There are swallows’ nests under the bridge, but I didn’t see any swallows there yet. There was a beautiful, delicate tamarisk blooming with pink flowers alongside the river.
I made my way around the east side of the lake, just as the fisherman caught a tiny fish and was trying to decide what to do with it. He looked at it with some skepticism as its silver body wiggled in the early morning sunlight. More people were starting to get out and about. A park ranger was cleaning out a bathroom. A couple of dog walkers showed up. A lady on a bicycle glided by. Saturday was getting off to a good start.
You can check out the sunrise time lapse at the link above. About 35 seconds of Zen.