Saturday, January 2, 2010

White Owl Canyon - 1/02/10

White birds on the water in the distance.

One of two coyotes in the area when we arrived.

White Owl Canyon begins at 33 Hole which is a picnic area located on Lakeshore Dr. at Lake Mead which was noticeably lower in water level than when we did this hike last year. Thirty-nine hikers dropped down on the steep hill from the picnic area into what was once the floor of the lake. We hiked around a previous shoreline and entered into a slot canyon with rounded shelves carved by water on either side.

On one of the shelves up to the right, there is the owl's nest. As we neared, the owl woke from his day of sleep and flew through the canyon, away from the strange intruders. Startled but delighted, we looked around the canyon floor for remnants of the owl's latest meals.

Ann was the first to find a large leg joint of a big horn sheep lying in the pathway. It boggles the mind to think of an owl making a meal of even a baby sheep.

There were many remains of what amounted to owl hairballs as seen above. Some were extremely fresh and were most likely recently regurgitated. Someone spread this old one out with their walking stick.

Later, we found skeletal remains of a rodent. This is the jawbone, teeth and rib of the unfortunate animal.

The unusual canyon was about 30 feet deep and only around .1 mile in length but it made the hike interesting and it gives the owl a good home to do its damage on small wildlife in the area.

The eerie canyon abruptly turned into a wash when we entered into a very large culvert. At the other end of the culvert, the wash widened then we hiked through another of a set of twin culverts. Presumably, one of these culverts led us underneath the highway but it wasn't visible from below.

Not long after passing through the second culvert, most of the group stopped for a snack. Ten other hikers went on up the wash another 1/2 mile. The wash widened out allowing views of the area as seen below in the bottom two pictures. During this time, the owl flew overhead back towards the canyon. Everyone then returned to the picnic area the way they came. As we hiked back through the canyon, WHOOSH!!!, there went the owl again.

The short hike ranged from around 2.25 to 3.25 miles in length. Except for the steep hill in the beginning, elevation was unchanged.

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