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Moss Lake County Park — June 2002

By Fred Weinmann

Stay close to home while this year’s deep snow continues to lay heavy on many of the trails at higher elevations, and visit an undeveloped King County Park with multiple habitats compressed within a small area. Wetlands and moss everywhere.

From the parking area, which has native landscaping to admire and critique as you pass through, follow the trail to the lakeshore and around two sides of the lake. Take short side trips to see forested wetlands with skunk cabbage, slough sedge and other hydrophils. From shore side continue on the trail along the south side of the lake for a few hundred yards, passing through moist forests of western hemlock and western red cedar with plenty of moss to justify the name of the park. Follow the trail that parallels the lake for a few hundred yards; then take the obvious left turn (continuing straight ahead will bring you to private land) and continue on the east side of the lake. Pass by shrubby wetlands dominated by salmonberry. Take advantage of obvious wayside routes that lead to the lake margin to see various microhabitats and thus different plant species (sedges, rushes and water-loving native grasses, for example). Along the trail are nice examples of the five-leaf bramble, Rubus pedatus, unusual at such low elevation. Eventually the trail leaves the lake and goes up a hill as the forest becomes drier in nature, ending at an expansive view point created by a clear-cut.

But for the most interesting botanical reason to visit the lake, bring a canoe (or kayak or rubber boat) and tall rubber boots. Along the lake and on floating bog mats are the classic bog species: Labrador tea, bog laurel, wild cranberry and several species of sphagnum. Also the dwarf St. John’s wort (Hypericum anagalloides), bog starflower (Trientalis arctica), watershield (Brasenia schreberi) and much more, including up to 10 species of sedge. With our late spring, some of the bog laurel will still be blooming and the Labrador tea will provide a white accent and fine bouquet. Be prepared to traverse some mud since the beaver dam is in poor repair and the water has receded, leaving a muddy shoreline to traverse to get to the lake.

Directions: Take route 203 to Stillwater (between Carnation and Duvall), then turn east up the hill on Stillwater Hill/Lake Joy Road. At the first fork, stay right on Kelly Road./Lake Joy Road. At the next Y, stay to the right on Lake Joy Road past the dead end sign. At the big Lake Joy sign keep left to go around Lake Joy clockwise; continue to Moss Lake Road (not Moss Creek Road.) and turn left. Continue to the parking lot with upscale restrooms. The distance from Stillwater is 4.5 to 5 miles.

Other notes:
This is one of the few places where I have seen a live western toad in the last five years. Moss Lake used to be a very popular place for red-legged frog reproduction, and river otter are often seen in the lake.

If you see any purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), notify the King County Weed Board; they are making an attempt to keep the lake free of the stuff.

Send an e-mail message to: fredwcrx@aol.com and I will send you a preliminary plant list in Word format of 111 species so far observed at the park.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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