Intern Trevor Frank reviews the non-water quiet recreation at Cougar Bay:
Just minutes from downtown Coeur d’Alene, The Nature Conservancy’s Cougar Bay Preserve is a great place to view wildlife. The 88 protected acres contain more than 5 miles of trail networks for enjoyment by the public, while the bay and creek accommodate kayaks, canoes, and fishermen. The Bay’s upland has been protected as a wildlife sanctuary for more than ten years and has been kept open for the public.
The wildlife reserve is popular among hikers, kayakers, canoeists, and fishermen due to its serenity so close to town and its huge variety of wildlife. The towering forests and lush meadows on display attract migrating and nesting waterfowl, numerous shorebirds, songbirds, moose, beaver, otter, and deer.
There are more than five miles of intersecting hiking trails to enjoy in the Preserve. Signs supplement the hiking trails with information about the local birds, trees, and science. Although no trails run immediately along the shoreline due to the waterfront’s marshy wetland characteristics, there are beautiful views of the Lake from the trails above and a launch site for canoes and kayaks. The trails, intended solely for hiking, are closed to pack animals, like horses, and all vehicles, including bicycles.
Hikers generally agree that while the trails are mostly easy, they are not generally well maintained, which can make them slightly more challenging. Some trails on the east side of the Preserve are particularly easy to lose. There is also some elevation change, depending on where you choose to explore. However, many enjoy the authentic feeling that comes with light use and low trail maintenance, and bearings are relatively easy to establish and maintain with Highway 95 and the bay itself always close by. As you’re setting out from the trailhead – 2 miles south of Coeur d’Alene off of Highway 95 – the trails that go to the right are generally better maintained, but they offer fewer views of the Lake, which lies to the hiker’s left.
The bird population is particularly diverse. Cougar Bay’s wetlands are occupied by various species of waterfowl while the forests above the Bay are home to numerous songbirds. In all, well over 100 bird species have been identified in the area, including at least 28 protected “rare” bird species.
Cougar Bay is also a great place to kayak year round and is readily accessible from sportsman access on the northwest shore off Highway 95, the North Idaho College beach, and Blackwell Island public boat launch. One can kayak throughout the Bay and up Cougar Creek to the small bridge in the park, which can also serve as another launching point. Other uses include canoeing, fishing, and hunting.
However, the integrity of Cougar Bay’s shoreline habitat, which is home to much of the wildlife, is threatened by the proposed removal of the log pilings and booms in Cougar Bay. The pilings and booms serve as an unavoidable reminder of the no-wake zone, a physical barrier to reduce wave disturbances, and a deterrent to high-impact use. Without them, if adequate steps aren’t taken to preserve the waterfront, increased noise and wake disturbances could greatly reduce not only the quiet peacefulness of the Bay, but also the amount of wildlife present, permanently degrading the Bay itself and its surrounding wildlife preserve.