Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I set out paddling up the Connecticut River, almost 30 miles from where it ends, 400 miles from where it starts, and just about in the middle of the section that is tidal (60 miles of it).  Just upriver is a rusty railroad swing bridge, a favorite type of bridge for me...I remember seeing some of them in Minnesota when I was growing up.  The 200+ foot center span pivots at the center atop a stone pier.  It is an elegant, if antiquated solution, not perhaps unlike the use of a canoe.

I paddle along a forested island aware that there is stuff going on in there, but shielded from it by the steady noise of a nearby highway.  Aural clues are as important, if not more, for seeing wildlife in a leafed out summer forest, and I don't see a damned thing.

I turn west into the Mattabasset.

Forested banks and unceasing meanders with a stand of silver ghost trees...a woodpecker forest created by drowning, and brush and downed trees overhanging the bank predict something a bit more primeval than what was in the big river.  It is 4 or maybe 5 meanders and the forest gives way to a wide open fresh water tidal marsh.  It must be 600 acres in sight with more to come.  This is the type of place where you don't hurry.  Not only that, it is a place that you have to come back to in different seasons, year around to grasp the circle of life.  There is so much that could happen, it is a matter of moving quietly and paying attention.  I spot a great blue heron and a mute swan overflies me as I reach another bend.  A mother duck feints broken wing as her brood of five (she has done well), which are 3/4 grown but not yet flying, skitter off into the marsh.  She leads for a full quarter mile before taking wing and circling back.  I watch her and it looks like she gets back to within a few yards of where I last saw her youngin's.  Kingfishers begin their rattle from the branches, and for a mile or so it is perpetual kingfisher, always one or more in sight.

Beaver bank burrow

I spot some beaver cut stumps, although the age is hard to tell as they are regularly flooded over.  But, I do locate three beaver lodges.  They are bank burrows, not quite as impressive as free standing lodges, but they are lodges.  Then, a mated pair of mute swans closely guarding over a large grey and fluffy cygnet with ridiculously stubby wings.

Cygnet, pen and cob

I turn back just a bit sooner than I planned.  The wind has been at my back often and the tide should be coming as well, I don't know what I have to deal with on the way back.

Distant thunder, the low rumbling from beyond the horizon, which is never too far off in a canoe, follow me out.

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