I could almost taste it from the start, and surely before a mile had passed, it was heavy on the tongue. As good as the waters that I have been paddling in are, they have lacked wildness, at least the wildness that I have become inured to. Only one or two bends pass and the Great Swamp goes as wild as anywhere. I can feel it, I can taste it, I can smell it. Road noise is beyond my hearing abilities, no buildings can be seen. Instead, bull frogs send out their calls, a "rubber bandy" twang that is part percussion, part stringed instrument. I hear them, but they remain hidden. A great blue heron, the first of more than a dozen, takes off through the forest...an effect that makes it look bigger than it already is. Herons flying through the trees never ceases to amaze me...they should not be able to do that.
The forested stream gives way to an open sun filled swamp of standing dead and stressed trees. The channel is deep enough, the water clean and tinted a translucent green. There is a discernible flow opposing me, but it is of no consequence for the canoe. It is enough to keep the channel clear and clean and no doubt flushes a steady flow of nutrients through the swamp plants...and fish... kingfishers have been steady companions, so far.
Before I am an hour out, I cross a low beaver dam with the associated beaver lodge not 10 yards upstream of it. From here on the banks become the terrain of animals even more than the ones I have already passed. I spot a beaver scent mound and game trails coming to the water's edge with increased frequency.
The stream re-enters the forest, necking down and meandering tightly. Deadfalls have to be clambered over every couple hundred yards or so. There is nearly 20 miles of Great Swamp above me...the effort is worthwhile. I spot a green-backed heron (the first of four). Just as I leave the forest, I spot an endangered North American wood turtle with a radio mounted on its shell.
A second open-sky swamp arrives after passing under a bridge, and another beaver dam, and another beaver dam. This open marsh is larger than the first, probably too large for me to get through on today's trip. I set my turn-around for 2-1/2 hours and continue on, until I am near a beaver lodge where the loudest and most rambunctious bull frogs of all are singing. I stop and record them for a few minutes (I carry a small field recorder in my camera kit - a gift from one of my canoe partners).
And it is time to return. The view will change.
I see the top of a white tail deer with velvet stumps at the first bend. I stop as it disappears, but I can hear it moving off.
The radio turtle is where I last saw it.
Back in the lower open swamp, I spot a single burned tree... a lightning strike.
For more information on this area - The Great Swamp
Historic Paddle Photo: 1907 - With Gun and Guide
7 hours ago