Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ma and Pa Kettle

I hesitate to enter such places.  A low beaver dam holds back an apparently shallow pond in what might have once been a large meander in the river or a former bend in a creek that enters the river just downstream.  There's no reason for the water to be deep enough to canoe with a dam that is less than 18 inches high.  I stand on the soft mud bank and hem and haw about it.  Then I pick up the canoe suit case style and portage the 40 feet from river to pond.

The pond is anything but shallow.  The water clear, it is four to six feet deep or more in most places.  Circular wave patterns appear ahead of me as a great many fish flee the shadow of my canoe.  I spot one and it could be either a trout or an Atlantic salmon.  A chilled painted turtle drifts by a foot below the surface, a kingfisher crosses my path, a great blue heron drops down out of a tree and moves off to a safe distance, and three wood ducks flush as I stop to take notes.  It is a beautiful beaver pond and I very much doubt that many others take the time to make the side trip off of the river.  No one would expect it to be so large.

The pond tees against a level topped berm of a hill and I turn right because I have to turn one direction or the other.  And, in a big long and gentle curve, the pond just keeps going.  In something that seems like a half mile I return via a narrow channel to where I started, the beaver dam just a few yards to the side.  This is when I finally locate the lodge that I knew must be in here.  It was behind me as I started paddling up the pond.  It seems odd that there is only one lodge here, the pond being large enough to house 3, 4 or 5 colonies.  But, this lodge is a humble abode and seems out of place in this pond except that it matches the simple and marginal dam at the mouth of the pond...Ma and Pa Kettle living in the middle of the Gardens of Versailles.

A simple bank burrow lodge

I take one more loop around, turning left at the top of the pond to confirm that that arm does come to a dead end.  But it is not quite dead as the sound of a woodpecker working away comes out of the woods.  Woodpeckers love beavers, if such a thing can happen in nature.

On the return upriver, I stop only to examine the remains of two bridges.  The remains of the first are four midstream pillars built of wood pilings that were then filled by dumping cobbles and small boulders as fill.  It has been abandoned long enough for a full sized tree to grow from one of the pillars.  The upstream bridge has a stone masonry buttress on the east side of the river with wood pilings and stone rubble on the west.  With over 300 years of euro settlement in this area, bridges and former bridges, dams and former dams occur regularly while canoeing.  I've already learned to watch the bottom while passing under bridges...trails became roads, bridges were built where the roads forded rivers, and the amount of rock under some bridges leads me to think that people often lined their fords with cobbles to keep from getting stuck.

The downstream bridge remains
Farmington River, near Tariffville.

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