Friday, November 8, 2013

The First Snow

The Bantam River

Sunny and breezy, a day that will stay in the 40's... I set out downriver and it quickly becomes a beautiful northland marsh with a river running through it.  The mouth of the river, where it runs into Bantam Lake, is a short 2 miles at most.  On a calmer day I might have started from the lake, but today it is better to stay hidden from the wind. 

A hundred yards from the mouth is the beaver dam that I'd heard about.  It can be seen in satellite photos and I think back to the days of the Apollo moon missions when only a few things, such as the Great Wall of China, could be seen from space.  The dam is just 2 feet wide and 50 feet long.  Sometimes I don't want to know those secrets until I find them myself.

Yes, beaver dams are sturdy enough to stand on

It is the next dam that surprises me.  It is just 20 yards from the lake and I've never seen anyone mention it.  You wouldn't notice it unless you were curious about the small twigs sticking out of the water that form a gentle curve from one bank to the other.  But there, down a foot and a half below the surface is another dam, still firm and well knitted together.

The submerged beaver dam

I turn back from the lake and head upriver, photographing each of the lodges that I pass.  Below where I put in, most of the lodges are unfinished and never were big enough to be hollowed out and used.  Beaver are vegetarians, but they don't have to be nice about it.  They are territorial, marking and defending their areas from other beaver colonies. 

Upstream of the put -in the signs are more frequent.  Lodges are spaced out about as close as they can be...a 150 or 200 yards, and all of them are full sized and appear to be in use.  The boundaries of each colony's territory can be guessed at by the location of scent mounds.  Outside of the lodge they've already massed a store of saplings in the water, a practice that I did not see back in Seattle.  But, here the river will freeze over solid and the saplings will provide food during the ice in. 

The brush in the water is winter food

I spot a hooded merganser and two great blue herons.

The sky clouds over just before I reach Little Pond and the day turns raw.  Two swans, a flock of mallards and a flock of ring billed gulls are lying low on the windswept pond as I search for the inlet from the river.  It begins to snow very lightly.  Upstream of the pond, the river changes to a cut bank creek and in a few hundred yards it cuts through a golf course.  I pass through a broken beaver dam, a sign that Mr. Moneybags will not be denied the 16th hole or some such nonsense.  I turn back.  It's cold and threatening and the character of the river at this point leaves something to be desired and I'd rather focus on what I've already seen.

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