The first passage is through a small flotilla of moored motorboats and toy ships - still quiet in the morning light with a few people up and fishing, a few people up a basking in the early sun, and a few people still asleep and dreaming of the two or three mai tais coming with the start of the motor.
Three guys on jet ski things follow me into the shallow bay that comes next. They are matching my speed and I assume that they think that I know where the deep channel is. I do. So, I stay in the six to eight inch water and skim over a few barely submerged rocks and soon they turn back oblivious of how annoying they are. And then, I slide over 20 yards into the deep channel where I can get a full draw with the paddle. (I will not see a single person or boat for the next two hours, until I am nearly back to the put-in).
There are about two dozen great egrets in the big shallow bay with a few great blue herons and a few mute swans. Two hand-sized crab take a defensive position, claws spread wide to the side, as I paddle over. They are thinking, "he is oblivious to how annoying he is." But, I am not...and I leave them to their own devices.
Fish have been rising to the surface all along, and the osprey are feeding, making steep glides to catch fish instead of their more usual and dramatic dives. I watch one struggle in the water for several seconds before it finally gets airborne with a rather large catch. When I paddle over to the rocky and tree lined shore for some shade, an immature bald eagle flushes...then a second immature also takes wing.
I re-enter the narrowness of the marsh and note that it is not a cattail marsh as I have always thought, but rather it is a cattail and wild rice marsh. The plants are intermingled, the cattails supporting the sparser rice plants. To us, it is unharvestable rice, of course, because you need to be able to pole a canoe through the rice to harvest it, but the red wing blackbirds are doing well managing their crop.
I turn a bend and something slinky moves through the water some 50 yards ahead...fish, carp, eel?
I spot three river otters. There might have been more. One takes to the cattails while the other two dive. Each time they resurface they let out (or take in) a loud wheezy breath. I never heard this out west, but out west the otter were somewhat used to people and not so alarmed as these are. They dive and resurface, always leading the way for the next couple hundred yards. It has been a long time since I have seen otter.
As I paddle back across the big shallow bay, taking a route out into the main river, I get splashed by a couple large fish. One of them rumbles the bottom of the canoe as I pass over. I don't know what they were, but sure did annoy them.