The Great Swamp
I don't remember the first beaver dam, but it has a blow out in it that I can paddle through. Maybe that's why I don't recall it. Memory isn't perfect. The beauty of oral tradition is that it is a tradition. Memories are preserved, at least somewhat intact, through the telling and retelling. Maybe I didn't tell the story often enough.
The second dam is a good thirty inches high and steep faced. It is neat, crisp, well-built and has come too soon. It looks new, as in newly built. Maybe I remember it wrong. I portage it on the end. The grey stick swamp above the dam is well flooded and I flush a good number of mallards from the wet footed brush on either side of the river. There is a new lodge not far above the dam.
The third dam... well, there wasn't a third dam this spring. I step out onto to it for an easy crossing.
The fourth dam I remember, but it is only an inch above the water. In the spring it was 20 inches high, a graceful curving bit of work out in an open sky section of the swamp. It is becoming obsolete. Several new lodges and the increased size of the beaver pond show that the beaver are doing what beaver do... colonizing. It is all so very good.
At this point, the grey stick forest is so well flooded that the main channel of the river doesn't stand out. Obstructing deadfalls lie lower in the water. The going is easy.
There's not many leaves left here in the grey sticks, but there weren't many leaves here in mid summer. It's great blue heron and woodpecker country...lots of tall dead or stressed trees, roots too wet for there own good...beaver making meadows, so that a new forest can grow someday.
I turn back just short of the counterfeiter's island. Short days that turn cold when the sun dips...I have eight beaver dams to cross on my way out.
I spot a mink swimming across the river. I ready my camera, because it has just gone behind a stump and I know that curiosity will get the better of it. It reappears and stares at me...they always do.
I see a muskrat...too small for an otter, too small and high in the water for a beaver. It dives.
And finally, at the tree recently felled by beaver, two white tail does with huge tails bound off deeper into the trees.