Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ice Out

I put in from the village of Essex on what is a spectacular sunny day with clear air, little in the way of wind and temperatures in the low 30's.  The ice flows that seemed to fill the river on Friday are all but gone with only isolated solitaires in the water and an occasional one stranded on the river bank.  As I paddle upstream along the west shore, I cannot see any sign of the ice edge that was at the mouth of Hamburg Cove just four days earlier.

Nearing Hamburg Cove

I cross the river at Ely's Ferry and follow that shoreline up and into the cove pushing three young bald eagles ahead and flushing about thirty common mergansers.  From here I can see upriver past Selden Creek...it is open water all the way.  It doesn't seem that weather of the last few days can be blamed too much for the ice retreat as the temperatures have been such that no ice was made and not much would have been lost.  I imagine that the tides have had more to do with it as we have had very high and very low tides during the last week, along with the stronger currents that accompany such phenomena - the ice breaks in the moderate warmth and flucuating waters and it doesn't get cold enough to refreeze.

I turn back out of the cove after a third of a mile, the remainder of it frozen over bank to bank, and continue upriver.  By the time I get to Selden Creek, I've had twenty or more eagle sightings, which I figure resolves into maybe ten individuals...immatures except for two.

Selden Creek
 Even Selden Creek is open, although as a narrow passage through a large marsh, I'm sure it is only open as far as I can see.  There are too many ice flows in the channel for it to not be jammed further up at one of the bends.  It is a good place to pause.  I rest the canoe against ice that is still fast to the shore and have a cup of coffee while watching two eagles sitting on an osprey nest.

When it is time, I cross the river and follow it downstream, paddling in the shallows.  The bottom is sandy and firm except for three places where I cross over a cobbles and boulders.  My guess is that these are wing dams from the days of steamboat traffic...constrictions designed to force the flow into a channel that would then stay deep and navigable.  Like so many of the earlier man-made features that I find in this region, the wing dams were probably never mapped.

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