Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The River's Baleen

I put in on the big river, the wind coming down from the north and the tide nearing the low point.  I head up river hoping to take advantage of the wind on the return, keeping the trip short enough to be on the good side of a predicted shift in the winds.

A big storm came in a week ago with heavy rain and a storm surge out of the south that should've flooded most of the low land during high tide.  Winter has knocked down about as much of the marsh plants as I expect for this season.  Reedy swamp plants, especially phragmites, are the river's baleen.  They filter out amazing amounts of plastic objects and, unfortunately, hide it from view so that it doesn't get noticed and collected.  The big river drains a good chunk of western Connecticut and Massachusetts, passing through a few cities and numerous towns.  Here, near the mouth, the debris washes down on the current and gets pushed back up by the tide until much of it is trapped on the low islands and marshlands.
Ruddy Ducks - female and male

I get out on Great Flat (an old name for a low island) and walk the silty sand beach looking for animal tracks.  The amount of debris that I find, stuff that I can't see from the canoe, is mind boggling and depressing.  But, I find the tracks of a couple deer who have passed by, maybe half a day ago.  I also spot a pair of ruddy ducks out in mid channel.

On my way out I follow the shore opposite the marshes.  It is bedrock uplift topped with glacial till that is in turn topped with eastern hardwood forest.  It is comfort shore.  No boats have eroded this rock bank and while people may scramble along here from time to time, anything they leave is swept away.  One could travel back in time a few hundred years and still recognize this side of the river.

Mute swan
A few hundred yards above Peck's Mill, I spot a square cement pillar anchored on the rocks above the high water line.  I've recently found a couple of these while hiking and I get out to confirm that it is what I think it is.  It is.  The top of the pillar has a cross in it.  It is a survey benchmark and the cross is aligned with the cardinal compass directions.  Unlike the bronze medallions that they used out west, these give no indication of date or purpose, or who put them in place.
Survey Benchmark

No comments: