I put in up at the top of the Great Swamp. It's not the actual top, but the upper end of the reasonable to paddle section. I have gone a bit above this point, but it is a gnarly bit of ducking and climbing over deadfalls. The water is low, but there is also a good chance that I will see no one else during the trip. It is 6-1/2 miles down to the best turn-around point...a trip that I do four or so times a year.
|The first (and last dam) seen from below|
The first dam comes just a hundred yards in. This is a new one to me. Beaver build dams fairly quickly and they also supersede previous dams by going lower and flooding the earlier dams enlarging their ponds as they go. There are many more old submerged dams than there are active ones. The construction is so durable that old dams can stay around for indefinite periods. You know it when you hit one with your paddle. Anyway, the first dam is easy.
|Great Blue Heron (dead center)|
The upper section is tight and meandering, a slow finicky paddle with the surrounding wetland up close. The water is cool and clear even though there is a good deal of summer water plant growth. I spot a half a dozen great blue herons in the first 15 minutes...I quit counting. The other dominant bird is the kingfisher, as there are a lot of fish in the water that are just the right size for a kingfisher meal.
|now go back to the above photo|
I pass Pine Island and the river widens some. I come to another dam, the reason for the widening. The water is shallow on the other side...a two foot drop. This has been deeper water on my previous trips. In fact, this is the lowest water level that I've seen. I begin to run into river spanning deadfalls and minor log jams. These are more difficult to cross since they lack the logical design of the beaver dams. I balance on logs, maneuver the canoe, duck under branches, step into the canoe from the ends and walk my way back to my seat....it is time consuming, dirty and somewhat strenuous.
Two hours in, the log crossings are getting old. The full 13 miles usually takes about 5 hours. I am two hours in and I have not gotten halfway to the halfway point. If I was going somewhere I would continue, but everything I cross has to be re-crossed on the return. Enough.
I turn back and if it goes any faster it is only because I have the contortions at each log jam already memorized. Yet, it is an exceptional day of great blue herons, wood ducks, kingfishers, frogs and turtles...a blue sky with minor cumulus clouds, a horizon of flood dead snags backed by an occasional forested hill. If this is what it takes to have such a fine day, I would not change a thing.