Sunday, June 4, 2017

Great Swamp Trip 3

The calm has faded by the time I set the canoe into the water.  I set out upstream into a minor headwind with a weather service warning of strong gusts for early in the afternoon.  A dark cloud passes behind me and while it is near it produces strong blasts that push me about some.  The faintest of sprinkles fall for a few moments, only the lightest and smallest of raindrops being pushed far enough off of their vertical course to reach me. One result of all of this is that any haze that should be hanging in the swamp air is gone.  The view is remarkably clear.

The water is down from my last visit, as it should be, but it is still up and out of the main channel in places.  Late summer obstructions are still submerged and I glide over the first beaver dam with no more effort than to pause my paddling for a second.
The second beaver dam
At the power line log jam I meet M.  As we talk I find out that he is the one who cut the narrow gap in the largest dead fall.  That gap is just barely wide enough for my narrow canoe.  He pulls a chainsaw out of his kayak and finishes the job widening the gap to five feet.  He knows the area well and we have a good conversation.

Wildlife-wise it is a fairly quiet day.  The steady wind masks the aural clues that are required to tip one off to the location of most birds.  I flush some herons, spot a lot of Redwing Blackbirds and swallows, and surprise a large family of Wood Ducks, which rush off into the flooded fringes of the river as I approach.  What stands out most is the beaver sign.  A couple years back someone killed off the beaver in some of the riverside lodges, said person not smart enough to realize that their were a good many unseen lodges in such a large swamp.  The offspring of those unseen lodges have started to recolonize the river, as it should be.  In fact, they've been quite active as the water level dropped and in the forest section I find a number of large scent mounds and the musk odor of castoreum is all about.

I paddle the full distance up to Patterson and return.

At the last large lodge, a lodge that is built into a couple of tight and narrow meanders, I spot a large and seemingly old beaver floating in the channel.  I wedge the canoe into the arrow weed and it swims toward me, beaver eyesight not so good. 
When it gets downwind it slaps its tail and submerges.  A minute later I spot it farther out still checking me out, then it disappears.  Meanwhile, a watersnake slithers along the base of the lodge and a muskrat swims from the lodge across the channel (muskrats sometimes share beaver lodges).
water snake

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