Thursday, August 15, 2019

Rock Gardening

My last trip here was with M in late spring when the water was cold and running high.  When we exited the little brook where the Boy Scout launch is hidden, I was surprised by the amount of current in a section of the reservoir which is usually lake-like.  We headed upstream against a stiff current but could get no further than the Shelf, a bank to bank shallows where there is always a current.  On that day it was moving at least twice as fast as we could paddle.  We admire it and then cut out into it and took the ride back.

A carp parallels me for ten yards.  It is down deep in the cooler water and I am surprised at how clear the view is.  By this time of the summer I expect most water to be much cloudier with silt and algae type things.  It's only a guess, but I think I'm able to see about 10 feet down.
The first section of paddling is a shoreline of trash docks and houses built too close to the river.  The west bank is mostly 2-3 room cabins with sun porches that are almost as large as the main structure.  These were probably working class get aways from not long after WWII.  The east bank is 1960's-1980's houses - middle class, modest, and architecturally dull considering the waterfront that they sit on. They are year around houses with easy road access.  The trash docks are slapped together floats of plastic 55 gallon drums and beat up wood.  They function, but they look like hell.

All that matters little other than as an observation.  The action of paddling, the view of seeing the paddle sweep past my eyes brings me to where I am supposed to be.
The river necks down in two steps. With each narrowing, the river becomes more scenic and less developed.  Between the two narrowings is the Shelf, which today is an easy paddle against a light current.  At this point the west bank becomes state forest and the east bank has the last few houses, all of which were designed with more thought as to the surroundings.

With a bend in the river comes the last narrowing.  As I get to that I can see the large Stevenson Dam.  There is a portage around the dam, but before I get to it I have to paddle through a section of fast water and rock garden.  The main flow is much to fast to bull one's way through.  Instead, I eddy hop upriver...paddle up slow water and eddies on the left, then spurt into an eddy behind a large boulder, then squeeze up a short chute between two more boulders, pause and then ferry (angle the canoe to the current so that the current does the work) across river to another jumble of boulders, then a short hard couple of strokes up another chute into open water.  It's especially enjoyable as it is 90% finesse and 10% effort if you read the water correctly.  I've been up here once before during high water and the river is a totally different animal - a 200 yard long section of standing waves, each about 2 ft high.  I stayed out of that stuff.
Two Bald Eagles fly over - a fledgling and an adult.  There's a small flock of Canada Geese and a dozen or so Mallards and a pair of Common Mergansers in this last section before the dam.  The Eagle nest is high on the west side not too many yards below the portage.

I stop for a short rest at the portage, which is not insignificant.  It's about a 1/3 mile long and 75 ft up and then 25 ft down.  Not today.

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