Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Upper Scantic River

It's been two years since my last trip in here and that trip, with my friend M, was a bit of a grind due to a drought and the fact that someone busted open a low beaver dam that kept a shallow area of swamp flooded.  We did more than a fair share of clambering over and limboing under logs.

Well, 2 years has passed.

The old textile mill ruins that was at the end of the mill pond has been hauled away.  It's a shame that the reason for the mill pond is not. at least, a visible marker.  Just a few months before my first trip here three local kids snuck in during the night and dropped a lit cigarette in that old building, and it burned down leaving just a brick shell.

I set out early with the air still in a morning cool.  The sky is heavy overcast, the pond is smooth and there is no one else around.  About 2/3 up the pond I turn left and continue up the river.  It is still fairly wide and I paddle long easy curves around deadfalls in the water.  The banks are fully leafed out and brushy right down to the river's edge.  I flush a Great Blue Heron, then a second one.  The river bends and closes in.  I paddle quietly because on my first trip here I surprised a Great Horned Owl on one of the bends.  But no luck this time.

The current can't be felt although it can be seen, the water grasses all leaning in one direction in full agreement.

I keep an eye out for beaver sign.  There was a healthy population once, but I see no fresh signs at all.  The old dam at the bottom of the beaver pond, the one that had been broken, is not visible.  Usually, old dams remain as woven branch structures, even when fully submerged.  I expect the beaver pond to be shallow, but it is not.  Apparently, the increased flow through the swamp has deepened the channels more than making up for the lower water level.  I find this counter-intuitive and add it to the knowledge base.

The first log drag
The first log drag comes in the beaver swamp, right where it has always been.  It is an easy drag with one end of the blocking log resting on a shallow sand bar that gives good footing.

After leaving the swamp I enter the full meanders of a river that is no more than 1-1/2 canoe lengths wide.  The second and third log drags are fairly easy because the logs are wide enough to tap dance on.  Then comes a ramshackle beaver dam, another easy drag.  It is, unfortunately, the only beaver sign that I see, no new gnawings or leftover peels. 
The fourth log jam
The fourth log drag is - a drag.  Large double logs three feet out of the water with a couple more logs at water level to block the preferred limbo.  On my best day here I didn't get another mile up the river from this point.  I have to repeat everything I cross on the way out and this bugger just isn't worth doing twice.  I turn back.
The former beaver pond

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