Sunday, September 29, 2019

Paddling the Spartina Meadows

I put in at Foote Bridge, my usual strategy when very high tides are coming.  Toady, in fact, will be a near record high tide that will fall just 3 inches short of the highest.  Tide levels like that give me a relatively rare chance to explore areas of the lower marsh that can't normally be reached in the canoe.

Even at Foote Bridge there is a strong flood current coming upriver.  For a normal high tide the water is usually close to slack this far up.  I head down and within a hundred yards flush a Great Blue Heron which circles the area letting out its call, a croaking hairball-throwing-up gagging that is absolutely the opposite of such a graceful bird.  It makes far more noise than I am worth.  I paddle off and I assume it returns to its business of eating helpless little fish.
The Long Cut
At Pocket Knife Bend a Snowy Egret settles into a low branch just as it notices me and it hastily waves off the landing for some spot farther away from me.  A Kingfisher spooks a duck and then a dozen more unidentified ducks take to air as well.  A second Snowy flies past.
The short cut past Cedar Island
The wind is fairly strong and at my back for the most part such that the wind and flood current cancel each other.  Just past the arch bridge I meet some kayakers coming upstream.  I ask and find out that they parked at Neck Road.  I inform them that there cars will be sitting in about a foot of salt water around 12:30.  It doesn't seem to bother them and it reminds me of why I don't bother giving advice to people doing dumb stuff in boats.  Anyway, its a club trip so they will have plenty of chances to complain to each other about how their car carpeting ended up smelling like rotting seaweed.
Yellow Legs - with especially strong colors
Just below the Big Bends is a good collection of Yellow Legs.

But, the real treat of this trip is the lower marsh because at this tide level all of the long dead end channels that drain the spartina meadows can be paddled as circuits.  I start with the Long Cut which takes me into Bailey Creek.  Then I descend until I'm near even with Cedar Island where I follow a cut across the flooded meadow over to the East River.  From there I follow a long serpentine natural drain until I find a spot where I paddle across the meadow.  By this time the tide has risen enough that the highest ground in the spartina meadow is 8 or 10 inches underwater.  The only extra effort is pushing through the grass.

I find a mighty patch of glasswort back here already turned brilliant red.  I continue on until I get back into the East River.
At the top of the Big Bends I spot a canoe coming downriver and I have a hunch that the kayakers can't be too far behind.  So, I head into the short creek that comes in at the last bend and then cross the flooded marsh, out of sight and out of contact. 
Of note, I did not spot any Osprey or Willets today.

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