Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Fast Water and River Dynamics

Kingfisher with a catch
There is a good amount of current in the river today.  By eye, I figure it to be 2:1, my out and back ratio measurement, twice as long to go up as it takes to return.  It does turn out to be so, although it gets stronger the farther up that I go.  Current, water level and canoeability (for lack of a better term) is an inexact science that is only applicable to an individual section of water.  In some places faster currents happen at low water.  Sometimes an increase in current during high water also makes the river easier to travel on by submerging obstructions.  Some of the best writing on river dynamics is in Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi".  He dedicates a couple of chapters to the power and intricacy of river flow.  In fact, I think those chapters are some of the best in the book.
I grind away upstream and do find all of the gravel bars submerged and easy to paddle over with nothing more than a small increase in current.  I wade only once and that is because I worked myself into a box taking the wrong side of an island.  The entire way I seem to be escorted by Kingfishers.  They fly repeated short hops ahead of me, crisscrossing the river as they need.  If one disappears, another shows up.  Three hawks swirl high off to one side.  The squabbling makes me think that they are about to pair up for the mating season.  There's just that extra bit of hormone rage in their calls.

200 yards below the railroad bridge I come to a section of very fast water.  A short full effort will be necessary to get through, if getting past it is possible.  I charge out of an eddy on the right side of the river and stall out fairly soon, drifting across to another eddy on the left side of the river.  I back up to the bottom of the eddy and sprint forward out into the current, smack my canoe blade on an unseen rock and put a 15 inch long split up the blade.  I swap over to my spare and surrender. The split is a messy one.  But, as the carver of my own paddles I have found that creative repair work is an enjoyable part of the process.  I have something to do during inclement weather.
Work near Tepee Lodge
I return to my put in well short of the day trip that I need, so I continue down.  The current soon goes slack.  Either the tide has backed up the big river, or perhaps the height of the big river without the tide is backing this tributary.  As I said before, river dynamics are inexact.  I push on setting my trun around for the Tepee Beaver Lodge, just to see how that colony is doing.  There's no fresh beaver activity until I get near the Tepee Lodge, but they seem to be plenty active with new gnawings and tree dropping in the area.
Tepee Lodge

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