Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yakima River - Day 5 - May 28, 2010

It rains all night. This is one of the driest places in the state... except now. It just doesn't matter to us anymore since we have been wet, at least to our knees, for most of the last 4 days. I cook up coffee and oatmeal in the rain and then we walk down to the Horn Rapids Diversion Dam. Maps show irrigation canals on both sides, so we have no idea of where and how far we will have to go to get back into the river. We are pleased to find a foot bridge just below the dam on river-left, an access to Native American fishing platforms.
We return to camp and portage down to the river. Then, a short paddle to the warning sign a hundred yards above the dam. From here, we do an easy portage to a spot below the dam.
The day goes easy with no scouting, no lining, and no more portages. Nothing more than some ripples in the water comes our way. Birdlife is pretty good with pelicans, a couple types of herons, and some egrets. It rains several times and once, it rains very hard for over 40 minutes. It is a midwest rain and I tell Mike that I think it is a two inch per hour dumping.At the mouth of the Yakima, the river broadens some. Mike tells me that we can call for a lift if I'd like... and I look at him and say, "don't you think it would be rather cool if we paddle right to your folk's house - they live just 3 miles up the Columbia? I mean, I've just paddled 148 miles, I think I can handle another 3." Well, that's what he was thinking too, he was just being nice. The mouth has cattails and tules and all of the other marsh stuff that it should. The Columbia, a big river, is calm today and we have to paddle out about a 1/2 mile to Bateman Island to get around the shallow sandbar of the Yakima. My favorite birds, the terns, greet us from driftwood by spreading their wings and screeching at us. A bird, the size of a small crow with the attitude of an eagle.So, it is 4-1/2 miles upstream, easy with no wind and hugging the shore where the current is lightest, to the house.

We shake hands.

It has been a fine trip, an unexpected adventure on a multivaried waterway that is seldom paddled and in parts, seldom visited. We approached it as explorers and got a real wilderness experience from a place that is never far from civilization. And we bonded and worked as a team, not just traveling together, but relying on each others strengths and abilities.

25 miles for the day.
Kiona flow rate - 3000 to 4000 cfs
Must portage Horn Rapids Dam.

Yakima River - Day 4 - May 27, 2010

I cook bannock for breakfast and my signature cowboy coffee - recipe - boiling water, dump enough grounds in to make it strong, when the grounds sink, it is ready.
We set out and pass Mabton in about 2 miles. The river remains smooth with a moderate current and we can take in sights and watch birds for the next 15 miles. There is only one short stretch of fast ripples to pass through.

Nearing Prosser, the current slows as it backs up behind the Prosser Diversion Dam. We take out at the city park and boat ramp. This is our longest portage, a bit over 3/4 of a mile. It is a difficult route finding problem because we don't have a good map of town. It takes 3 loads to move our packs and canoe, but people stop on the main thoroughfare when the guy with a canoe on his head walks into the street. I'm busy with a canoe over my head, so I forget to photograph any of it. Mike is leap frogging back and forth moving packs. His camera is still something more like a canteen, so he doesn't take any photos either.

The river changes below Prosser. We have entered the channel scablands, an area that was scoured clear of soil by a massive flood at the end of the last Ice Age. The riverbottom is no longer cobble sized river rock, but instead, a scattering of large basalt boulders. We seem to be at an ideal river level where most of them just dance 4 or 6 inches below the surface. It is not beginner water anymore.Each time the river turns south towards the big hillside, it seems to slide down at a surprisingly steep angle before finally bending around a blind corner. We scout and line some of these. I can only imagine us going 30 miles an hour by the time we hit the bottom. It's not that bad, but it is an easy wade/line/walk each time. One of these stretches does actually prove me right when it becomes class III waves just around the bend - not dangerous, but it would've filled up the canoe for no good reason. We do a short portage there. Several of the rapids are class II and we make good use of backferrying several times to move side to side in the current. It is not dangerous, but it is good technical fun and Mike is a solid bowman and reads problems and calls them out before I can see them. The Chandler Diversion Dam turns out to be a line of boulders in the water, but we portage over it since we had to paddle up to it on the right bank to scout it. It could be safely paddled if one knew where to put the canoe ahead of time.
We see hundreds of white pelicans during the day. Once, a single file line of 75 flew over and we found ourselves sliding over a boulder with our eyes stuck in the sky.

We finish the day at Horn Rapids County Park at mile 18.5. We have paddled about 44 miles today. It is a 1/2 mile portage to the campground (rules, rules, rules) and our camp with a canoe, tent and no car confuses the campground attendant. We're tired and it is raining, so I cook up polenta and tomato sauce and we drink hot butterscotch pudding for desert.

Prosser flow rate - 1500 rising to 2000 cfs
several class I and II rapids and one very short section that was a III - very dependent on river level.
Must portage Prosser Diversion Dam. Might just as well be safe and drag over the Chandler Dam.

Yakima River - Day 3 - May 26, 2010

We break camp and get on the river by 8:30. We are both hoping for more paddling and less lining and wading and scouting around logjams and debris. Yesterdays spill pissed me off more than anything; it was a bad error on my part and I intend not to have a repeat performance.
But, it is more scouting, lining and wading. We are safe except on one sharp bend where we get crossed up with a powerful eddy on one end of the canoe and a powerful current on the other. We swap ends, tip just enough to add an inch of water to the inside of the canoe, and then squirt out upright into a calm spot where we can catch a breath. We see hundreds of white pelicans.As we approach the town of Granger, we get to paddle longer between scouting - sometimes even a half mile! The northerly meanders in the river run us up against beautiful 30 foot tall mud cliffs dotted with swallow nests. The cliffs are a good sign because there never seem to be any log debris below them. At Granger (river mile 83), we pull out at the town park and go looking for drinking water. From now one, there is inflow to the river from irrigation, so we need to find potable water. We ask the first person we see and we get access to a faucet... love small towns. Below Granger, we find that we only have to scout a few more bends and the river slows and opens up into safe flat water paddling. The sun comes out.

We paddle out into open land in a meandering river.

A mink runs along shore next to us. Stopping to glare at us. The size of a kitten, it imagines itself to be a wolverine.

We make camp at 6pm across the river from the Sunnyside Refuge. We can legally camp over there, but this side, where cows have been grazing, is nicer. We just stay out of sight of the nearby farm house and leave a clean camp. Mike sees a mammal in the water. I throw a cow chip at it and the beaver slaps his tail. We laugh.

Coyotes sing in the distance.

Mike watches three beaver while I write my notes in the tent.

We figure to be at mile 62. I do have a GPS, but I do not really enjoy knowing exactly where I am in a global sense - I know where I am and that is good enough.

32 miles for the day. From about mile 80 it has been beginner level water, but with almost no obvious road access. I don't know which river gauge would apply to this section - you'll have to figure that out on your own if you want to paddle here.

Upstream of Granger, the warnings from Day 2 apply. Downstream from Granger, there are still had a few bends that required scouting and some lining and wading. It was flat water with some current from that point on.

Yakima River - Day 2 - May 25, 2010

It was a hard day.

After a breakfast of oatmeal and cowboy coffee, we carefully paddle towards the Wapato Diversion Dam. At
this water level, the map has proven to be good enough and we find an easy and safe landing on the island that splits the dam in half. The Wapato Dam is another dangerous overflow dam, only a few feet high, but with a powerful "keeper" hydraulic on the downstream side that will keep swimmers in the backflow until they are long dead. The portage is an easy 200 yards back to the river-right channel, putting in below the Yakima Nation fishing platforms, a beautiful spot.
About 4 miles later we approach the Sunnyside Diversion Dam, the most dangerous piece of crap dam that I have ever come across.
Hilarity ensues.
There is no warning sign.
There is a long island upstream of the dam.
We have guessed from maps that we will portage on river-right.
We pull out in swift current about 200 yards upstream of the dam.
It is brushy.
It is really really brushy.
We try to break brush to clear land south of the river. The wild roses smell wonderful as their thorns shred my forearms. We backtrack to the canoe. We try to break brush downstream, getting stopped after about 100 yards. We return to the canoe. We ferry (angling the canoe in the current while paddling upstream) to the island. We line the canoe down and around the island and then ferry the left channel to an easy landing on river-left. We scout the left shore for a portage. After walking downstream for a half mile, we find that there is no legal or safe way to return to the river due to a big unbridged irrigation canal. This is a piece of shit dam for sure. We ferry back to the island, we line and wade around the bottom of the island again. We will ferry back to river-right, hug the bank and eddy out into slack water just above the dam. I hate this plan. There is a narrow channel leading into the river-right bank 100 yards up from the dam, and as we ferry I realize that we can get into it, so we do. We get out and find that it is about 30 yards of not too bad brush to reach a dirt road. From there it is an easy 20
0 yard portage back to the river.
Even better, Mike has begun to show his stuff. With limited canoe experience, he shows himself to be a natural, doing what I tell him to at an instant and doing it correctly. I explain the "whys" when we get time. We have a good laugh with the Yakima that have been watching us from below the dam for the last 3 HOURS.

Below the dam, the river is beautiful with a very wild and natural feel and appearance. The current is swift and the channel splits and braids some as we pass through a broad floodplain with only rare sightings of anything man made. Especially strange since we can hear I-82 at times.

Near mile 100, it gets dangerous. There are hundreds of sweepers (trees hanging low over the water) and strainers (rootballs, trees and logjams that would trap a swimmer) during the next several miles. The turns in the river are swift and blind. We get out and scout dozens of riverbends and line or wade most of them. When we're not walking, we're paddling or coasting in the shallows in the slowest currents and on the insides of bends where we can stop easily. I misread one corner and we are flipped by a sweeper and we get a short swim with a fully loaded canoe. Mike's camera is wet, so I am the photographer from now on, and there aren't many photos on this stretch because there is no time to do so. Soon, we come to a large island where the main channel looks like pick-up sticks. We scout and find an eas
y portage across part of the island, but take one last look at the ugly little channel to the left, which turns out to be not so ugly, and we pass that way with only 25 yards of lining around a logjam. At about 5:00 pm we pull out an make camp on a nice gravel bar where beaver have recently downed a tree. I am brain tired of being constantly alert and engaged in route finding.

For all of its danger, this stretch was really beautiful and wild. We saw dozens of white pelicans, and commented to each other that we had never been out of sight of some type of large bird.

In nine hours of paddling, we have covered only 12 miles. The last seven miles has taken 4 hours. We figure to be near mile 96.

Flow rates for this day from the Parker (Sunnyside Dam) gauge - 1500 to 1000 cfs.
Class I rapids, sweepers and strainers in swift current, blind turns, route finding on braided channels. Danger level should be highly dependent on river level and flow rate. Self reliance, risk assessment, and an ability to read water is absolutely necessity. You will probably see no one else and it is usually a long hike to help. I also recommend that anyone thinking to portage the Sunnyside Dam should probably prepare for a half-mile to mile portage on river-right - but no guarantee on that - get out while you can.

Yakima River - Day 1 - May 24, 2010

The Yakima River runs east about 180 miles from the Cascade Range of Washington State to the Columbia River at the city of Richland. Parts of the upper 50 miles are frequently used by rafters, fisherman and floaters, but we found almost no information on major portions of the lower river nor did there seem to be any written record of anyone canoeing the full length, although, someone must have done this before - it's too obvious of a route. Today's photos by Mike Plahuta

Mike and I set out just before noon at Ringer Road near Ellensburg, 148 miles from the Columbia River. We know what is ahead for the next 20 miles. From here, we paddle through the last of the Ellensburg range country, the river banks lined with trees with open land beyond. Soon, we enter the Yakima Canyon with its 1000 foot high hillsides, a combination of rocky land with the barest of vegetation, basalt outcrops, castles and cliffs, and river banks with straggly trees if any, but with beautiful patches of tule reeds. The current is moderate and the bends in the river broad so that we can see well ahead of us. Occasionally, we pass through some standing waves that are just large enough to splash a little water into the canoe. We see eagles and magpies, a few kingfishers, many red wing blackbirds, some yellow song birds (warblers or goldfinches?), some mule deer and Mike spots a handsome western tanager with its yellow body and red head. Our first portage comes at the Roza Diversion Dam. It is a low, but dangerous overflow dam that diverts water to an irrigation canal. The portage is safe and easy on the river-right bank just upstream of the dams warning sign. It is an easy 250 yard carry back to the river below the dam. We have no information on this next section of river so we move ahead alert and with caution. It is quite beautiful with basalt cliffs running directly down to the water. The river alternates between flat slow sections that are a few feet deep and steeper fast stretches with only six inches in water where we frequently feel the cobbles bump the bottom of the canoe. The bottom is paved with basalt rocks and unlike many rivers, it is uniform in depth from side to side. Soon, the canyon opens up into a more arid eastern Washington and the cliffs are replaced with outcrops and brushy riverbanks. Here, the water becomes more challenging. The rapids are minimal, but some of the bends are quite sharp and quick and accurate maneuvering is required to keep from piling into the cut banks, banks that would make it difficult to exit the river in the event of a spill. We hit some larger standing waves that splash small amounts of water into the canoe.

As we near the city of Yakima, the current picks up speed and when the Naches River enters, the volume of water really increases while the water temperature drops 10 degrees or more due to the snowmelt water. We pass an eagle nest, we see ospreys, herons and the first white pelicans. We have permission to camp in the rough at a state park along the river, but cannot figure out where it is. Around 8pm, we know we have missed it by a mile and pull the canoe into a small channel on river-left where we find a nice spot to camp.
While we can hear I-82, it would be miles of walking and wading for anyone to reach us. It is a good spot. Pelicans fly past often and a hawk calls repeatedly from a nest just upstream of us. There are also many common mergansers around, with their newly hatched ducklings.

We are somewhere near mile 111 - distance for the day, about 37 miles
The Ellensburg-Roza Dam section is beginner-intermediate water at this water level - Umtaneum gauge 2400 cfs. The Roza-Yakima section is intermediate paddling - Below Roza guage 1300 cfs

Friday, May 21, 2010


We put in on Portage Bay, next to the large dead beaver that has been floating here for a week and under cool gray skies with wind that puffs and buffets, always changing speed.

I show S the beaver scent mounds along the sides of the east channel of the burial island. There are about a dozen now with several new small ones. Two of the big ones are ripe with the smell of castoreum, which we both agree smells better than a lot of perfumes that people spend money on. A few mounds have golf balls inserted in the piles (strays from a nearby driving range). Then we head into the east marsh so I can show her the marsh wren nests that I've found. The movement of the floating island surprises her, although the wind storms of the last two days haven't moved it any farther. It looks like it has found a stable position. The goose nest in this area is abandoned, one egg left unhatched, but it looks like the others did hatch. The irises are near full bloom, adding yellow to the marsh.
We paddle up the beaver canal by the 520 lodge, a place few others go and one of my favorites. It is a marsh turning to meadow, a place where the cattails have built enough ground for grass and sedge to grow with the cattails ever moving out on the border building land. The marsh protects from the wind and it is at least 10 degrees warmer here. S lays back on the thwart for a break and soaks in the warmth and life of the marsh while a wren serenades us with science fiction robot sounds from a hidden spot not far to my right. The red wing blackbirds are very aggressive today chasing all other birds, even herons.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Toy Ships Melt

I put in on the big lake on a cloudy and humid day with a moderate SE wind. On and off it rains some, weather that I find desirable as summer nears - the toy ships melt in the rain. I have a new birch paddle in my hands today and it feels good, although I might like to have a bit more area on the willow leaf shaped blade. My cherry beavertail works better in today's waves.

The clouds are moving quite fast. There are no ducks on the big lake. The buffleheads have gone north and the mergansers, which gathered last year in a flock in Union Bay, seemed to have left without my noticing - they are just gone. As I round the floating island, I hear a strange bird call and spot something I do not recognize being pursued by a redwing blackbird. Possibly, it is a green backed heron, but I do not know why a blackbird would need to chase one.

It rains a bit, stops, rains some more. It seems a melancholy day and I just sit. And it starts to rain light, then a little more. Then the sky opens and dumps water with a fury that is lacking only in thunder and lightning and for several minutes the distance disappears in gray.
It is wonderful.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Guide - Part II

A sunny warm day comes again. David meets me at the house and we portage down through the forested Interlaken Park to Portage Bay. We paddle over to take a closer look at the second beaver lodge, and then return to the put in to look for David's missing sunglasses. An immature eagle sits in a tree overhead and we notice a large dead beaver that had been just feet away from our launch point. No sunglasses found, and we head off through the "Crossing Under Place" and up the west islands, across the north shore and marsh and into the NE lagoon. Lot's of turtles out sunning today on drift logs and we see bald eagles a few times. There are also quite a few new ducklings about.

Then we paddle down the E shore, talking about what fine studios the boat houses would make, and what eyesores they must be for the neighbors... the ongoing pissing match for views and the disregard for anyone else's view. As usual, lots of gardeners enjoying the lakeside properties.

We paddle a beaver canal into the core of a section of the E marsh, a spot I like to sit where the cattails continuous yearly build up of fallen leaves have built enough soil for sedges to grow. It is the beginning of a meadow, the next step from the bog and cattails. Almost no one knows that it is here because they only see the tall outer rampart of cattails. We back out through a brief odor of death, the source of which I have not found on the last few trips, but its there and whatever it is doesn't drift.
The trees are dropping fuzz on the water and it looks like a dusting of snow on clear ice.We startle a man sitting near the shore... he reminds me of something that I wrote about finding wilderness. The man is in the wilderness, he is not a traveler knowing where he is going, but lost, at least for the moment, as he fumbles trying to find a vein in his arm for his needle. Such is urban wilderness. At least I did not smell death.

When we take out, I find David's sunglasses precariously perched behind me on the end of the canoe.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Guide

My friend, Karen, joins me today. The day is too nice for me, sunny and well into the sixties. We make the portage east down to the big lake. Karen is studying landscape design and is particularly interested in eco/site restoration, so a lake view of how people use and sculpt their property is interesting, for both of us. I point out the lack of wildlife on the big lake due to the sea walls and removal of any native plants from the manicured lawns, and we discuss the amount of money that these properties cost and I point out that I almost never see the owners, of any of these waterfront "retreats".

When we get to the big lodge, we find Liz, removing Japanese knotweed from the shoreline. This is the same street end I mentioned in an earlier post. We land and Karen tours the area and talks plants with Liz.

Beaver Bonsai

From there, we head into the marsh and I point out other beaver lodges, canals, and scent piles, and 3 marsh wren nests (I found two more today). We just paddle the bay. Fortunately, Karen can hold up my end of the conversation and I can hold up her end.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Once Over

It rains throughout the night and into the morning, but by the time I begin my portage to the lake the day is just cool and cloudy with a light breeze. I circle the south end of Portage Bay, the high water letting me paddle up next to the cattails where it is only 3 or 4 inches deep in winter. I decide positively that the brush pile that I've seen from a distance on the west shore might be a beaver lodge, maybe. That would be 8 lodges in the area, if it is so. It does have tracks on the side, but the branches on top of it don't quite look right. It may be a bank burrow that has become a lodge. In Union Bay, I head up the west side and find the rockpile nest attended, but both of the Broken Island nests are abandoned. I think that they have been raided as I remember that it should be a few more days before their eggs hatch. The rain has washed any yolk or egg white evidence away.

Carp are spawning now and the water near the shore churns quite often as they splash and swirl. I see one that might be 30 inches long and most of them are what I consider to be big fish. At the mouth of the NE lagoon, a female mallard swims with seven ducklings that seem to be almost two weeks old. They are surprisingly large since they are the first ducklings that I've seen this spring. The goose nest in the lagoon is still occupied.

It is a wonderfully peaceful day as I cross the bay south to the east marsh. The sun and warmth of the last two days would have crowded the bay with toy ships and rental canoes, so I look forward, as summer nears, to days with rain and clouds because I do get the lake pretty much to myself. I GPS the floating island in the east marsh, but it is pretty much in the same position as two days ago. I spot one of the eagles on a branch up above the south nest. It is easy to see, even from 500 yards. Then I skirt the edge of the east marsh bay to look for bird nests in the cattails, for no other reason than because it is a challenging game. And I think that it is so nice to paddle alone. As much as I enjoy the company of another, my thoughts run freely when I am alone, and I can write those thoughts down, and I can share those thoughts, and that rarely happens when share the canoe.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The First Hatch

I drive my canoe to the lake for the first time in many months, only because today is busy and I do have to chart the bog island motion. Today, I make a careful counter clockwise circuit around the east marsh bay, taking coordinates every 10 meters or so. This way, I will be able to determine where bog stuff has ended up should the bog island break up. There has been more movement in the southern corner where the "land" bridge has formed. The 20 foot wide "bridge" from two days ago is now only 5 feet. Some of the bog edges are quite broken up and bob in the water when the canoe bumps against them.
The big lodge and nest site (just below the shadow)

Done with my map points, I race over to the big lodge and find the nest empty. I get out on the beaver lodge and examine the egg shells and take photographs. The eggs have all hatched - a raided nest would have egg yolk and egg white left behind - and they haven't been gone long. They may have finished hatching yesterday. I don't see the goslings, but there are so many places for them to hide.

This nest has done it's job - note the eggshell at the bottom of the photo

A man calls to me from the nearest dock and I paddle over to explain my project. He has a project also. It turns out that this last bit of land next to the marsh is city property and he heads up a group of volunteers that are restoring it. I get an excellent tour of the strip of land which has had most of the invasive plants removed and replaced with berries and trees. It's a fantastic bit of work and I am thrilled to see it being done so well. We talk for an hour and his wife and some more friends show up. We set plans for a tour of beaver sites by canoe. As I paddle off, back to my put in, I see the goslings (6) closely watched by the parents. With a pair of eagles in the nearby vicinity, it is feather to feather contact as they swim in the lake.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

When is an Island not an Island? Today.

I'm up and off, a fairly early start with a portage east to the big lake. Early weekday starts require vigilance and I must be alert for hostile members of the Can People (car drivers). Heavy clouds deck the sky, but the wind is light and some sun filters through sending a shimmering streak across the water from the east. Sometimes, I just want to paddle that glimmering line, paddling into the sun. Turning the point into Union Bay, the east marsh is sunlit and shows a nesting season profile with sky at the top, then new green foliage of so many alders, birch and willows, and new green growth just at the water of cattails, irises and lily pads, and between those two bands of green is the tan almost white line of last years cattails, still standing and reminding us that their job is done.

I stop at the big lodge to check on the goose nest. I hear the whistle of an eagle and the cawing of crows and find that eagle high in an alder that overlooks the nest. The male goose is quite attentive today and watches me until I move back from the lodge. Then, it spots two feeding geese and as one is upended, butt in the air, head underwater, it flies directly to it and stabs its exposed bottom with its bill... before landing.
Red wing blackbird
I turn the next point and find that the bog island that has been moving and spreading over the last two weeks is no longer an island. It has reached the shore with a 20 foot wide "land" bridge. I map the new outline and as I move off, I hear a marsh wren. They make such a variety of strange science-fiction-robot sounds. I sit and listen, just sit and listen. And I find its well disguised nest just 3 feet away...very difficult to find, even with a photo...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Energy Balance

Energy balance comes to mind, for no particular reason, as I make my portage to the west end of the Crossing Over Place. It is a term from the biologists and one that is heard more often in talking about animals that live on the edge of survival and especially those of the arctic. In the barren lands, all species walk a delicate line between fattening up enough in the short summer and making it through a long dark winter. The connection between man and nature is incredibly complex if one sits back in an armchair and tries to take it all in. Those complexities are analogous to the idea of vast wilderness. Just as wilderness loses its vastness when one travels through it, just as it shrinks when one is focused on the details as they come, when one moves one step at a time, the complexities of man and nature become manageable when one focuses on one detail at a time and follows the paths that present themselves. You learn, and the silver bullet solutions, the cure-alls, and the poor progress-driven decisions show their real costs and failings.

I paddle through the Crossing Under Place and duck into the south lagoon exploring the edges of the "wasteland" as I go. Once through the east channel of the burial island, I find that the bog island has moved another 20 feet and that the old canoe channel, a channel that once was 40 or 50 feet wide, is now just a 5 foot gap. I circle and GPS survey the island, and it appears to be collapsing. It may be that the whole island has sagged and split as there are some fissures in the edges that I don't remember. Then, I check on the big lodge nest, which is fine and still a few days from hatching. The workmen there are rebuilding an old dock, so my worries of a monster sized boat slip were unfounded. With such changes in the east marsh, I decide to circle the bay and see how things are. Right away, I notice that the duck population has plummeted since I was last here. Many ducks have just begun their migration. I find that the homeowner near the railroad island has weedwacked all of the cattails and irises and so now I know that that homeowner is a wealthy and stupid shithead. The goose nest in the NE lagoon is precariously close to the water, but still attended. The other nests that I know about are all well. I find a new goose nest on the Rockpile island as I head to the takeout. I've seen no goslings in the bay, yet, although the workmen by the big lodge reported seeing some.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hiding from the Wind

It's windy today with storm warnings for the evening. Mike I head for the Sammamish River, at the north end of the big lake. But with an almost 20mph wind coming from the south up 15 miles of lake, we decide against my usual put-in on the lake shore. If we started there, we have about a 1/2 mile of open water to cross and while it isn't too bad right now, it could be a wet trip later on... or a portage. We put in at Bothell landing, a few miles up the river where I normally turn around when I start on the big lake. The water is high and the current light and no one else is on the river. We head upstream in winds that swirl around the ends of the hills, one moment a headwind and the next a tailwind. I steer the canoe from shore to shore to take advantage of slow currents or places where the wind is blocked. Other than one short excursion up a tributary, a narrow creek with one portage over a downfall, we stay on the river. There are several sets of geese with goslings. Here the Canada geese seems to have hatched eggs 7 to 10 days earlier than in Union Bay. Past that same tributary creek, the shoreline is well maintained and the invasive blackberry vines give way to more diverse plant life. This part of the river is quieter as it is some distance from the nearest roads. Mike spots two muskrats before we turn around. On the way back Mike spots a beaver as it slips off the right bank into the water and disappears. I had noticed a few small scent mounds nearby and an animal slide track on the mud bank. I decide that I like this stretch of the river better than the mouth. There has been less housing, no golf courses, and none of the reinforced rockwall banks that go with all of that.