Monday, September 5, 2011

Going down the river

Looking a head to what became an interesting three hour journey in a canoe. Not having paddled a canoe in a few years I was worried I wouldn't be able to move after this, but it turned out to be just fine. So far.
My younger son and I entered the river near the village of Kimberly. The river is fairly shallow at this point, ranging from a foot to four or five feet deep in some pools carved by spring flooding or storms.
At first we see a beaver lodge that looks as if it's only used in spring when the water is higher.
We begin to see some of the challenges we faced along the river with fallen trees, deadheads just under the surface and in one case a complete blow down of a huge living maple, that someone had tried to clear, only to have it swept back right across the river preventing any passage without my son getting out of the canoe and pushing us across. Several times we got stuck on logs just below the surface, so it became a puzzle to find the deepest sections on this portion of the river.

At one point we came across a fellow holding a cage high, up to his chest in the water. "I'm naked!" he cried in distress when we asked him which way he was headed to take the trapped chipmunk across the water. Apparently to get rid of these tiny critters, you have to move them across water else they will return and they had invaded his home. We paddled on by, my eyes averted to give him some comfort. We chuckled later on.
We are deep into the swamp that is owned and managed by the local conservation authority. In the muddy banks we see holes created by muskrat, snakes and goodness knows what other creatures. I watch a little Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Spotted Sandpiper or Sanderling which is then joined downriver by three more of its friends. Not bringing along my bird book (what was I thinking? that was what I wanted to see - the birds!) I couldn't easily identify it. Nor did I note its markings. But there were a few of them running along the weeds that surfaced along the edge or on the muddy flats, searching for bugs, worms and other bird goody favourites.
Another blowdown. The branches have trapped all kinds of debris when it falls in upriver in storms and is pushed into banks and other traps.
Egrets and cormorants share a dead tree. Unfortunately it's often the cormorants' guano that kills the trees and other vegetation around them. They are one of the few duck-like birds I know of that perch in trees and are an invasive species, not being native to North America.
As we move much further along (this photograph was taken about at the two hour mark) the vegetation changes with more reeds in the water and the swamp extending deeper into the forest that has lined the banks and hung over the river. We are closer to the road along here and also to farm fields and shortly after passing this spot, having paddled for three hours and hearing thunder overhead, decided to finish the rest of the trip - another two hours - in a couple of weeks.

This was a delightful way to spend a steamy summer afternoon with slight breezes from our movement along the river and the occasional drops of water from paddles splashing us. We're looking forward to finishing the trip which won't be as challenging having few if any windfalls across and deadheads under the river.

For both of us, it realized a dream. Though we had lived in the area when my son was in grade school and through high school, none of the family had canoed the river. I've long been curious about what the river actually looked like and what lived in and along it.

We saw many things that I was unable to photograph, minnows, small fish up to about six inches in size, Canada geese standing like statues tucked into the brush, shrubs and trees, quietly watching as we floated by. A kingfisher scolded us and followed us for many miles as we invaded its private fishing holes. My son saw several Great Blue Herons, I missed them of course until they were high in the sky. And he saw a beaver as it jumped into the water just ahead of the canoe as we neared a bank.

The river itself switches back on itself - going about a hundred or two hundred yards and then curving either to the left of right. Sometimes it was a gradual and gentle curve, sometimes almost a hairpin turn. But it explained why it took three hours to go only a couple of kilometres as the crow flies. A fascinating experience all in all.

May I recommend to each of you that you do something you've dreamed about in the coming months or year? The rewards are unmeasurable!
A beautiful spot.


  1. Barbara, I enjoyed your canoe ride. The scenery is beautiful. Canoeing is something both my hubby and I have loved to do that last couple of years. It is fun to see the birds and plants from the rivers view.

  2. What a wonderful journey. The tree with the cormorants and egrets is magical and strange. And the naked man with the caged chipmunk is downright surreal! As the great Fats Waller liekd to say, "One never knows, do one?"