portfolio > gone on the river

June 28, 2022

With all of the exciting (read: difficult and frightening) things happening on the trip lately, I have not written as much about the wildlife I'm seeing.

The ill-conceived voyage down the riverlet in a marsh (and then back up it, once it proved to be a dead end) had one silver lining. I saw a lot of wildlife. Every few feet, for a stretch, some large fish or other creature would sort of ker-flump away from me, down in the water. Usually, that effect was all I could see. But a few times, I saw the fish before it had its negative reaction to my presence. Some were fat and oblong, some shaped like a long skinny dart, with a very long mouth.

I have seen many, many more fish jumping since the Twin Cities. I have a bias towards thinking they're all carp, but that doesn't seem possible.

Some of the creatures in that marsh experience were turtles. I've seen a lot of turtles lately. Mostly I see them jump off of dead trees or rocks along the shore. Sometimes I see them scramble humorously down a long sandy slope, including at least one that was at least fifteen feet tall. And then today I got to see some jump in the water, and then the water is clear and shallow enough that I can see them scrambling away underwater, under the boat.

And then many of the turtles I've seen have just been a tiny delta shape on the top of the water. Is that a stick, floating down the stream? Or is it a turtle head? As I reach the question, it answers itself by quickly slipping under the surface. Turtle!

I've seen evidence of baby turtles, including open eggs and little prints that lead to the water. Haven't seen any baby turtles, but I have seen a bunch of tiny frogs, all in the same place on the north shore of Lake Pepin. I've also seen a whole squadron of tadpoles.

I've continued to see a lot of herons and eagles, and other smaller birds. A few storks, especially near dams.

And then there are the wildlife I thankfully haven't been seeing as much. There have been some mosquitoes, especially around dusk. But it's nothing like the crazy swarms up in northern Minnesota. And some evenings, there have been as close to none as I could reasonably ask for. Similarly, there have been no ticks since the Twin Cities.

In terms of plant life, the biggest thing I've noticed downstream of the Twin Cities is that the trees along the shore are now not entirely silver maples. There are also now large stands of cottonwoods, and solo cottonwoods in the crowd of maples. I'm seeing almost entirely deciduous trees now, not much conifer of any kind.