Sunday, May 18, 2008

Canoeing in ND

I went canoeing with my friend Rod on the southern section of the Souris National Wildlife Refuge.   We started our canoe trip near the Lake Darling Dam.


We started at Pool A on the "Beaver Lodge Canoe Trail" below the dam. To get out of Pool A one had to push their way through a small gap in the tall cattails. The following satellite photos show Pool A and the cattails. The two "dividers" in the second photo are the lines of cattails.

Photo 1: Pool A near the start of our canoe trip.
Photo 2: The first line of cattails.

The day was nice. The wind was 5 to 15 mph with most of the wind only around 5 mph. Some sun, some high clouds throughout the day which was disingenuous as both Rod and I got sunburned. Rod wore shorts so I wasn't too surprised when his legs got sunburned. Me... I wore long pants.  But it was a surprise when my head and forearms got sunburned, where I rarely get sunburned. The difference was this year, caring for mom, I have spent almost all of my time indoors out of the sun. A few days later my face swelled up from this sunburn.

I had a hat and put it on during our return trip. However we went under some low hanging tree branches shortly after I put the hat on and a branch snagged my hat and tossed it into the water. I grabbed the hat immediately before it got away but it already was soaked so I did not wear it anymore.

Rod got scratched up by a dead branch from a submerged tree. We were not the best navigators and sometimes slid too close to branches. The branch did not break so Rod was pushed backwards and down into the boat by the branch as he was caught by surprise by the branch and how fast we were moving.

The following branch is not one I have described, but one of a number in the river.

We saw plenty of ducks and birds along the way.

There were many yellow-headed blackbirds, which I don't ever remember seeing before. The refuge has lots of duck nesting structures attached to trees along the river bank. A number of beavers swam in the water and we saw a number of tree chewed on by the beavers. The beavers may explain why there were less old and large trees than I expected.

We also saw quite a few turtles sunning themselves on logs. They would drop in the water before we got close so I had to use my camera's telephoto lens to get a decent photo of them.

Three miles down the twisting and winding river we came to dam 87. This is a small dam to create a pool of water. We had lunch here. As you can see on the marker, the river elevation was about 1578 feet.

Under part of the dam's structure were a number of swallow nests. The swallows would whirl around and around in the air before disappearing. After a while they would come back and many would enter the holes in their small mud nests to feed their young. Then the group would be gone again.

North of the dam were green areas that appeared to have been burned last Fall. Other areas had piles of trees drying for a later burning. The refugee is not that wide, and with the fencing it appeared the private land was not far from the river.

After our one hour lunch Rod and I decided to portage around the dam and continue down the river.

We went quite a distance before turning around. Later when I read the refuge material we picked up after our canoe trip, it appears the Beaver Lodge Canoe Trail only goes to dam 87.

A few times along the river, or down short side channels, were the following structures. Rod and I had no idea what they were. The part on top had wheels and it looked as the frame work could be used to lower stuff into the river. And the government is worried about molesters again. If you remember my blog post about the sign in Yellowstone National Park warning people not to 'molest' the animals, well, signs on these structures warned against 'molesting' government property.

We also saw an old abandoned windmill on the river bank. One could see the old lettering on the vane that had not completely faded.

Even though we were on a river, we later checked and found the cubic feet per second flow during our trip was almost 2 CFS. No wonder when we were not paddling we floated upstream as that was the direction the breeze was blowing our canoe.

We were running out of energy by the time our canoe trip ended.

After we finished canoeing Rod and I walked on the nearby Oxbow nature trail. Along the river a number of people were fishing. I didn't see anyone with fish.

Rod is an avid birder and he was looking for birds he hadn't seen before. I don't believe there were as many birds out and about as Rod had expected.

Here are few photos from the nature trail (purple path shown in the GPS image at the end). I expected that being on a refuge and near water there would be more and bigger trees. As I mentioned earlier, perhaps the beavers had something to do with the lack of trees.

A major pest when we were on land were ticks. I have never had so many ticks on me in my life. I picked dozens of them off me as we walked. As we drove home I still felt ticks crawling on my body and I threw them out of Rod's pickup window. After I got home I removed most of my clothes outside and found a few more ticks. In the shower I found three or four more ticks. Thankfully since the shower I have not found any more ticks.

Here is a panoramic view of Pools B and C in the refuge taken from the south shore.

Lastly, here are our canoe and hiking routes. According to Rod's GPS unit we canoed 12.8 miles at an average speed of 2 mph. We hiked (the purple path) for 1.4 miles at an average speed of 1.4 mph. It felt strange walking on land after canoeing for hours.