March 17, 2010
There seemed to be certain symmetry to the first excursion of the year on the river to occur on St. Patrick’s Day and, because I was Jonesing bad for a canoe trip, it just had to happen. I paddled solo from Muscoda to Port Andrew, about a two hour trip, starting out in the rising fog and 44 degrees and ending in the spring sunshine and the low 60’s. A grand start to the paddling season! Here’s a summary of the trip.
Water levels are high, not quite twice the normal flow for the 100-year average, and the water temperature was still cold so safety was a priority. It only took about two strokes til I felt I had my sea legs back though. As the fog lifted, I paddled past a nesting eagle and, a short distance later, I paddled under the watchful gaze of another perched on a riverside tree near the Island of the Little People (according to Ho-Chunk legend).
Harbingers of spring abounded. The memory of 30 below temperatures and the winter deep freeze faded quickly under a cloudless sky and amidst the sounds of spring: the primordial call of the sandhill crane, the loquacious geese and the annoyed mallards. Pileated woodpeckers drummed a few hundred yards apart proclaiming “their” territory. Cardinals were in a romantic mood and sang of their crested beauty to any young lady who would listen. A flock of mergansers walked on water and flew at my approach. At times, the silence was broken only by the gurgling of the living river, the rustling of a squirrel in dry oak leaves and the occasional call of the raucous crow. Then, the symphony of spring bird songs would start anew.
The river looks different in every season; indeed, it can look different every day at different times of the day. In March, the soft maple buds are ready to burst forth with spring foliage but, as of yet, no leaves are on the trees so the vernal paddler can see through the bottomlands along each bank for some distance. In a few months, lush vegetation will block even the most penetrating gaze. Ice was still present on a few of the backwater coves, soon to melt into the flow of the River of the Thousand Isles. Solitude and wildness were the words of the day.
I have often spoken of the majesty of the
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Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
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Muscoda, Wisconsin 53573
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