Thursday, October 29, 2009


Little Beaver Lake

We pushed off in Red Canoe with barely a glance over our shoulder, hurriedly strapping seatbacks into place, and grabbing day packs and paddles--anxious to make up for what had been a late morning’s start followed by several detours down the invitingly shaded, sandy paths on Michigan’s UP. This spot on the map, Little Beaver Lake, looked to be an easy paddle. A 39-acre lake, adjacent to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, bound by dense, piney woods and ringed with horsetails, dragonflies darted from ridged stem to ridged stem, lighting at the tip—tipping, tail-up in the strong midday sun.
Hidden in the far corner, a secret passage.

Aptly named for the residents of these waters, the narrow channel with tall pines to either side appeared from its widest point, to dead end in a large, tangled mound. Slender, trimmed sticks, their gnawed ends angled and left piled on top, confirmed recent beaver activity. But, as we slowly glided forward to get a closer look, the shallow water flowing past the dam easily carried us through the passage to the lake beyond—Beaver Lake, its broad, smooth surface, at over 750 acres, many times larger than that of Little Beaver.

Beaver Lake

The water was dark, but clear--again tannin-stained from the bark of the trees surrounding it, but reflecting deep blue of a cloudless sky above. A broad sandy shelf, dotted with large, half-buried, freshwater clams, extended more than 30 feet before dropping off to deeper water.

We stepped out into the warm, clean water of the shelf and pulled Red Canoe to the edge.
A colorful mosaic of small, smooth stones collected here and several large snails cruised the bottom until it became the shore, where grasses and wild orchids grew in a narrow strip between water and woods.

freshwater clam in sand

freshwater snail

Barely seen against the dark trees across this expanse, there was a flash of color--as two kayaks, their double-bladed, yellow paddles rising swiftly along the shoreline, quietly circled the large lake and disappeared from view. Until, on this fine September day, we were left alone, looking out across Beaver Lake, walking ankle-deep in the clear, amber water.

Heading back toward the passage an hour later, we soon encountered a bird, swimming toward us in the shallow water, the small crest of her rusty head parting the surface, as she peered below for small fish—a common merganser.

Dipping and lifting, and dipping again, the drops of water fell from her face, as she moved forward, swimming strongly.
Common Merganser

Until, as if we were of no concern, she arrived to within just feet of Red Canoe.
We turned and paddled slowly beside her, across the clear water of the sandy shelf, for many strokes. Then, she turned and was gone.

I wonder at these close encounters, when nature seems more trusting than I would expect, if it is the sound and speed of our lives that teaches them to fear--a fear of man that is learned by our loud presence.
For, in these spaces that preserve solitude, it seems it has not learned to accept us, but has simply not yet learned to fear.

click image to enlarge

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Anne said...

Oh!!! Take me with you!!!
I have also been in beever hunting this sunner, bur just a few pictures :-(

Beautiful surroundings!!

Nice weekend.

Naturegirl said...

A quiet serene ride on the silent side of Nature. Thank you for your wonderful canoe was very calming observing Nature at it's best!

J Bar said...

So many great shots of nature.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Rune (Bildebloggen) said...

Wonderful photo series you have posted here, beautiful photos of a great place

Anonymous said...

Like being on a lazy canoe trip myself.

bobbie said...

Really beautiful photos, Nina. A wonderful canoe trip.

RuthieJ said...

Beautiful pictures and story Nina. Looks like you had a perfect day!

Misty Dawn said...

Outstanding post! Now I'm daydreaming of being in the canoe with my dad and his wolfdog - those are some of my favorite times!

Susan said...

Hi Nina,
Reading your post I was struck by the similarity (rather than the differences) between us...I wrote a kayaking post awhile ago.. entitled Thanksgiving. that echoes some of your thoughts. I think these similarities of appreciation that we are discovering with people world wide is what makes blogging so popular, and powerful.

JLBO said...

Superbe ! Quelle paix ! luv

Appalachian Lady said...

Very calming post--wish I was on your canoe!

Susan Gets Native said...

How beautiful!
I love lakes that are shallow way you can walk out there real far....
A common merganser....can you believe I've never seen one???

Kelly said...

...beautiful post, Nina. So calm, soothing and still. I would have been thrilled to paddle side by side with a merganser--a wonderful memory, no doubt.