It was raining when I woke on the morning of September 15th. That has been an odd occurrence in Arkansas this summer, but up here in Northwest Arkansas, we actually did have some rain from late August through September. My thought when I noticed the rain was, “Whoopie, no yard work today, I am headed to the lake!”
I dutifully asked Sharon if she wanted to go along. After getting my full dose of Billingsgate, I told her to go on back to sleep and I would see her when I got in. Okay, I knew I was crazy, and I always figured that I was a bit of a fool, but she didn’t have to call me old. That kind of hurt.
So I grabbed my Gore-Tex®, threw a couple of granola bars in the dry bag, and headed out to my red truck. Did you know that the way rain runs down a windshield is fascinating? It never runs in a straight line. Instead it twists and turns. Little rivulets form and join into streams. It is kind of a mini-watershed all its own. It seemed odd that the canoe wasn’t blocking the rain. Oh, yeah, the canoe!
So I got out of the truck, walked down to the shed, got the canoe, and hauled it up to the truck. Along the way, I picked up a couple paddles. I always take two paddles in case one breaks. In a couple of minutes, the canoe was loaded and I was on my way, green canoe on red truck, Gore-Tex® jacket on, two granola bars in the dry bag, ready for a great day in the rain. I headed out to the Beav-O-Rama launching ramp.
Beav-O-Rama has been the starting point for a couple of trips this year. On those trips, I was headed upstream though. Today I was going downstream to complete paddling the reach of lake from Hwy. 45 to Hwy. 412. The water level was about 15 feet lower than my last trip out here. In May, the ramp was in the lake. Now, it was about a 100-yard carry from the ramp down to the lake. Forty-five years ago this would have been prized bottomland pasture. Today it is just a mudflat. It is surprising, though, how quickly these mudflats become vegetated when the water goes down. Much of the vegetation is Late Boneset, a two- to three-foot tall flower with multiple white blooms.
The “lake” now looked like a wide river. The water was a bit murky. My paddle blade was barely visible when fully submerged. That means that transparency is about 18 or so inches. The water was warm and had a greenish tint. It was raining, but warm with a little wind. Because of the low water, I was paddling along the very bases of the bluffs.
Goldenrod clinging to a bluff along Beaver Lake.
Fall wildflowers were just starting to bloom in mid-September. My favorite fall flower is the goldenrod. Goldenrod is one of those nouns that doesn’t have a plural. It is just “the goldenrod.” Back in town, there are fields full of goldenrod in the Lake Fayetteville Park. It makes a blanket of yellow over the ground. But around Beaver Lake, you only see small patches clinging to nooks and crannies in the bluffs. Maybe there are eight or 10 plants in a patch. The plants around the lake are also smaller. Most are only about a foot and a half tall.
After about a half hour, the bluff line switched from river right to river left. I switched over too. I guess I just like bluffs. As far as I can tell, this bluff doesn’t have a name. I am going to call it “Beaver” bluff because that is who was living there, four of them. The first one was swimming out from behind a rock when I saw him. I tried to slip up and get a photo but about the time I reached for the camera, kerplunk, he slapped his tail on the water and disappeared. Around the corner, the other three were huddled on a ledge. One by one, they slipped into the water and swam off.
One of the Beavers of “Beaver Bluff.”
Several years ago while paddling the Buffalo River on a quiet fall day, I encountered a river otter. Otters are curious fellows. This one seemed to engage me in a game of hide-and-seek. He would pop out from behind a log and stare at me until I made a move; then he would dive and move off to repeat the process. Another time many years ago, I actually had one swim out and scratch the bottom of my canoe. In contrast, beavers are all business. These fellows had things to do, and I was keeping them from doing them. So I snapped a couple of photos and moved on down the bluff.
As a water treatment professional, I have a love-hate relationship with beavers. Beavers are pretty cool to see swimming around in the lake. But beaver fecal matter is one of the main sources of the protozoa cryptosporidium and giardia, both of which are pathogenic to humans (pathogenic simply means they cause us to get diseases). Luckily, these guys were several miles from the water supply intake and beavers don’t seem to be very abundant on Beaver Lake.
At the end of the bluff line, I could see Cedar Bluff which extends up to the Blue Spring area on the lake. That meant that I was at the point where I had turned around on my trip uplake from the Blue Spring launch. So my mission was complete. I had a granola bar, watched some gulls fish for a bit, and then headed back to the truck. The round trip was roughly three and a half miles. It was still raining.