Nature’s magnificence illuminated by fireflies on the Namekagon River

As dusk falls at Springbrook Landing, lightning bugs and the magic of the river emerge.




2 minute read

Fireflies at Ochanomizu, Kobayashi Kiyochika (Japan, 1847-1915). Ochanomizu literally means “tea water”, after the nearby Kanda River, from which water was extracted to make the shogun’s tea during the Edo period.

Robert Boss is the Namekagon River Ambassador with the St. Croix River Association. Serving as “sweep” on this year’s SCRA Namekagon Paddle, he brought up the rear guard on the six day, 92 mile trip. The below is an excerpt from his journal of the trip, about a night spent camped alone with the boats at the landing, while the rest of the group stayed about a mile away.

As I take up my guard post at North Springbrook landing, away from the group of 45 people, to keep watch over their kayaks, I am greeted by the sound of rushing water over rocks from the nearby rapids.

I am also greeted by hundreds of fireflies that call this river landing their home during their short lives. Their glows, acting like 18th century lamplighters getting ready for sunset in the trees and tall grass, invite me down to wade in the river and sit upon a rock off the shore a little ways. I sit and watch their beautiful mating ritual as the sun fades even more turning the night sky black. I turn back to face away from the light show on shore to watch the water pass me by.

There, across the the river, are thousands of fireflies lining the opposite bank, and in this darkness of night, it as if they are thousands of camera flashes and the Namekagon is their main performer. I sit in awe of this magnificent display of nature and I weep. I weep at the amazing sights, sounds, and smells around me. I also weep for my brothers-in-arms that I will never be able to take to this beautiful National Park and for those brothers I have served with, now living busy lives across the country that I may never be able to share this river with either.

The tears pass quickly, but there I stand in the middle of the river and realize there is no difference between the temperature of the water and the temperature of the air around. I feel myself become part the river, and the river and I exist in those moments as one being.

Robert Boss is an Iraq combat veteran and an early participant in Vets on the River. Now he is helping veterans and others connect with the river by leading paddles and other outreach. He is originally from Hayward, Wis. and recently graduated from Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minn. in Outdoor Recreation Therapy.


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Nature’s magnificence illuminated by fireflies on the Namekagon River