Thanks to the folks who joined us for the first River Ramblers guided kayak trip of the year last Saturday! It was a lot of fun. After last summer, when we had to hunt down channels with enough water to float a kayak, it was a real joy to feel the freedom of a little flood. We got plenty of chances for a favorite activity: paddling between the trees of submerged islands.
We launched from Arcola Mills, the historic house now owned by a nonprofit, about five miles north of Stillwater. It gives unparalleled access to the Apple River delta, where the confluence creates a maze of islands and channels.
There are three more paddles scheduled this summer, with spots available as of this writing. Thanks to Kerri Kolstad at Wahoo! Adventures, each trip includes kayak, paddle, PFD, guidance for beginners, help launching and landing, and a delicious lunch afterwards. This first one sold out quickly. Sign up here.
Last Saturday’s trip was billed as “Birds, Bugs, and Blooms,” and we did see many forms of life. On the insect front, we were buzzed by a couple big Green Darner dragonflies, which actually migrate south for the winter and back north in spring. Most dragonflies live in the water a few years, then emerge as adults for a short flying summer season to reproduce, then die. Green darners don’t.
As far as birds go, redstarts sang insistently in several areas, and red-winged blackbirds anxiously flew around. A gaggle of grackles was seen hopping around on flotsam.
We paddled past one bald eagle’s nest, which at first looked empty. Avian flu has hit eagles hard, and I was afraid the nest’s residents had succumbed, and was very relieved when a white head and brown back popped above the edge. There was at least one bird there, seemingly tending to eggs or chicks.
An osprey made a brief appearance as it headed downriver, likely looking for lunch. And a few great blue herons were carrying sticks and building nests at a miniature rookery of two or three nests high in a silver maple tree. Among the woody debris below, spotted sandpipers walked along, bobbing their butts.
Despite my best efforts, I failed to find us a prothonotary warbler, despite ample habitat of the type of dead floodplain trees it prefers for its nest, and hearing one or two birds. A few yellow warblers gave us false hope, but were still a welcome sight.
I enjoyed seeing some long-time St. Croix 360 readers and supporters, and some new ones. Please join us in June, July or August!