Scenes from the first sunny day of spring on the St. Croix River

Photos and a few words about paddling between seasons.




4 minute read

A gnarly floodplain maple. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

We launched in what felt like late winter and landed in early spring. Clouds covered the sky when we embarked at about noon. Patches of blue and sometimes the sun passed across the sky. Then, my mid-afternoon, the overcast was over, and it was suddenly spring. We got hot in our morning clothes.

The birds on the banks cheeped and chirped. Few sang. Countless yellow-rumped warblers hopped around flooded forest. Unidentified cousins accompanied them. Red-winged blackbirds acted emboldened. Ducks were maybe more secretive, or more habituated to humans, or unwilling to abandon nests and mates, compared to a few weeks ago.

Surely some folks will recognize the route.

After last summer’s drought, the high water was more than welcome. It spread across many floodplain islands, quenching their thirst from last year’s dry months. It also meant we could canoe through the trees sometimes, a joy I promised myself I would relish last summer, when one could barely find a route down the main channel. I found myself again in that flooded timber, twisting and turning through the tree trunks, no sounds except the cheeps and chirps.

The water was even high at the great blue heron rookery, allowing us to paddle silently below the nests. From a distance, the nests, sometimes 10 to a tree, crowding the crown, appeared unoccupied, and was quiet.

But as we came closer, we saw herons standing sentinel at many nests, perched on the clump of sticks, or a nearby branch; I figured they have not laid eggs yet, or at least certainly none have hatched, and for now, all was peaceful and silent. Perhaps there were other birds sitting on eggs that I couldn’t see. In a couple weeks, it will be a cacophony of squawks and croaks, the big birds flapping to and fro, landing in a sprawl of wing and leg, to stand on what looks like the tiniest twigs.

Spotted sandpipers flew and flitted among rafts of timber along the banks. When walking among the woody debris, they bobbed their tails and stalked insects and other prey.

This photo fails to convey the sound of falling water echoing around this ravine. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)
Ice hiding in its last shaded holdouts. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)
Green scene. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)
Painted turtle catching the sun. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)
Rusty blackbird (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)


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4 responses to “Scenes from the first sunny day of spring on the St. Croix River”

  1. Catherine Preus Avatar

    Beautiful photos! Thank you so much for bringing me a virtual visit back to the beloved river of my youth.
    Catherine Preus

  2. Laurie Avatar

    So beautiful! Thank you, Greg. You have quite an eye!

  3. Tracy Avatar

    Any idea when the flood waters are expected to go down?

  4. clmnelson Avatar

    Yes I recognize your route! One of my favs and you went right by my cabin. I did some of your route on Friday. Beautiful day.


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Scenes from the first sunny day of spring on the St. Croix River