Sunday, August 15, 2010

Of wood ducks and cooters

The dog day cicadas were deafening on that 99+ degree day. "You'll need a mountain bike" to traverse the upper Jack's Fork, said the float outfitter, so we put in much lower downstream. The river widens just past Alley, but the water is cool and clear and occasionally whitecaps, allowing for gentle runs around narrow bends.
The cardinal flower should be peaking now along streambanks; these brilliant red flowers grow on stalks tall enough to reach my knees when standing upright. The late summer phlox and monkey flower are in full bloom, and thick stands of Carex haydenii looks as fresh as a May day.

Streambanks and gravel washes in the Ozarks vary from river to river. The upper Gasconade is loaded with pipevine, while the streambanks on the upper Current and Eleven Point are thick with giant cane. While cardinal flower grows on almost every streambank in the Ozarks, the Jack's Fork River seems to possess the stronghold. Rudbeckia subtomentosa and R. laciniata are a good streambank plants, tall rangy yellow composites usually loaded with monarch butterflies.

You won't see many red eared sliders on the Jack's Fork, but practically every turtle you'll encounter may be a cooter with a slick green striped head, turtles often seen lolling a limb in the cold water as they rest on a downed sycamore. Wood ducks are everywhere on the Jack's Fork and upper Niangua. Darling little green herons are extremely common along the Jack's Fork and Eleven Point, and aren't nearly as skittish as the gangly great blue herons on the Niangua. One little green heron spent the night a mere stone's throw away from our tent on a spit of a gravel bar and hunted for breakfast next to my MSR Dragonfly campstove that's louder than a jet engine.

(At the end of the float, a sweet little old dog greeted us at Two Rivers. We sat with him while awaiting the outfitter's van, me picking ticks off the guy while drinking the last of my wine. Nothing better than picking ticks off a stray on a gravel bar, really, but we were saddened to hear the little dog is a stray who makes the rounds between Two Rivers and Jack's Fork Outfitters. He's very friendly, a good roaming country dog, so if you end up at the first landing at the Two Rivers put out spot, give the dog a scritch [or a safe and friendly home].)


Anonymous said...

My honeybees definitely work the water willows each year.

Ted C. MacRae said...

How I long to see cardinal flower!

travis said...

that's a pretty awesome jujyfruits t-shirt Doug is sporting!
oh yeah....cooter! sorry....i'm 5.

Allison Vaughn said...

He bought it twenty years ago with four box tops and 8$, shipping included. Loves the Jujyfruit shirt.
By the way, we'll head your way on Friday if that's okay...