Atchafalaya Basin, Grand River Flats
Sunday, November 23, 2003
CC's Journal 4

A beaver kit peers out of its Baldcypress stump den in the Atchafalaya Basin.

"Red sky in the morning sailors take warning." I saw the red sky as we loaded the aluminum canoe on top my truck and told Sue to bring her raincoat and boots. A storm was coming, but at last our luck was changing from the engine troubles of last week. When we arrived at one of my favorite places in the Atchafalaya Basin, the wind was at our back and the current going our way. We paddled easily into the flats. This series of lakes and bottomlands is called Grand River Flats; some folks call it Mims Lake. Over the last 30 years I have been here hundred's of times and have watched it change.

One of the big changes is how much more wildlife I see. I attribute that to both education and our expanding population. Due to non-tolerance most people do not randomly shoot at any animal that moves such as many did thirty years ago. In my grade school years every kid had a BB Gun and most every kid would shoot at robins, owls, or whatever. Secondly, as we expand human made things into every nook and cranny of the world, animals are getting used to being close to humans.

Today proves my theory for as soon as we got into the lake a gnawed black willow stump suggested beavers nearby. Three stokes later we saw them, two preening their fur while four others slept in an ancient bald cypress stump. The stump like thousands of others in this series of lakes remain from the harvest of early last century when most all of these giants were cut. The loggers took all the healthy trees, the only giants left where those hollow or with some other deformity. Bald cypress wood lasts a long time as these 90-year old stumps prove. In spite of stumps making nice dens for wildlife, I would prefer to see some of the virgin cypress stands left.

We paddled quietly to within thirty feet of the beaver; we found out two were half grown kits. I got some nice shots. We stuck close to the side to watch Great Blue Herons flush before us with necks out-stretched. Three hundred yards later, a young raccoon foraged for snails and mussels near the waters edge, he watched us cautiously as he ate for two minutes before scurrying into the swamp. Then up high we saw the bald eagle pair circling and calling loudly above their nest, they have been nesting in this lake for the past eighteen winters. They were most likely courting and will lay eggs soon. We also saw vireos, warblers, phoebes, spotted sandpipers, killdeer, vultures, egrets, heron, ibis, spoonbills, cormorants, ducks and heard owls. On the levee we passed two striped skunks. In the 70's I would never have seen this much wildlife activity in one day.

At sunset, the rain had not come yet and we paddled out in the dark, dry as our luck continued. About 10pm the storm hit Baton Rouge, we missed it.