Canoeing

All posts tagged Canoeing

By Alice Mohrman, Education Coordinator, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

A summer paddling expedition in Abbott’s Pond led us upstream to discover the hidden treasures in the cool shade of Johnson’s Branch.

Abbott's Pond

Abbott’s Pond

Point west and follow the expansive water garden of green heart-shaped waxy leaves dotted with the stout yellow flowers.  This hardy, native perennial is spatterdock, Nuphar advena, also known as Yellow Water Lily.  Used in traditional medicine, and a favorite edible for muskrat and beaver, this plant colonizes shallow water where the thick roots anchor into the muddy bottom of the pond.  The bulb-shaped flowers are pollinated by beetles and produce seeds for a variety of waterfowl.

Spatterdock bloom.

Spatterdock bloom.

Ebony Jewelwing,  Calopteryx maculate, are the graceful, yet acrobatic damselfly companions that dance beside your canoe as you meander along the shore toward the narrows.  These  “perchers”  often wait  patiently on plants at the stream edge before taking a quick sojourn over the water to capture gnats and other small insects .  Look for the territorial males, sporting a blue-green thorax and abdomen with jet black wings, courting brownish females with a distinct white patch or “stigma” on the tip of each wing.

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly.

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly.

A distinct canopy of trees beyond the active beaver lodge offers interest and respite from the sun.  The Atlantic White Cedar, Chamaecyparis thyoides, is a towering, ram-rod straight sentinel growing  in the bog at the entrance to the stream.  An extremely rot resistant evergreen species, this cypress (not really a cedar) tree is  able to reach great heights while growing in poorly drained acidic soil!   Two of the tallest Atlantic White Cedars are found in Milford, DE and check in at an impressive  72 and 76 feet  (DE Big Trees).

Atlantic White Cedar on the edge of Abbott's Pond.

Atlantic White Cedar on the edge of Abbott’s Pond.

A Prothonotary Warbler, Protonotaria citrea,  or Golden Swamp Warbler,  sings a loud, ringing version of  “zweet zweet zweet zweet zweet!” as we navigating the shallows, roots and branches.  A soft “psh-psh-psh” sound often brings these curious wood-warblers closer to view.  For nesting, this summer resident chooses a tree cavity, usually about 6 foot high, over or near water, to brood a large clutch with up to eight eggs.

The gorgeous Prothonotary Warbler gets its name from long-ago Roman Catholic clerks who wore bright yellow robes.

The gorgeous Prothonotary Warbler gets its name from long-ago Roman Catholic clerks who wore bright yellow robes.

Our sample of flora and fauna would not be complete without mentioning  Castor canandensis:  the beaver.  While working the night shift, these engineering animals constructed at least three structural barriers to for canoes.  We enjoyed the challenge of maneuvering  over, through and around these dams-which are not easy to deconstruct without heavy equipment!  After a beaver fells a tree, it trims off the large branches and drags it to the dam site.  The logs are forced into the mud with the wide trunk facing downstream.  The remaining braches and leaves, or crowns of the trees,  are positioned into the current to trap the silt and debris which widens the structure.  The beavers add  sticks, stones and mud to strengthen the dam, block the water flow and create a new wetland!

Beavers at their dam.

Beavers at their dam.

By Sally O’Byrne, Teacher Naturalist

The weather could not have been more perfect for the first ever Delaware Nature Society trip on the Lower Brandywine – a trip through the rarely experienced urban wilderness of the Brandywine on the Coastal Plain.   We launched our canoes at the abandoned ‘Up the Creek’ Restaurant boat ramp at low tide.   This boat ramp is almost directly on the confluence of the Brandywine and Christina Rivers.  The water in the Brandywine was crystal clear, and we could see the bottom for virtually the entire trip.

Launching onto the Brandywine River.

Launching onto the Brandywine River.

Much of this trip took us past old  industrial sites which are now being used for a different purposes.   Canoeing at low tide allowed us to see old boat slips, docks, and foundations that gave a clue to the river’s industrial past.

Floating past age-old industrial sites.

Floating past age-old industrial sites.

We traveled under the Amtrak RR bridge, and it was obvious that this bridge was built to rotate open for tall boats – Boats that most likely traveled up to the mills at Superfine Flour Mills, which were at Market Street.

This bridge once rotated to let tall ships sail up the Brandywine River.  Can you see the large gear?

This bridge once rotated to let tall ships sail up the Brandywine River. Can you see the large gear?

Market Street marks the head of navigation, where the Piedmont hits the Coastal Plain, and this is where we turned around.   We saw the Brandywine Water Treatment facility, Superfine Land Condos, and shouted to office workers who were jealous of our day on the water.

A beautiful scene on the lower Brandywine River.

A beautiful scene on the lower Brandywine River.

We finished our canoeing and returned to the former Up the Creek Restaurant, with kudos to our urban explorers, including 93 year old Dr. Bob!   (could he hold the title for oldest Delaware Nature Society canoeist ever?)

Here we are at the end of our trip at the old Up the Creek Restaurant.

Here we are at the end of our trip at the old Up the Creek Restaurant.

Hope to see more of you on this trip next year!    

 

 

Yesterday, Dave Pro, Catherine Owens and I led 17 Teen Naturalists to Abbott’s Mill Nature Center for some canoeing, exploring, and checking out the old mill.  The Teen Naturalists are a group that I have led since 1999 through the Delaware Nature Society.  We go on adventures in the outdoors once a month and take a week-long summer trip every August.  It is a fun group, and one of the most rewarding parts of my job.  Both Ashland and Abbott’s Mill Nature Centers have a Teen Naturalist program.

A Hands-on Experience with Animals.  Joe Sebastiani

A Hands-on Experience with Animals. Joe Sebastiani

First, we stopped in to Abbott’s Mill Nature Center since most of the kids had never been there.  It is different from Ashland Nature Center, in that there are lots of things to see indoors and live animals to enjoy, including the touch tank above.

Canoeing Abbott's Pond.  Joe Sebastiani

Jason Beale, Abbott’ Mill Nature Center Manager, led everyone on a canoeing adventure on Abbott’s Pond.  With the wind whipping, we paddled to the other end of the pond.  It was quite a sight to see an adult Bald Eagle soaring overhead.  A kingfisher also thrilled a few of us as it angrily rattled its way past.   

Soon enough, we were mired in a shallow-water swamp and had to cross two beaver dams.  Sometimes it is the difficulty of a trip that makes it memorable.  It’s almost never as much fun when things are easy!  We eventually made it over or around both dams and paddled up Johnson’s Branch, a very small, winding stream in a beautiful Atlantic White-Cedar swamp.

Everyone really enjoyed the twisting, turning, and ducking!  Paddling a small Delmarva swamp-stream was something we hadn’t done before and everyone loved it! 

We had lunch at a landing in the swamp, and enjoyed being in a primitive, natural area.  Paddling back was just as much fun!  This is an adventure we should have done years ago. 

Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader