Monday, April 21, 2008

Waterfowl Extravaganza

In the depths of the Great Depression Franklin Roosevelt set aside a few hundred acres on a large backwater of the Mississippi River and designated it the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. Since then it has grown to 6,200 acres with several miles of dikes to control water levels. The bird migration up and down the flyway in the spring and fall is spectacular and birdwatching was the goal of this weekends paddle adventure. We were not disappointed. A number of bald eagles, hawks, and vultures complemented the array of wading birds like herons and egrets, as well as diving and puddle ducks of at least a dozen species that I was able to count. The usual giant rafts of coots and the not so usual flocks of white pelicans were abundant also. I had hunted ducks about 30 miles north of this area for most of the decade of the '70's and can say I never saw a pelican back then. They are an impressive bird and their formation flying as they bank back and forth in giant flocks, must be seen to be appreciated. I remember taking a friend down here a few years back and his comment was that he had no idea that topography like this existed in the state of Wisconsin.

The VOR and I set up camp at the Trempealeau Hotel, an old railroad/rivermans hotel built in 1871. Small authentic rooms with minimal amenities and a bathroom down the hall and for $40 bucks a night it served us just fine. The bar and dining room downstairs offered a half dozen micro brewed beers on tap as well as Guiness which was the perfect place to end the paddle day. Two miles from the hotel was Perrot State Park, sited amid the bluffs of the Mississippi River. Indian burial mounds, the site of an old French trading post from the 1600's, and another large estuary. This furnished us with some fine paddling also. In fact, the road to the refuge was flooded on Sunday, a foregone conclusion since we had to drive through 6' of water to get in there on Saturday, so it was good we paddled them in the order that we did. It will be interesting to see how the Apostle Island foursome fared this weekend but we had a great time on the river and will return again when the fall migration hits its peak in October. It can be interesting trying to paddle a 18' sea kayak in moving water. Maybe I'll check the kayak auction this weekend and see......nah, no storage least at this point.

Stay tuned for tomorrows post: Carp Attack! "The most terrified I've ever been kayaking!!" - VOR

1 comment:

JeremiahJohnstone said...

Daveo, Very cool time of year to be paddling along the riverways with bird watching in mind. I am kind of a bird idiot but I do know some raptors, song birds, and those hard to spot Sand Hill cranes and pelicans. I paddled the St.Croix river and it was a pleasure floating along the waterway watching all the birds in the cool spring air.I especially love the bald eagle nests along the rivers. This time of year they are incubating their eggs and hopefully most have hatched out. What a great experience for you and VOR.