Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another Day, Another Stretch of River

Where the Hudson River forms the northern boundary of Saratoga County, its plummeting waters are caught and controlled by a number of dams, creating a series of catchments perfectly suited for flatwater canoeing.  On Friday I put my little Hornbeck in the section that lies above the dam at Glens Falls, entering the river at a quiet backwater that can be accessed via the Betar Byway in South Glens Falls.

Only a few miles downstream from my regular haunts above the Sherman Island Dam, this section of river is home to a number of quite unusual plants that I never find in my home waters, including some that are listed as threatened species in New York State.  Water Marigold is one of these, and I was a bit disappointed to find only one rather scraggly specimen in bloom.

Perhaps I had come looking for them too early, since I saw plenty of their emergent leaves in one section of the backwater.   This plant is remarkable in that the lance-shaped leaves that protrude above the water are quite different from the very fine hair-like leaves that form whorls along the underwater stem.

A second rare plant that thrives in this catchment is Small Floating Bladderwort, which was blooming in great numbers a month ago.  Even now, a few stragglers still lifted their chubby yellow blooms above their inflated pontoons.

I next paddled upstream toward the Feeder Dam, approaching the shale cliffs that rise steeply from the water's edge.  Black as coal, the shale is constantly watered by springs that provide a rich environment for a number of interesting plants that make their home in this bare rock.

Grass of Parnassus is one of the plants that thrive on these cliffs, sharing its niche with Bulblet Fern and Coltsfoot in this particular spot.

I believe that the ring of yellow dots circling the pistil are nectaries, which would explain why I often see lots of little flies visiting Grass of Parnassus flowers.

A number of different mosses and liverworts also cling to the dampened shale.

Dainty blue Kalm's Lobelia also prefers this lime-rich environment, clinging to the cliff face at just the right height for enjoying a close-up eye-level view of their pretty blooms.

Other parts of the riverbank were also decorated with some of the season's prettiest blooms, including this trio of radiantly blue Closed Gentians.

A Winterberry shrub graced a fallen log with a bough full of abundant red fruit.

A Great Blue Heron would let me get only so close before lifting off with those enormous wings, long legs trailing behind.

I couldn't believe how close this Painted Turtle let me approach.  I could see that it had me fixed with its gaze, but it never did slip from its sunlit perch.

There were other creatures enjoying this beautiful day on the river, and if I'd been wearing my bathing suit, I would have been tempted to join them.



Raining Iguanas said...

What a great job with your photos today. They are always wonderful but there is something special with this collection. The heron, the turtle and boys in midair were summer soaked.

catharus said...

Fascinating plant community on those shale cliffs!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Glad you enjoyed this post, Raining Iguanas. I'll bet it revived some memories of summer afternoons of your own.

Yes indeed, catharus, those cliffs form a habitat that is quite distinct. I have not found Grass of Parnassus anywhere but here.