Saturday, September 20, 2014
A Pretty Little Lake
When Evelyn Greene asked me to join her to paddle Fourth Lake near Lake Luzerne yesterday, I didn't have to think twice. I had paddled this lake just a year ago and remembered what a pretty jewel it was: small and quiet, no motorboats allowed, and most of the shoreline belonging to a state campground, now closed for the season.
We had to carry our boats about a quarter mile from the locked campground gate, but our boats were light and the going was easy and we knew what a glorious reward awaited our efforts once we reached the lake. Especially on such a dazzling blue-sky day as this, with Red Maples starting to gain their autumn color in the wetlands, and masses of Water Willow (Decodon verticillatus) already blazing their vivid scarlet along the shore.
Evelyn had a duty to perform, which was to check the shoreline and shallows for the presence of invasive species, and I was glad to assist her at this task. We began our investigations in the outlet that empties into Third Lake, and after finding only native species of shoreline and underwater plants there, we headed back around Fourth Lake to explore the inlet on the opposite shore. From the eastern side of the lake, we could see the rounded dome of Potash Mountain rising over the forested hills to the north.
As we drew near to the mouth of the inlet, we were dazzled by masses of brilliant-red Water Willow, their beauty magnified by their reflection in the rippling water.
We paddled up the inlet under overhanging trees that shaded the cool blue stream.
Evelyn wanted to reach a bog that lay upstream, and she was not about to let this beaver dam impede our progress. We were able to skooch our canoes up onto the jumbled branches, but we did have to get out of our boats to pull them the rest of the way clear. I found it very difficult to climb out of my boat, for the footing was quite perilous: either up to my shin in mud or teetering on broken boughs. But I finally made it. If there was bog to explore further on, the effort would certainly be worth it.
But . . . . THIS dam presented even more of a challenge! Evelyn managed to scramble out of her boat and up onto the dam, but I held back, letting Evelyn survey the prospect upstream, to see if the bog was worth the risk to limb or lens (for if I fell in, so would my doomed camera). I could tell that Evelyn was yearning to proceed, and I was sorry to disappoint her with my reluctance. But she finally conceded that the bog might be underwater, anyway, so perhaps it was time to turn back.
We took our time paddling back toward the beach where we'd launched our boats, observing the underwater plants, including masses of what we believed was a native milfoil, its multi-fronded stems waving lazily in the current. Evelyn collected some samples to take for further analysis, although we knew how difficult it is to identify milfoils without the presence of flowers or fruit. The twiggy green stuff we did positively identify as a freshwater sponge, especially after we picked a sample and felt its gritty texture between our fingers.
As we passed through masses of Water Lily and Pond Lily leaves, I noticed swarms of tiny light-colored bugs hopping all over the leaves, as well as the surface of the water.
I managed to get a close-up view of these tiny bugs with the macro setting on my camera. It's not a perfectly clear image, but it was clear enough to help me find a match on the internet. These wee little flea-like insects are Water Lily Planthoppers (Megamelus davisi) -- a most appropriate name, since they certainly perform enormous hops and they feed almost exclusively on Water Lilies.
Also, they are a most beneficial insect, especially to Cricket Frogs, who feed on Water Lily Planthoppers almost exclusively. I learned this interesting information by reading a most instructive site from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, which my readers can visit too by clicking here.