Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Hudson Shores Transformed

All summer long I've been longing to be back on my favorite stretch of the Hudson River below the Spier Falls Dam.  At last my shattered kneecap has become strong and flexible enough to lift me into and out of my canoe, and just look at the gorgeous paddling weather we had this past week!  I couldn't wait to get back on the river! But when I arrived at the spot on the shore where I normally launch, I discovered I couldn't get to the water.  The river has been lowered the last month or so while workers repair a water-control structure,  and the shoreline revealed was just too muddy to walk across.  I would sink to my shins in muck before I could reach boat-floating water.

All I could do was stand and gaze at the beauty of river, forest, mountains, and sky -- and the sight of a row of Canada Geese arrayed along a boulder, perfectly reflected in the still water.  Serene!

But then I wondered that if I drove along the river, perhaps I could find a firmer shore for a launching site.  So I headed upstream, stopping to gaze at the little group of islands whose now-extended shorelines I longed to explore.

It wasn't far upstream from these islands I did find a firmer shore for launching, and soon I was joyfully seated in my boat and sailing along under a radiant blue sky.

I soon reached the little islands and climbed out of my boat to walk broad stretches of shoreline that used to be river bottom, now covered with glowing green plants.

The major source of all that glowing greenery was a pretty little yellow-trumpeted plant called Golden Pert (Gratiola aurea).  Even in times of high water on the river, we find this plant lining the shore with beautiful bloom, but it also carpets vast stretches of river bottom, not blooming while deeply underwater, but ready to burst into bloom as soon as it becomes exposed to sunlight and air.

Punctuating those carpets of mossy green were the little white dots of Pipewort, a plant that usually grows in standing water.

Higher up toward the edge of the woods I found masses of  Marsh St. Johnswort, their seed capsules turned a beautiful ruby red.

A few scattered plants of Sneezeweed added their bursts of brilliant yellow.

I searched out a stand of Yellow Loosestrife I remembered blooming early in summer, and I found the stalks lined with little red bulbils.  These small vegetating growths will fall off and drop to the mud, where they will produce new plants.  Under normal conditions, many of the bulbils would be carried away by the river's current to be deposited elsewhere downstream.  This year, I guess they will all stay home.  It will be interesting to return next summer to see how this patch of Yellow Loosestrife (also called Swamp Candles) has expanded.

I kept searching the mudflats around the islands, hoping to find the feathery leaves of Mermaid Weed, a mud-loving plant I found at this site for the first time last year (when this photo was taken).  Alas, it was nowhere to be found.  Perhaps it needs to have its feet in standing water, which was certainly lacking this summer.

Ah well, at least I was rewarded by the glorious sight of brilliant red Winterberry fruits arrayed against a sapphire-blue sky.

On my way home along Spier Falls Road, I passed by the Spier Falls Dam and was surprised to see plumes of thundering water spilling from the dam.  I read in the newspaper later that the river will now be filled to normal levels.  Wonderful news!  I look forward to paddling those quiet coves again, but it was certainly fascinating to explore their exposed banks while the water was low.


Uta said...

As usual, I am amazed at the pictures that you are showing. I look for your new adventure every day. Glad you are feeling better and can enjoy our great outdoors.

catharus said...

It's great to see you getting out more, again. 'Always enjoy your shared adventures! Blessings!

Trish Foster said...

Glad you're back out on the water. What a special time to access that area!