Friday, August 21, 2009

Kayaking the Little Nestucca

I signed up for a kayaking tour of the Little Nestucca River Estuary near the town of Pacific City, OR through the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. The river travels through the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge between two shores that see little contact with man and teem with a rich variety bird and animal life. Our guide was Cheryl from Kayak Tillamook County who is also a volunteer for a local animal rescue agency, and she generously shared her rich knowledge of local terrain and wildlife as we paddled the river.

We put into the river just above the Highway 101 bridge - 8 of us in all, including Cheryl, and all of us eager to explore the river. After a bit of instruction on how to handle our sea kayaks (this was my first time in the narrower, less stable seagoing kayak), we launched into the cold, clear water and began our tour. While inland Portland was near 90 degrees, we were rewarded with perfect sunny weather.

The tide was coming in as we launched and we had to paddle hard to maintain our momentum towards the mouth of the river so we savored moments like these to rest a bit and take in the amazing amount of bird life in the tree canopy. Unfortunately, the constant need to paddle restricted the amount of photos that could be taken. And there were so many sights I would liked to have preserved. The osprey that caught a bit of lunch and took to the tree in front of me only to have a crow land beside it and try to steal the fish from the osprey's talons. The crow was rewarded with a swift peck from the crow, who flew a short distance away and watched for a second chance to steal the fish away.

Then there were the kingfishers whose harsh cry and beautiful plumage filled the air with movement. There were so many great blue heron, three and four in a tree. So graceful in the air, but more amazing to watch their landings in the trees that are not made for their size and long legs. Then there was the bald eagle that flew out of a tree directly in front of me; so close I could see the detail of each feather. The small peeping sanderlings poked among the rocks and grass on the shore, while great breasted cormorants swam in still water. The sand flats provided a resting ground for dusky canadian geese, the species actively protected by the refuge. As we stared in awe at the varied bird life in the trees, a harbor seal watched us silently from the water, never showing us more than the tip of his head and a large brown eye.

As we neared the mouth of the river, we stopped for lunch on a sand spit and we had an opportunity to get out and do a little exploration.

From the edge of the clear cold water, we could see a multitude of sealife in the brackish bay water. Sea lettuce that waved in the current.

Small "jellies" (no longer called jellyfish officially per our guide), swam in profusion within the bay.
We found this larger jelly fish among the plant life waitng for food to come its way.

The sand on the shore is held in place by various grasses with beautiful seed heads

In the distance you could see the spray from the Pacific Ocean where the river met the sea.

Deer tracks crisscrossed the sand along the beach.

and the skies were a beautiful blue with clouds that I hoped signaled the end of a very hot stretch of weather.
Small shells formed wings in the sand. Feathers and a bone evidence the life cycles that are part of the local ecology.

Once the tide turned, we headed back towards the highway, once again battling the tide.

On the way back, a deer and a fawn grazed on the shore, barely perturbed by our presence, as we paddled towards shore to have a better look at her. Suddenly, the fog began to over take us.

It did not take long to feel the cold tendrils of the fog clouds seep into our bones and I was glad for the warmth the paddling generated to stay warm.

We stopped and paddle into a backwater, overhung with trees and the weathered stump of a large Sitka spruce tree.

Near the bridge over the highway, the wreck of an old boat gives testament to the ferocity of local storm and the ability of ocean tides to carry something this large and heavy so far inland.

All too soon, we returned and the day came to a reluctant end. Although the paddling was hard, the reward was more than worth the effort.

The blackberries are still in bloom here where it is cooler.

The whole of life lies in the verb, seeing.
Teilhard de Chardin


Tory Brokenshire said...

Beautiful Jan I'm so happy you did this, I love how you take on life.

Mary lin Huskamp said...

Awesome pics! What a marvelous way to spend time with friends. Thank you for sharing!