Hatchery:Scott Bay, Maxton Bay Marshes, Potagannissing River and Wildlife Flooding
By Dean Sandell
Parking and launching:Any Resort along Tourist Road, Mouth of Potagannissing River or Scott Bay
Distance one way:Various routes, 1-7 miles
For quiet water paddling and wildlife observation, the Hatchery is a fine choice for paddling.While there is some open water fetch, these areas are mostly sheltered.Because of the more sheltered character of the marshes, the river mouth and the nature of the flooded setting, short wide kayak users, as well as sea kayakers and canoe paddlers, will find the Hatchery a comfortable paddle.
Scott Bay is protected by Peck Island, Rutland Island and James Island.It is rather shallow, and an outstanding location for birding from a canoe or kayak.Each season would have its own special characteristics, providing a reason to return in different times of the year. The weather from mid-July to early/mid-September is relatively stable with stationary high barometric pressure days and nights.This is a time when the winds are generally light and predictable.Breezes tend to build in the morning round 10:00 AM and wane after 4:00 PM.This is a great place to take it slow and identify the abundant wetland wildflowers, insects, butterflies, birds, waterfowl, and fish.Overhead sea gulls, terns, osprey and perhaps an eagle will soar in the air currents for your viewing pleasure.Sunsets here are absolutely beautiful with water, islands, and sky, filling your camera lens with delight.
Photo by B. Bosco
Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding
Parking and launching:Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding (see directions below).
Distance one way:From parking lot to back end of Second Lake3.5 miles
Among the cattails, at the far eastern end of Maxton Bay is the mouth of the Potagannissing River.A short distance up stream from the mouth of the river is Maxton Road.And a little further is the Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding.The best way to experience the quiet water of the ‘Flooding’ is to drive north on Maxton Road and just after crossing the Potagannissing River and past the farm on the right, start watching for a road to the right called, Dam Road, and signed as ‘Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding’.Take this road ½ mile to the dam site access and parking area to launch.
Inland paddling in quiet water of the Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding is a great setting to see and experience a wide variety of feathered and fur bearing wildlife up close.Cylinder shaped nesting structures are found along the paddle route as you paddle into the flooding.The protected water and the open water paddling options provide ample opportunity to find great blue heron, eagle, osprey, migrating songbirds and waterfowl. Whitetail deer, river otter, beaver, muskrat, or mink may also be seen.There is an eagle nest hidden in the trees close to the parking lot at the entrance to First lake on the south side.
Eagle and osprey are often seen plying the sky in search of a meal.It is the sand hill crane that can really give you a sense of another time and place.When resting, these long legged, long necked and big billed birds can wrap themselves up into a ball. They appear to be reddish brown boulders cast out across the landscape.But when the cranes are aroused, they unwrap to reveal their long legs, long neck and oversized bill.
Photo by D. Sandell
These birds have some size to be sure, and when they strut, jump and dance, it is a sight to see.In flight, sand hill cranes are graceful and beautiful to watch.While in flight, they are essentially silent, but when they begin to call, the experience can take on the sound and feel of what could be called prehistoric in character.The sound is more raucous than a murder of crows.Some have said, ‘it sounds like extinct flying reptiles of Jurassic Park’.In any case, watch for these magnificent birds in the flooding.To see and hear them is a treat.
The ‘Flooding’ is a chain of lakes. created by the construction of a dam, for the benefit of wildlife.Over time, beaver added dams and lodges to the landscape to create a magnificent, complex, wildlife setting.The several beaver dams that snake across the flooding are huge.The beaver dams had breached, so instead of portaging the dams, paddlers can glide through the breaches.
While paddling through the dams is easy, it is humbling to imagine the animal work that was done to build the dams.As you make your way up stream, paddlers will find a number of beaver lodges.The scale of the lodges will vary from a few feet in diameter to a length to two times (2X) the length of a sea kayak and at least 2X the height of a kayaker sitting in a kayak.The lodges are amazing structures to view.One can imagine what the early fur traders found in their historic travels.This brings up the recollection that beaver and other fur bearing animals were a principal reason for the exploration and settlement of the region by Europeans, starting from the mid 1500s and perhaps thousands of years before that by the Native People.
It is a challenging paddle to visit the terminal reaches of the ‘Flooding’, certainly more than a day-paddle.Never-the-less, First and Second Lakes are doable as a day trip with a packed lunch, compass, a good map and a sense of adventure.
In the past summer, I had a great paddle in the Flooding with two fellow paddlers. I was the third kayaker in a group of three in the backwaters of the Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding.I was setting up a photograph, as the others pulled ahead of me.I heard a rustling along the shoreline ahead of my position and behind the other two kayakers.Much to my delight, a black bear nosed its way to streamside and looked away from me toward the other paddlers.
The bear paid no mind to me and began to swim to the opposite shore.By this time I was thinking, “I can paddle faster than the bear; I’m going to paddle closer and get a great photograph!”One stroke, then another, then ‘bang’, as my paddle hit the side of my kayak.The bear responded with deliberated speed.The bear was creating a bow-wake in front with its nose.Frankly, I don’t believe I could paddle faster than the bear was swimming.That creature was awesome.I did get the picture, but from a ‘safe distance’.Salmon and bear as seen and experienced while kayaking in and around Drummond Island; what fun.I’m still delighted by the photograph and with the experience.