The saving grace of jet skiers and other power boaters is that they tend to sleep late. That habit provides an opportunity for those of us affected with the “get-up-early” syndrome a chance to enjoy our lake in relative peace and quiet. Yes, there is an occasional bass boat speeding by, but fishermen tend to have someplace to go so the interruption of peace and quiet is temporary. So on a Sunday morning in late August, I found myself pulling my kayak off of the red truck at 6:38 a.m. The sun made itself just barely visible on the east horizon. The temperature was slightly cool and there was just a bit of a breeze. But it was clearly going to be a hot, muggy day. In this unusually cool August, real summer had finally arrived in the Ozarks. I should have been here 45 minutes earlier, I thought to myself. There may be two or three hours of tolerable temperature before the heat sets in for the day. Ah well, one of the benefits of the get-up-early syndrome is getting to take advantage of these two or three hours of coolness.
The next thing I know, the kayak and I head off to the west, for “it” seems to know where it wants to go. As for me, I am just going along to see what happens and to provide the power. The wind is in our face but the kayak can slip under most of it. The water is unusually clear for this area of Beaver Lake. I attributed that to the season. August is in a period that limnologists, a.k.a. lake scientists, call the clear zone. During springtime and into early summer, there is a bloom of diatoms. Diatoms are algae that form little glassy shells out of silica. They like the cooler temperatures and a bit of sediment in their water. As summer progresses, the diatoms start to die off. During late summer, shortly after Labor Day, blue-green algae start to bloom. Blue-greens are the ones that cause the earthy taste and odor that we experience here in northwest Arkansas each fall in our drinking water. In between these blooms, there may be a small bloom of green algae, but usually the algae are less abundant, which leads to clearer water.
After 10 minutes or so the two of us, the kayak and I, turn into Friendship Creek cove. Off to the right almost out of earshot, the pumps at Beaver Water District’s intake are humming. There are some birds chirping. Other than that, there isn’t much noise at all. Up ahead something is swimming across the cove. At first glance it looked like a snake, but as we drew closer together it became clear that it was a beaver. At about 10 boat-lengths distance, the beaver spooked, slapped its tail on the water and dove. He must have been 5 to 6 feet from head to tail. I make a mental note of the beaver. Beaver waste is a significant source of giardia and cryptosporidium, two parasitic protozoans. Protozoa are mobile, one-cell animals, many of which can infect humans and cause severe gastrointestinal illness. Giardia and cryptosporidium form chlorine resistant cysts and therefore are difficult to kill. EPA regulations require water suppliers to step up their treatment process when the cysts are found in their source water.
The kayak carries me on back into Friendship Creek cove. The hills block the wind and everything is calm. The only noise is the call of a pileated woodpecker. I catch a glimpse of it as it flies back into the wooded shoreline. Pileated woodpeckers are the great big ones that look like the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. Back when I was a Boy Scout, our scoutmaster referred to pileated woodpeckers as “Good Lord” birds. That was because when you see one, your first words are always “Good Lord, look at that bird.” Pileated woodpeckers eat insects, mostly carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larva and can help keep those pests in check. Interestingly, they also eat the berries of poison ivy.
At some point in a trip, a decision has to be made whether to focus on the macro or the micro. Friendship Creek is one of the best places on Beaver Lake to focus on the micro. The entire south shore is lined with a bluff that ranges from maybe 15 to 30 feet high. It is a fractured rock with lots of crevices, caves, and at least one natural bridge. The interaction of light, water and rock makes fascinating patterns. Then there are the wildflowers growing on nooks and crannies on the bluff. This Sunday, goldenrod is starting to bloom. The kayak pulled in close to the rock so I could examine what was there.
From the amount of rubble lying on any flat spot along the bluff, it is clear that these bluffs are active. Someday I may get a chance to see one of the rocks fall. It will be interesting so long as I am not watching from below. Last July, a bluff on Lake Whitney west of Fort Worth, Texas, crumbled taking a $700,000 house with it. The saying, “solid as a rock” may not apply in all cases.
With a mind of its own, the kayak continues its exploration on back into the cove. At one point, it sticks its nose into an especially large nook. A couple of years ago when the water was lower, Sharon and I paddled our canoe completely into this nook. The rising and falling of the water level in Beaver Lake is significant. Usually there is a 15 to 20 foot fluctuation during a year. I don’t know for sure, but I can speculate that the fluctuation has a huge impact on the rocks falling off of the bluff.
Good hunters and fisherpeople, in my opinion, are victims of the get-up-early syndrome. The best hunters and fisherpeople that I know really don’t care a lot about killing game or catching fish. They are there to commune with the outdoors. They have learned the value of slowly exploring a shoreline, or observing the woods. It is because of their good observational skills, they become good hunters and fisherpeople in the first place. Most of them try to be out at daybreak. Maybe it is a form of meditation, or maybe it’s just getting away from the crowd. Either way, this brief respite is a pleasant way to start the day.
It is now 8:45 a.m. The temperature is rising, and the kayak is riding the wind back toward the red truck. At the landing, I stop to take a look around. There are a couple dozen turkey vultures huddled around something down the shore a bit. Out on the lake, the first jet ski goes by. Breakfast is waiting. Time to go.