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Stories from the valley

Exploring the American River, Part Two

Contributed by Lewis Kemper

It is great to have the rains come back on what for now is a regular basis. The rains are so important here in the central valley that every drop of water is welcome, even if it means missing a kayaking or photographing morning. It rained the day after Thanksgiving, but Saturday was overcast and rain free, so I headed down to the river.

It was one of those magical days. Before I even got my kayak in the water, I had seen a coyote, deer, a Snowy Egret and a Red-shouldered Hawk! I was curious as to what else I would find this day. Shortly after launching I came across a beaver, on the bank of the river eating vegetation. He was a very cooperative subject, letting me get within 15 feet of it, as it was busy munching away. I took several pictures before leaving it finish its meal in peace. As is my habit, I thanked it for being so cooperative, as I turned to paddle downstream.

As I turned from the beaver, I spotted one of the biggest bucks I had ever seen here, on the shore to my left. I paddled over there as quickly as I could, and the buck turned to check me out. Sitting a water level, below the deer, made him look even larger! He walked to edge of the peninsula and swam across the river to the island, the opposite route of the deer I watched on Thanksgiving.

Birds are the most common animals I see along the river, and today was no different. Fall and winter are the months when a lot of migrating birds come to the river. You can always tell when winter is coming with the arrival of Common Goldeneye, a small duck. Today I spotted several groups of new arrivals. I also saw Greater Yellowlegs, a wading bird; Great Blue Heron; and a juvenile Spotted Sandpiper, a small shorebird.

As I headed back to my put in/take out location I again came upon the same beaver munching away in the same location. I guess the food source was good there! I paused for a few more images and once again thanked the beaver before moving on. As I was walking home, I came across the same coyote in the same spot as I had seen on my way to the river two hours earlier. It was just waking up, and it stood, stretched, yawned and glanced my direction before wandering off into the bush. I thought about how lucky I had been, and I too wandered off.