St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Up the Creek with a Paddle or Turtle Heaven

Scott took a late evening kayak paddle across Orr Lake and up the small creek coming into it from the north yesterday.  After a few recent rains and some beaver activity at the culvert, the lake is high enough to get several hundred yards up the tiny stream, a winding channel choked with floating bogs, down trees, tag alders and tussocks of grass.  
Just into the channel looking south back to Orr lake at the cabin in NW Wisconsin.  Some years ago the lake was filled with carp and each summer turned peasoup green as they churned up the bottom and ate the vegetation.  Then two different years, a few apart, the lake froze out -- primarily just carp.  The first year they littered the shoreline and attracted 14 bald eagles and dozens of other scavengers eating 1000s of dead carp -- some very large along the shoreline.    A few years later another freeze out seems to have gotten the rest of the carp.  Now the lake is clear all summer and had a lot of natural underwater weed growth.  My unproven theory is that the freezeouts came on those years the beaver managed to plug the culvert just before freezeup, flooding the lake over the shoreline and creating more dead vegetation that rotted and took away oxygen.   In both of these freezeouts, very few fish other than carp died.  However the lake is not a very popular fishing lake as action is slow and small northerns, panfish, turtles and some bass are reluctant to bite most of the time. 
As kids, we fished the lake from our own shoreline and with the old 12 foot Sears Jonboat.  With turtles and bullheads taking most of our bait, it was not our favorite fishing hole. 

He took along his camera and so we can paddle along with him up stream.   He was looking for the trumpeter swans -- who he thought were nesting upstream in a previous visit.  They weren't.  He mistook an old beaver lodge for their nest.  Likely an immature pair planning a future nest.  Over the many years since trumpeter swans were reintroduced to Wisconsin through Crex Meadows, Orr Lake has often been the site of trumpeter nests and cygnets.  The very first year the swans raised in captivity and released to the wild nested, one of the nine pairs chose Orr Lake as their home.  

There were old and new beaver houses.  This spring the beaver have been trying to plug the culvert on the road to the south where Orr Creek trickles down to Wolf Creek.  The town crew worries about the road washing out so is not at all in favor of beavers who use the road for a dam.  The usual consequence of beavers using roads is a death sentence.  It may have occurred already as there appears to be no fresh beaver activity

Some areas the channel broadens and other it narrows to barely kayakable.  The stream comes from the big swamps along Hwy 87 just south of the Burnett-Polk County line.  There on Hwy 87 is the divide between the Trade River basin on the north side of the ridge and the Wolf Creek basin on the south side.  

These giant snappers are probably the reason for the rumor of the "Orr Lake Monster."   The clawed foot raised in passion!