While planning a visit to my grandparent’s-in-law dairy farm, I couldn’t help but note the weather was perfect for paddling. Rather than mourn the loss of a paddling day, I investigated the aerial photos and found several small prairie ponds that might be feasible to paddle near the farm.
After a visit at the farm, I went to explore the ponds. The first pond was not close enough to the public road to access without entering onto private land. Plus the shoreline was very marshy and looked challenging to launch from in any case.
Not expecting to find much better, I investigated the next pond on my list. This pond was more of an extensive wetland, also with very marshy shores. However, the road had been constructed right through the wetland complex, so a launch from the roadside was feasible — although the water was very shallow along the shoreline and would likely involve some mucky wading. Plus the wind was picking up and the wetland was very open, causing moderate waves to build up.
Checking the third and last pond was worth it — I found a hidden treasure, and when I least expected it. The pond was accessible from the road and surrounded by tall trees that blocked much of the wind. The water was quite deep considering the size of the pond. Some fill had been placed into the lake providing a launch site where I could keep my feet out of the muck.
The weather was ideal, +16 C and sunny – and no bugs out yet. The air was fresh with the intoxicating scent of new leaves budding out on the trembling aspen and balsam poplar trees surrounding the pond, in addition to the occasional spruce.
Unlike the other marshes, this pond was reasonably deep along the shore, about 1 to 2 feet depth, increasing to maybe 6 to 8 feet in the center.
I was surrounded by a plethora of wildlife including muskrat, red and yellow winged blackbirds, ducks, grebes, geese and a hawk swooping at me to guard a nest in one of the poplar trees.
One of the highlights was seeing the entire pond filled with hundreds of mating freshwater shrimp-like crustaceans. My photos were not adequate to later identify them, but I learned their presence indicates the lack of fish in the pond (fish winter kill due to shallow depth). I also learned that some species of the crustaceans can live in very saline prairie lakes, some saltier than the ocean.
I was on the pond from 4 to 6 p.m., paddling around most of the perimeter. Back at the take-out I took some time to fill several bags with garbage left by local partiers. This is a local treasure to be cared for, and as such I won’t be disclosing the location.