Thursday, March 14, 2013

Big Pool on the Big Elk

A big pool of the Big Elk extends before me, and I’m sure it holds tons of fish in the summer. I have never snorkeled here though because it usually holds tons of swimmers. Swimming hole (wild) swimming is an awesome activity and I am always encouraged to see people enjoying their rivers and streams, connecting with these amazing waters that seem to have their own personalities. Sure there are times I wish I had these prime spots to myself with water that wasn’t filled with stirred bottom sands and sediment and unspooked fish. But people connecting with the river is more important to me than my snorkeling pleasure. But the last few weeks of winter present an excellent opportunity to scout warmer weather snorkeling destinations, and this large deep pool has been on my hit list for a while, so I took advantage of the 35 degree day, with few people out on the river to slip into this pool to have a look around. I drift over folds of bedrock that reach up from the bottom. A medium sized carp darts from the protection of one of the bedrock prongs back upstream and startles me more than I startle it. Awful nimble and fast for a fish that is often characterized as sluggish and fat. I just can’t respond as agilely or gracefully, and all I can produce is a gasp. There is a jumble of boulders on the downstream end, that look like the remnants of a small riverside avalanche that obstruct the river and are partially responsible for the formation of this pool. The rock fall is on the outside bend of the river so the water here moves faster than on the inside of the bend and I quickly drift over the pile. The river shallows and quickens. I notice a shape that is different from the soft algae covered edges of the rocks on the bottom and spin around to see a crayfish out foraging. I try to hold my position to check out the crayfish but the force of the water is deceiving, and I get sucked through a gap in the rocks where the entire volume of the river drains through a 4 foot wide by 2 foot deep opening and pours me into the next pool. My shin bounces off a rock, and my knee strikes another, but I float out safely, completely energized, saying ‘do it again’. The habitat in this stretch of river is extremely diverse which should mean a diverse assemblage of fish in the summer, and I make plans to come back and visit, swimmers or not. Maybe I’ll bring a few extra sets of snorkeling gear for them to use, so they can also explore the big pool on the Big Elk.

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