Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Maumee River Rapids

The mighty Maumee River in northwest Ohio, as seen in yesterday's wintry conditions. The Maumee forms in eastern Indiana, forged from the confluence of the St. Joseph and St. Marys rivers. From there, it flows 137 miles east-northeast to Lake Erie. The Maumee River forms the largest watershed in the Great Lakes drainage basin.

I was flattered to be invited to speak at the inaugural Kuebeck Nature Forum, sponsored by the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. The forum is a legacy of the late Dr. Edelbert Kuebeck, a great supporter of the environment. The talk was last night, attracted a large group, and we had a great time. I headed up a few hours early, to visit the Maumee River and see what I could see - a side trip that would have been heartily endorsed by Dr. Kuebeck, I am sure.

This spot is a famous locale in the annals of Ohio history. The rock in the center of the river, butting up to the abandoned bridge, is Roche de Bout (sometimes called Roche de Boeuf), a massive limestone chunk washed from the river's banks long ago. Native Americans used the rock as a landmark, and meeting place. Miamis, Shawnees, and other tribes held councils atop the rock.

Roche de Bout is a must-see if you're in the area, and it is accessible from Farnsworth Metropark, which is a Toledo Metropark holding. The site is on the upstream outskirts of Waterville.

Turning my camera the other direction, we're treated to this view. The Maumee is truly grand in scale, and much of the section of river between Waterville and Grand Rapids, about nine miles upstream, is full of shallow rocky rapids. Because of the turbulence, the water doesn't freeze and as a consequence the river is a wintertime birding hotspot. Plenty of Common Goldeneyes, Common and Red-breasted mergansers, Lesser Scaup and other hardy diving ducks were working the rapids.

This is the dam at the picturesque town of Grand Rapids. Plenty of ducks were working the downstream rapids, and a large group of gulls was loafing on the ice just upstream of the dam. This area often attracts gull species rare away from Lake Erie, such as Glaucous and Iceland gulls. In spring and fall migration, shorebirds often loaf and forage in the shallows, and riparian woodlands can be full of songbird migrants.

If you get the chance, explore the Maumee River rapids. It's certain to be an interesting trip, regardless of the season.

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