Sunday, May 12, 2013

Spring Walk Swans, Dams and Canoes

Winter ice disappears first where Marsh Lake empties into the Fifty Mile River. The arrival of migrating swans and ducks on these open waters are the among the first signs of a Yukon spring.

Our group chose this place for our early May hike. We start pas the Marsh Lake Dam. First built in the early 1920s, the dam held back water through the winter. In May the water was released to raise the water level for the river boats heading north and to help breakup and flush the ice out of Lake Laberge. Now the rebuilt dam, on the same site, serves the hydro electric plant at Whitehorse by holding back water during the summer and releasing it through the winter to maintain power production during the peak demands of winter. I am currently researching the environmental consequences of the dam and its changing functions.

 From the high bank of the river we look down on snoozing swans. On our return later in the day they were in the water, feeding, and pondering the possibilities of heading further north.

Other birds have also returned. A pair of nesting eagles took turns on the nest but also had a couple of brief episodes of aerial cavorting together during the shift change.

From the trail we had a splendid view of the east side of Grey Mountain. The early clearing of the river also attracts paddlers who are keen to begin training for the annual Yukon River Quest, the epic 715 km canoe race from Whitehorse to Dawson in late June.

Our turn around point was a lovely sunny riverside campsite. We sat on the dried and warm ground, a change from the winter for sure, and day dreamed an evening hike and a supper at this idyllic location.

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