People who love to hike, camp, and float also love seeing animals in the wild. It’s true for Shannon and me. As long as they don’t want to eat us or inflict pain….. the more the merrier! Shannon has been studying birds for years and is able to identify them 99% of the time with impressive accuracy. This pairs nicely with his supersonic vision, which has also proven to be highly accurate. It is very handy if you’re me and are interested but inhabit neither of those qualities. Without him I’d never have seen the bald eagles, wood ducks ( mother and babies!) Little green Herons, and multitudes of others. I was, however, able to spot a flock of turkey vultures in a tree, looking intimidating….
When we got going on day 2, before we’d gotten in our boats, Shannon spotted and pointed out “ something furry “making its way across to the other side. We figured it was some kind of water rat/ nutria. Once we loaded up and floated over to where it had settled on a log, and after many wrong guesses between us, we were thrilled to find 2 River otters! They were shy, and when we got within photo range, they disappeared from the log into the water, and we spent some time trying to keep up with them on the bank, underwater, behind a log, on the bank again…. They played hide and seek with us for a solid 10 minutes but as it was my first time to experience river otters in the wild, I felt like I’d won the grand prize!
We had another beautiful float day on the 2nd day, more fishing, and much more wildlife this day than any other. We assumed it was because it’s a less popular section to float, and less people overall?
Our 2nd night campsite was our favorite of the 3. Partly because of the close proximity to the boats, partly because of the beauty and the excellent swimming in that spot, but mostly due to witnessing one of the coolest events we’ve ever seen….
Once we’d finished dinner, and the sun started setting, we laid down on the sand again to wait for the stars and Starlink satellites to re-appear. Shannon, with his keen eye and knowledge of things that fly, pointed out that there were bats flying over our heads, one after the other. What was unusual, was the flight pattern, which seemed to be a strait line. Usually these insect bats fly in a twisty crazy pattern, as they hunt for mosquitoes and insects. What we realized as we started seeing hundreds of them come from the same direction, was that we were probably in front of a hidden cave or overhang. The bats were just waking up . Someone had punched the bat time lock to signal the workday had started! We watched them emerge from their bat lair for about 30 minutes to an hour, until full dark. It was one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. Hundreds of them one after another. This, followed by a clear, star-covered, unforgettable night on the Buffalo River.
Shannon woke me up early the next morning to see an incredible sunrise over the river. There’s no comparison to the beauty of one in the wilderness. I wish I’d bothered to get a photo. We fell back asleep for a bit until the heat from the sun nudged us out. As we started packing up camp, I was startled to find my boat had been occupied overnight by an army of wolf spiders. Their leader, was as big as my hand. I know better than to fear or harm them, but it wasn’t my favorite wildlife. Especially as it appeared before I’d even had coffee. Just sayin’
Unfortunately i don’t have a photo of the bald eagles. Or of the wood ducks and babies. Trying to keep an iPhone dry, and trying to take photos from a waterproof plastic phone case with condensation is not the quickest, easiest photography method.
There are several sections of rapids on the lower section of the Buffalo River, but one rather large and tricky one just past Rush Landing. We were advised by the staff at Wild Bills to pull over to the opposite side at Rush Landing to review the rapid, which has a sharp turn to River left at the bottom. So that’s exactly what we did. We stopped, and tied down all of our gear and equipment in preparation for capsize. Then, we walked to a hill on the bank and watched a few boats run it, fully expecting to see them crash and burn. We saw a few boats falter, but they all stayed upright. We had a good vantage point to formulate the running plan, and we did it without any problems at all!
The other wildlife we encountered, was a group of about 20-30 people in what we witnessed as a parade of boats. It was difficult to figure out what kind of a group they were because they were all different ages, all different types of boats- (everything from whitewater boats to kayaks to canoes, ) and when we passed their enormous campsite one morning, it didn’t look like they were camping together like a family or church group would. No guesses or ideas we came up with seemed to fit.
So I’ll leave you guessing for a day or two also. But in part 3 of The Buffalo River, coming up next I promise to divulge everything we learned about them!