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HomeNL-2012-07 Spring Fling

Spring Fling 2012
June 9th, 2012
by Joe Coker

Trip Leader: Joe Coker

Participants: Belinda Bracht, Mike Powell, Dave Caddy, Dwight Luedke, Forrest Dunn, Tim Garber, Amy Garber, Tom Howard, Brian McKenna, Philip Matticks, Tisha Matticks, Sondra Fabian, Bob Naeger, John Rich, Joe Coker

   Route map   Put-in
This event marked the third annual Spring Fling on Lake Charlotte. It was arguably the best yet!  We had a great group, great weather and saw lots of great wildlife.  Everyone gathered at Cedar Hill Park on the North shore, and our 14-boat flotilla was underway before 10:00am… the plan for the day being the Mac Bayou/Mac Lake route with a picnic on the Trinity River sandbar… approximately 11 miles roundtrip.  After last minute weather concerns, conditions turned out to be perfect: air temp 89 degrees, water temp 89 degrees, mostly sunny, east wind at 5 mph, gauge height 8.3 ft.

Across Lake Charlotte
to Mac Bayou
The first leg was a quick paddle due west over to the Mac Bayou entrance.  Sand Island looked bigger than ever… perhaps due to the thick stand of young willows which now completely covers it.  As usual, a lone sentinel gator stood guard on the right hand point.  As the group huddled up, he finally slipped into the water but briefly swam in our direction as if to request our passports.  The narrow channel around the back of the island has been dubbed Gator Alley… a prominent breeding area to be traversed with care… if at all!  The larger gators frequently guarding passage slightly further into the Bayou were nowhere to be seen… perhaps watching from below!

 Old Guard    Mac Bayou

  Sulfur Cut
From there we proceeded up the bayou and out to the Sulfur Cut where we lingered for quite some time enjoying the serenity of this pretty lagoon. We searched for young gators often seen basking in the willows but didn’t see any.  Also out of sight were the mamas and papas frequently seen out there… some of the largest in the Lake Charlotte area!  Not a good place to swim!

Sulfur Cut gator    Another Sulfur Cut gator

2012 Eroded sandbar   2010 sandbar  
With stomachs beginning to growl, we then headed for our lunch spot at the sandbar out on the Trinity. Surprisingly, it was almost completely eroded away. The attached pics show the difference compared to a previous visit back in 2010. Still we found room to picnic on the shore and back in the shade.  Everyone enjoyed a welcome swim in the cool water. Other special treats out there were the butterflies in the willows and an amazing Cottonwood Borer Beatle (one of the largest bugs in North America). The damage these beetles can cause to the tree bark with their powerful jaws was clearly evident. Their multi-jointed legs looked interestingly robotic!
Mike's siesta    Sondra & Belinda    Sandbar shade

Sandbar swim    Butterflies    Cottonwood borer

  Secret cut
The next part of the trip took us up the continuation of Mac Bayou and on into Mac Lake. On the way, we ducked into “Secret Cut”… a very biologically active area due to its seclusion.  An interesting group of “Knee People” guard the entrance.  Reddish tips on the cypress knees show new growth.  Young gar skittered across the water surface, several large herons followed our progress from their perches, and wasp nests hung from the branches close overhead. A little further up the bayou, on the right and very close to the main channel is an active rookery… mainly egrets and small herons.  We heard the cacophony well before actually seeing the activity.  A short, duckweed-covered pathway leads to a great viewing spot from which we were able to watch and zoom in our cameras without disturbing.
Knee people    New knee growth    Wasp nest

Rookery &
   Rookery    Belinda & Mike    Baby Egrets

Mac Lake  
Slightly further on, the bayou opens out into Mac Lake… beautiful and pristine as usual… one of the most remote accessible areas in the basin.  With plenty of water, we were able to paddle all the way to the top end.  A number of inquisitive explorers then ventured into the entry cut in the right corner. Usually pretty obstructed, it was clear enough this time to paddle up about half a mile.  Interestingly, it opened up into an area large enough to get lost in… which we temporarily did!  A little bushwhacking would have enabled going substantially further.  John and I were tempted… always fun to go where no one has gone before. Time was getting short though, so we decided to keep that for another day.  Rejoining the rest of the group on the main body of the lake, we began retracing the trail towards home, making another brief stop at the rookery on the way.

Mac Lake Cut    Lilies      Mac Bayou
homeward bound

With no current on the bayou, only a light breeze and calm water, we made good time and dragged our weary bodies ashore by about 3:30.  After loading up, we made short work of a pile of watermelon and relaxed with welcome cold drinks in hand… celebrating yet another great Charlotte adventure!

Thanks to everyone for coming along and a special thanks to John for running sweep.  Stay tuned for a birding trip to Buzzard Point and Bird Island in early July.

Photos courtesy of Joe Coker and John Rich.

 Vice Commodore,
Joe Coker