Riverkeeper nearly drowns

Published 12:38 pm Saturday, October 14, 2017

Spirit of Moonpie, Freezing Deer and I spent the 6th through the 7th on the Blackwater below Franklin. Air temps ranged from 59 to 83 degrees. The river was 71 degrees, stagnant but clear and low.

Trash was not too bad; we picked up about a half a bag full.

Moonpie Critter Patrol of special note this trip were the ducks. We saw a lot of wood ducks for some reason. We also saw a bald eagle, which is always nice.

We also had a bit of extra entertainment this trip that was fun to watch. There was a crop duster flying all over the river on Friday. I guess it was spraying cotton. It was neat watching it dive and turn sharply on its strafing runs at the fields. I wish I could have directed it to spray its defoliant on a target that is growing on the river. Unfortunately, right there at the high power lines behind the Pretlow Farm, alternanthera philoxeroides has been discovered. Alligator weed is an invasive plant species originally from South America. It is a river-killing plant that can literally choke the life out of a waterway. It is very bad news. I am hoping the state can and will do something to try to kill it while it is in a fairly contained area right now. If it is not it will spread to the Nottoway eventually. We will see.

The fishing was terrible this trip, I struggled to even catch bream for catfish bait and we didn’t catch any of those either. It was very pleasant weather though I must say for that ONE day we were out there. Yes, really one day. This was Freezing Deer’s once-a-year three-day river trip she accompanies me on. It was supposed to be a gorgeous weekend, so the weathermen said. Well, guess what? Somewhere along the way the weather forecasters didn’t get the memo that it was not going to be a great weekend. About 3 a.m. Saturday I heard the dreaded sound of rain on my tent. Normally that would not bother me if I were on land because I use a whole different tent rig there. On the pontoon boat, however, we use these things called tent cots. They are not waterproof and that does not usually matter ‘cause we don’t go when it’s supposed to RAIN! When I’m out there by myself I’m usually under the pontoon boat’s canopy, but when Freezing Deer goes I have to set up on the front deck of the boat. That’s never a problem because we don’t go when the forecast is for RAIN! Anyway, rain it did, and it rained and rained and rained, and I thought I was gonna drown right inside my tent. On top of that I got up during the RAIN, and in trying to get some cover on my tent fell and busted my tail, sprained my only good hand and took a kidney hit. So not a good night for me.

After the sun come up that morning we took inventory of the damage. Freezing Deer thought we should just pack it in, but I was ready to try and dry out my sleeping bag and other now soggy equipment. Reluctantly, I capitulated and we packed it in. Man, am I glad we did. We hadn’t been home an hour when it started raining again, and it rained and rained some more. I really hated that the weather turned and Freezing Deer did not get the full trip, even though she said one night was ‘bout enough for her anyway.

Who knows, maybe the river spirits did us a favor. Maybe they saved our lives by going in early, maybe they saved us from being eaten by a invasive plant species. Maybe they just know what’s best for us unwary travelers on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.