WiseAcre Gardens

north of the adirondacks – wildflowers & perennials that survive winters colder than my wife's feet

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Posted by WiseAcre on Mar 22nd, 2012

Barking Frog – Illustration by Jack Unruth

Mar 22

Every now and then I’m asked for permission to use one of my photos. This time the request was different. Instead of printing the photo I was asked if one of my photos could be used as a model for an illustration. This is the result:

Barking Frog – Illustration by Jack Unruh
Barking Frog - Illustration by Jack Unruh

I wanted to post the original photo with the drawing but both the illustrator and I deleted the original emails and I don’t have a clue which one it was. I know the photo used must be somewhere on the blog but thanks to my superior organization skills, I can’t find it. It is not in the frog category and I haven’t the patience to browse through 400 some posts. You’re welcome to try locating it.

Coincidentally, the day after I received the image the first frog of the year showed up in my pond. It’s incredibly early, frogs should still be hibernating under the frost line. But not this year, today was the 4th day in a row setting record high temps by double digits.

First Frog – March 21, 2012
first frog - March 21, 2012

OK, back to Jack.
I was given leave to post any illustrations from his web site that I wanted. I selected illustrations that could have been photographs I might have taken.

Jack Unruh – Illustrator

This looks like the woods I’m familiar with.

Some might say this is a mirror image of me.

This reminds me of the Adirondacks. Moose are moving back so it’s not out of the question.

I enjoy fishing so was drawn to Jack’s fish illustrations.
rainbow trout

A regular Snook

A loud mouth snook
loud mouth snook

This looks like a small one I caught.
big fish

I’m pretty sure you’ll find something you’ll like if you visit Jack Unruh – Illustrator

Posted by WiseAcre on Aug 29th, 2010


Aug 29

Another day canoeing on the Grasse River.
This time it was the section between Morley and Bucks Bridge. The trip starts out in shallow water riffles and there is always the chance of getting hung up on submerged boulders and rock ledges. By keeping to the north side of the river you can avoid most of the snares. A bedrock shelf extends out from the north (right) side. During periods of low water it lies exposed, today it was mostly submerged. You can just make out some debris stranded on the shelf where the water lever was only a couple inches deep.

Grasse River below Morley

It only takes a few minutes to run shallows (about 3/4 mile) in a canoe. This section is probably my favorite fishing spot in the county. It’s a great spot to wade and fish on a hot summer day, smallmouth bass like to hang out in the numerous ‘holes’. These pockets can be waist deep and the current can sweep you off your feet if you stumble into one but it’s oh so refreshing when it’s unbearably hot and humid. By the time both the river and I run out of current I can just manage to walk up the hill to home.

Near the end of the shallows is a limestone outcrop on the south (right) side and the location of my primary objective of the day. It might only be a mile from home and I may be a bit carried away when it comes to rocks but I’m not dumb enough to carry one that far. I are smart so I used my canoe to collect this beauty I discovered on the river bank.

rock in canoe

I’ve been collecting rocks and thinking about making some disappearing fountains. I’ll get into that another day.

After the shallow water riffles the river settles down. There’s 2 miles of flat water and a number of small islands before reaching sight of Bucks Bridge. I fished some on the way and caught a couple of smallmouth ‘keepers’ that I let go for another day. Hooking into bass over 15 inches is not an unusual experience in this section of river.

Grasse River between Morley and Bucks Bridge

The river bank is high and hides a beaver pond / swamp on the south side. Where the swamp drains to the river is a shallow area filled with pickerelweed. I usually catch both pickerel and northern pike here but today I just drifted by. A Great Blue Heron was stalking the shallows and I didn’t want to disturb it. I wanted photos of big blue.

Great Blue Heron

I was drifting slowly and quite a distance away but the heron noticed me right away.

Blue Heron wading

A couple of strides with those long legs and it was nearly hidden in the pickerelweed.

Great Blue Heron in Pickeralweed

My presence was too much to tolerate. With both of us in motion and the camera at full zoom I was surprised to capture the moment it took wing and get a half way decent photo.

Great Blue Heron taking off

The rest of the trip was pretty much uneventful. Another bass caught and released, a turtle diving for cover and a good slap by a beaver was all that interrupted the last part of the trip. (No I didn’t get slapped, beavers slap the water as a warning to others then dive out of sight)

The end in sight. Bucks Bridge

Bucks Bridge over the Grasse River

This is another section of shallow water riffles. Just before the bridge I got hung up and had to get my feet wet pulling the canoe to the takeout.

A Google map of the river section along County RT 14.

View Larger Map

Posted by WiseAcre on Aug 22nd, 2010

Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area

Aug 22

This WMA encompasses 8,781 acres of open water surrounded by marsh, shrub, swamp, and upland forest.

Starting on Saturday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 29 (2010) restricted wetland areas will be open to visitors. Generally these wetlands are off limits to the public in order to provide feeding and resting areas for migratory waterfowl. The DEC opens the area to the public for a brief period at this time of year because the nesting and brooding season is mainly over and the fall migration period has not yet begun.

Special areas included in the Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area include:

Bird Conservation Area

BCAs are New York State owned lands and waters designated to safeguard and enhance bird populations and protect their habitat.

map of Upper - Lower Lakes WMA
click map for a larger size
  Bird species of interest include:
Black tern (Endangered)
Pied-billed grebe (Threatened)
Least bittern (Threatened)
Northern harrier (Threatened)
Upland sandpiper (Threatened)
Sedge wren (Threatened)
American bittern (Special Concern)
Osprey (Special Concern)
Common loon (Special Concern)
Cerulean warbler (Special Concern)
Sharp-shinned hawk
Savannah sparrow
Eastern meadowlark
Marsh wren
Virginia rail
American woodcock
Common snipe
Magnolia warbler
Chestnut-sided warbler
Brown thrasher
Ring-necked duck
Wood duck

Indian Creek Nature Center

Open year round there are a number of trails available for hiking and X-country skiing on this 300-acre tract of upland and marsh. There is a pavilion and picnic area and a 900-foot boardwalk provides wheelchair access to a observation deck. Another trail leads to a raised observation tower overlooking Lower Lake.

map of the Indian Creek Nature Center

Boat Launch on the Grasse River

Suitable for small boats on trailers. From the launch site downstream 2 miles the water depths are 3 to 6 feet deep and a good spot to fish for Small Mouth Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike, Brown Bullhead and panfish. Muskies also lurk in this section of the river. After the flat-water stretch the river flows is a series of shallow riffles over bedrock and boulders. A canoe will have no problem finishing the remainder of the trip to Morley but it’s unwise for any motorized craft to attempt to make it. This 2 mile stretch, especially at Morley is a great place to wade and fish on a hot summer day.

Car Top Boat Launches

There are a number of canoe launches in the WMA (see map) but don’t go looking for a great canoeing adventure. What you see (on a map) isn’t exactly what you’ll find.

Let me explain.
Back in the days when commerce was centered on the rivers there used to be a natural ‘canal’ used to connect the Oswegatchie River by Rensselaer Falls to the Grasse River near the present day boat launch on Rt 68 about 3 miles downstream of Canton. I believe there isn’t much more than a foot of difference in the lay of the land. Today the water levels are managed to preserve stable habitat for water-fowl. While there may very well be water for the entire length of the area it proved impossible to find out by canoe. Dense vegetation blocks any attempt to pass from one lake to the next. While Lower Lake has easy access the other two lakes are nearly impossible to get to. Yep, no one mentions it but Middle Lake exists, at least on a map. I can’t confirm it though since I didn’t feel like hiking through the muck and water of emergent marsh to get there.

I figured to start at the canoe launch on the north side of the refuge. On the map it looked like a good access point at the lower tip of Upper Lake. I was hoping to find passage to the mysterious Middle Lake but all I found was a barricade of emergent plants.

Emergent marsh

  Canoe launch?

The boardwalk was actually a floating dock and it didn’t get any better at the end. There was water alright, but a sea of green vegetation was just waiting to engulf anyone who dared enter.

Arrowhear flowers - sagitteria latifolia   Sagitteria latifolia
All was not lost though. The dock offered a great platform to take a couple photos of Arrowhead flowers. I can now replace the old photos in my collection with something better.

Arrowhead leaf

It was a bit disturbing to see how much Frog-bit was growing in the marsh. Any open water besides the dock was overcrowded with this alien invader. The ‘pads’ look like a water lily’s but are tiny compared to the Fragrant Water Lily that also grows here. The leaves of the frog-bit are about the size of a nickel while the real lily pads I saw were over a foot across.

Frog-bit – Limnobium spongia
Frog-bit -

Anyhooo, this launch was a washout so I drove to the one at the upper end of the lake behind the ‘Headquarters’ building on RT 68.

It looked a lot more promising, I could actually see open water.

canoe launch - upper lake

BUT, the lake took a hard left that you can’t see in the photo and went a couple hundred feet before turning into another dead end. In the end I spent more time getting the canoe unloaded and back loaded than I did in it.

  nowhere to go

I didn’t go away sad. At least I captured a bee inside a Turtlehead flower.
Bee inside a Turtlehead flower

I saved the sure thing for last. I knew there was plenty of open water on Lower Lake and it was easily accessible. Heading south (towards RT 11) on Front Street in Rensselaer Falls you can see the culverts that drain the wetlands to the Oswegatchie River. Right after that you’ll see the entrance to a parking area with an observation tower. I stopped there to get a photo of the map (best version available) then went to the next parking area down the road where putting in a canoe is easier.   parking with observation tower

canoe launch - Lower Lake

Notice the Purple Loosestrife to the left. Scattered colonies of this invasive alien can be found throughout the area. The DEC has a control program in the WMA but when you consider that the seeds of this plant can stay viable longer than a human’s lifespan and they’ll germinate as soon as you disturb the soil, it’s going to be a never ending battle.

Enter a Fragrant Water Lily paradise. The shoreline of Lower Lake is ringed with this native water lily.

Fragrant Water Lilies

The flowers are fragrant but don’t pick any here, it’s illegal.

  Nymphaea odorata

Fragrant Water Lily Flower

There are plenty of other places you can can pick these flowers. Placed in a bowl of water they make an unusual floral table setting.

The waterfowl seemed to take exception to my presence. At no time did any let me get anywhere near them. I wasn’t planning on disturbing them but even the wide berth I attempted to put between us was too much for them.

Seagulls at Lower Lake

Only the Seagulls tolerated me as I passed by.


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