The River Bottoms
They say the more things change the more they stay the same, I have to disagree.

There is a place I used to love to go, just go and sit and think, sometime I would go there to hunt, it’s the place I introduced my kids to waterfowl hunting, and a place I used to love to go to and photograph the wildlife.

One year I went there almost every morning to photograph the wildlife that lives there, it was a fantastic place, I even told my wife i wanted to be cremated and my ashes spread over this place, I called it “The River Bottoms” and I loved it.

Then it seems like life got in the way, I had other things to do, and other things that needed done, I never made it to the river bottoms for a couple of years, I guess the thing that made it so great, as is the case many times, is also the thing that ended up making it not so great

What was once a secluded retreat, barely touched by human feet, or hands had become a thoroughfare for people, some of whom don’t respect the land as much as others.

Being the river bottoms it is close to the river, the state bought up tons of land on the river to “Put it back in the path it used to travel” not sure they even knew what that path was, but I’m sure it was a good reason to mess with the farmers, and spend billions in the process, a win win as far as government is concerned, but that is another story, then they opened it up to the public, now the place is overrun with all kinds of visitors which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except some of those visitors really don’t respect the land and they bring all kinds of trash with them.

Recently I decided to take another trip to the river bottoms, and relive those “glory days”, I loaded up the photography equipment and hiked into the river bottoms, what I found was not what i remembered, and not in a good way.

What was once a place teeming with wildlife, trees,and hawthorns was now a desolate place, the hawthorns are dead and gone, and the much of the wildlife have been pushed out by the foot traffic, I found old folding chairs that had been drug in and then, I can only imagine, were too much work to drag them back out, I found old beer cans, and cigar packages, wrappers of every kind, what ever happened to “If you pack it in, pack it out’!

Fortunately I do have my memories of what it used to be like, and I have the photographs to prove it.

More of a depiction of what “The River Bottoms” used to be like, here you see a flight of Northern Pintail ducks engaged in their “courtship” flight, heading for the water to finish the ritual, each drake hoping to be the lucky duck that gets to take his lady to the prom, a couple of mallard ducks swim in the waters as a pair of mallards are just landing, fog rises from the waters in the morning air, as a small group of Wilson snipe feed along the bank of the pond, listening to the song of the beautiful Red winged blackbirds.

An old stand of cottonwood trees, long dead but still standing rise up out of the fog on the right hand side of the picture, and a young tree sports it’s new green leaves of spring on the left side, and you can see the hawthorns in the back. Cattails still yellow from the winter, are just starting to come to life for the new year, and a flock of Canada geese have left the waters of the nearby lake, and are headed for the fields that surround this beautiful place, to feed on the new spring grass that is just now beginning to grow.

I’ll probably not make another photography trip into the river bottoms, but I will always remember what it used to be like, calm and serene, almost to peaceful, a place where you could go for a few hours and just get lost.

In the words of Robert Frost:

“Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

As always I hope you have a great day!!

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T L Mair
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