Friday, April 13, 2018

Spring Paddling at Four Mile Run

Wood Ducks in the marsh in early spring. Photo: D. Howell
Lured by the warm temperature and sunshine and the many signs of spring, I dropped in at Four Mile Run this morning in a kayak. Though the uneven concrete ramp at the end of Commonwealth Avenue isn’t the greatest launch spot, at high tide it is workable, and it is only a few minutes from anywhere in Alexandria (keep an eye on this website, though, as we are working on a project to install a proper kayak/canoe launch). I like to paddle at Four Mile Run fairly often, though usually I put in at Daingerfield Island.

Paddling up the Hume Spring tributary and into the central marsh from the Run, I hear a fusion of city and nature sounds: the splash of turtles vanishing below the water surface upon my approach, the sudden flapping of Wood Duck wings, the songs of small birds and the distinctive trill of the Red-winged Blackbird, the rapid knocking of woodpeckers above. And the whine of pumps at the Arlington wastewater plant, the traffic noises from Route 1, the thud of far-off helicopter blades, a periodic roar of jet engines. Joggers with strollers, voices speaking different languages, the whizzing gears of bicycles.

An Osprey powers by overhead with an Alewife in its talons—Ospreys, recently returned from their wintering grounds in South America, and the Alewife, a migratory herring that comes up river to spawn after reaching maturity in the North Atlantic. It is a sight unique to early spring; the Osprey will hang around until fall, but the Alewife will be out to sea before long—well, not this one, I suppose.

That there are so many fishermen and women lining the banks attests to the abundance of aquatic life. They don’t seem to be catching very much, though. A second Osprey plunges to the water and comes up fishless. The fishing may be slow, but to be on the water this warm spring morning is glorious. Lower Four Mile Run hasn’t looked (or been) in this fine a condition in at least 50 years, probably more like 80.

There are natural places farther afield that may be in danger of being loved to death, but there is no worry of that here: Four Mile Run is being loved to life. Soon it will all be abloom. Four Mile Run Park, on either side of the Run, should be on your destination list this spring.