Yesterday, Stephanie and I took a walk out in the Nygren Wetland Preserve, but hung a left at the old train tracks instead of continuing around the water. We'd never gone that way before and it'd recently occurred to me that in that direction laid the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica Rivers. One of the first things I did when I moved to good ol' South Beloit was purchase a map and study it for potentially interesting things. If you're me, the confluence of two regional rivers counts as a potentially interesting thing. Yet I had never figured out how to get there.
On our way around the open water we noted several nesting orioles, plenty of goldfinches, warblers, two swans in the water, a white egret, a lone cormorant, and the ubiquitous honking Canada Geese. Red-winged blackbirds began their annual scold, chatting at us from the trees overhead and spreading their wings to make themselves look ferocious.
Baltimore Oriole (top) and nest.
At the turnoff, we followed a gentle old oxbow lake through prairie. Not too much action but the blackbirds and a pile of turtles making the most of a tiny log in the lake.
Eventually we came to a stream and headed east. This was the end of Raccoon Creek, which starts up in Wisconsin and winds its way slowly down to the Pecatonica. Eventually, yes, we could see the river across the creek, a low floodplain between them, filled with birdsong. Two young catbirds eyed us curiously and there were rumblings of a Pileated Woodpecker, but no sightings. Finally the Raccoon emptied into the river, and it was just us, the prairie to our left, and the slow, muddy, sunny water to our right.
The path tightened and we were there-- a short walk through woods, dropping the bank onto a gravel bar, and there was the Rock on our left. We could walk all the way out into the confluence on the gravel.
The Sauk and Fox people of the area called the Rock Sinnissippi, which means "rocky waters," and here one could plainly see the contrast between the muddy, murky water of the Pecatonica, and that of the clearer, gravel-bottomed Rock.
If you look closely, you can see the clear water of the Rock, on the left, merging with the muddy water of the Pecatonica, on the right.
All photos by SD.