The Joys of Undeveloped Waters

Last year I met a couple of avid kayakers who introduced me to a few lakes that have no development on them. Yeah, can you believe it? Well, I guess with 15,000 lakes in the state, some of them will be left alone.

Don’t get me wrong – I totally understand the appeal of living on the water. I do myself and enjoy the lifestyle and the convenient paddling. But because I’ve never experienced a lake left to nature, I’ve never really known how different it can be. 

So far I’ve visited three of these wild lakes, and I’ve paddled the wild part of the Spirit River, and each time I learned something new. The first one, last year, had a VERY shallow section – maybe 6-10 inches. Very clear water so that I could watch a snapping turtle hunt and I’m here to remind you that that neck is l-o-n-g! Keep you hands and other things you value away from that head. It snaps out so quick you can hardly see it. Amazing.

This year I nearly paddled right under this incredible bird –

Laser concentration

It wasn’t too high up over the water and wasn’t concerned about me at all other than wishing I would leave so it could fish already. The water was shallow (12-18 inches) and crystal clear as most glacial lakes are.


Those were shot at barely over 100mm and aren’t cropped much. I’ve never been so close to a wild eagle before in my life. Mostly I chase them off their perches which are usually dozens and dozens of feet overhead. I was amazed and humbled by its tolerance of and trust in me.

This is from a little farther away, but I still felt the look.

Giving back the glare

Eagles aren’t the only things that are a little less wary of people in boats when they aren’t constant, noisy and dangerous things.

This frog was about a yard from me. I’d drifted up on a snag with a goose nest on it and the frog didn’t even blink. Any closer and my lens wouldn’t focus. It was pretty cool.

Feeling bullish

Painted turtles are way more skittish than snappers, so being able to sort of sneak up on some was pretty great. They look curious in a distrustful kind of way.

Wary, but unmoved
Not too sure about this

Lots of critters are just too involved in what they’re doing to worry about this big weird thing on the water. Like this downy woodpecker that was gathering up newly emerged dragonflies as fast as it could. No hammering necessary! I did feel bad about the dragonflies though.

Easy meals

Then of course there is the scenery and treeline, just left to itself. So peaceful and soothing. I sometimes park myself in the shade of some saplings and read a book.

Birth-Day lake

For me though, it isn’t the open vistas that speak to me the loudest. It’s the backwaters. The side channels. The unexpected inundation of the land.

A new realm (iPhone pic)
Spirit overflow (iPhone pic)

Despite the bugs, I spent a fair amount of time paddling the places where the water invaded the forest. There were ducks everywhere, but like rabbits, they scatter at my approach. Still it was amazing and even though it would be wonderful to have a house on some secret waterway, I think they are better served when left alone. We are better served as well. We can live our lives on the popular lakes. Enjoying time with friends, neighbors and their boats and dogs – it’s all good. Then we can retreat to nature to enjoy silence, tranquility, and solitary companionship of the animals that make these waters their homes. That can be the time that heals us. That reminds us we really need to live in harmony, not competition with, our fellow creatures. 

6 thoughts on “The Joys of Undeveloped Waters

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  1. That photo of Birth-Day lake is glorious! “What is so rare as a day in June?” Reading between the lines, I’m wondering if you share a birthday with me on Juneteenth?

  2. Beautiful images and I enjoyed reading your thoughts that accompanied your experience, reading them made me feel as if I was there, paddling along with you.

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