Kayaking Around Darlings Island, NB

As winter slowly melts away towards spring, the season alive with lush beginnings, awakened hope and new life, my mind starts planning fresh adventures. Here in the Maritimes, spring usually equals mud, more snow, and river levels rising as the longer days and milder temperatures thaw the winter’s accumulation of snow and ice.

A friend of mine owns a couple of kayaks and for the past several years in May we have taken a day trip in them, packing our lunch and cameras, ready to enjoy the outdoors and return of warmer temperatures. May is a lovely time, as the rivers are still high giving you more places to go, but the ferocity of the current has slowed down (and you don’t have to worry about hitting an ice floe and meeting an end like the Titanic). Last year, we put the kayaks in the Hammond River beside the bridge leading to Darlings Island, New Brunswick.

As the high waters recede, there are fiddleheads to be picked. They are the tender new growth of the ostrich fern found in the flood plains of many Maritime rivers and waterways. Locals pick them and wash them well, and they are sold in grocery stores and road-side stands for only a couple weeks in the late spring. Boiled until tender, with butter and vinegar, they make a great side dish to ham or fish.

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads 2
These were getting to be a bit too tall to pick – best when they are just 1 inch – 1 1/2 inches out of the ground.

The Hammond flows into the great Kennebecasis River which eventually leads into Saint John Harbour and the ocean. As we circled the island, the waters became a bit more choppy in the Kennebecasis. It can be pretty difficult to take a straight picture when you are bobbing around in a kayak. This was one of my better attempts:

Hills of Kings County
The Hills of Kings County, NB from the Kennebecasis River

We spotted a quite a bit of  wildlife during our paddling. There were ducks, both in pairs, and also mothers with their babies following behind.

Ducks

Darlings Island is known for their high population of deer and we saw too many to count wandering in the woods by the water’s edge.

Deer
This one decided to lie down while we quietly watched from our kayaks a few meters away. Many of the deer were piebald, which I hadn’t ever seen before.

There were others out on the river that day. One couple were fishing, but I think these eagles were having better luck catching fish than they were:

Eagles

We also came upon the eagle’s nest high in a tree:

Eagle nest

While we were in a wide expanse known as Darlings Lake, a sudden wind came up creating large white-capped waves that washed over our small boats. We were quite a little ways from shore at that moment, and it took all our strength to paddle closer in to safety. We cheered when we at last viewed the bridge again. It was a long and wonderful day.

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