On August 2nd, the Trails and Grounds team took a team-building canoe trip down the lower portion of the Elk River. Our trip was a nine-mile float from the public access in Noel Missouri to Hwy 43 bridge at Cow Skin Access. This canoe trip was educational, exciting, and enlightening. Along with our Trails and Grounds team, we had additional participation from our gracious volunteers, a few Avant-Gardeners and a river guide. Our river guide, Joseph Meyer, was a personal friend of Dr. Neil Compton and is also the president of the local chapter of the Ozark Society.
The week before our float we had experienced a considerable amount of rain in the area. The river was full and running through the landscape like a marathon of fluid ripples racing to get to the next turn. This was also a trip to teach team members how to canoe if they had never been canoeing. With just a few moments of the fundamentals of paddling and steering the boat we were off.
As museum horticulturalist Cody George floated along the stream bank looking and calling out all the native plant life he saw. Dotted along the river the whole nine miles you could see swamp rose mallow, with shades of white and light pink living directly in the river along with Equisetum, also known as horsetail grass. Further up the bank we could spot the pink phlox, just like the kind we have on the South Plaza. Other plants common on the bankside were spicebush, buttonbush, and elderberry.
In the sycamore trees that leaned into the river stood a large bird with a presence of authority, the great Bald Eagle. Sharing the river with the Bald Eagle were the Great Blue Heron and Great Green Heron. As the heron stood in the shallow waters plucking small fish from the green glass-like surface, out came a small American black duck. As our canoe trip progressed we all stopped on a large island of gravel for a sit-down lunch. Not long after we left the island, we saw another Bald Eagle flying over the tree tops scouting the area.
This canoe trip was an amazing way for all of us to enjoy the Ozarks, to take time to notice what we have around us, and teach our fellow team members what our purpose is here at Crystal Bridges: to highlight and preserve the natural heritage of the museum grounds, to celebrate and promote native plants, and encourage Museum visitors to get out and enjoy nature.
We encourage you to join our outdoor volunteer opportunities or Avant-Gardeners, so that we may pass on our message of native plant life.