Last October I took the kayak up the Nottaway River, which is about an hour west of here. At the time I did not know how close I was to a patch of virgin forest, home to and now final resting place of Big Mama, once Virginia's oldest tree. Last fall I vowed to return, so yesterday, armed with a clearer picture of where this remnant forest is actually located, I headed up the Nottaway again. Unfortunately the river is so low right now, almost 4' below normal, that I could not get into the swamp to find Big Mama or any of her nearby relatives, and had to stick to the main river channel instead. However, I always appreciate any opportunity to get away, and the day was not wasted. Just like last year, I had the river all to myself, except for the animals. Fish were jumping at every turn, and I startled a few deer and some wild turkeys. I also saw the usual crows, egrets, herons, kingfishers and as best I could tell, a flock of common mergansers, but I was most excited to see a pileated woodpecker. All and all it was a very good morning, even if I couldn't find what I was looking for, but that will just give me an excuse to go back again.
It may not have been Big Mama, but this bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) was about 8' wide at the base and had what appeared to be a collection of smaller trees for a canopy.
There were a couple of benefits to the low water mark. One was that I found this layer of shells on the mud bank composed of mostly oysters, scallops and a few things I did not recognize. Considering this is a freshwater river and is over 60 miles inland from the Atlantic, this layer told a telling tale.
The other benefit of such low water was being able to appreciate the exposed tree roots along the river bank, some of which I did not fully appreciate until I got home and flipped the photo. What do you see?
The complete set of my Nottaway photos can be found here.