Paddling to Nesting Eagles

Eighteen canoers, including two children, and two volunteer guides braved temperatures in the 30s and 40s on two Saturdays this February to enjoy a special treat. I assisted Gerald Langham, Sabine-Neches Texas Master Naturalist volunteer, who lead us out through the chilly waters of Steinhagen Lake on a Martin Dies, Jr. State Park paddling trip to view nesting eagles. Longleaf Ridge Master Naturalists Keith Stephens and Lori Horne, as well as Ben King, a student enrolled in our class starting March 19, accompanied us the first Saturday. 

Ben was addicted, and returned the second Saturday, bringing a friend. This second trip was the coldest, but the most entertaining as we were joined by four young ladies who were Texas A&M Seniors, and two of their mothers. The fearless girls giggled most of the way, but grew very silent as they sat in awe of the eagle we spotted sitting on its nest. 

On the way back, Lauren, who had declared her intent to become a Texas Master Naturalist in the Austin area after she graduates, decided she was tired of paddling and asked her mother, who was in the middle of the canoe, to switch places with her. I strongly advised them not to chance it, as we were still a long way from shore, and I had witnessed people easily toppling over while practicing this maneuver. They were not to be deterred. I coached them and tried to steady the boat while mother deftly stepped over prostrate Lauren, and my heart stopped for a minute. My skills as a paddling volunteer were spared trying to pull them out of the water this time! 

Martin Dies, Jr. State Park offers the free use of their canoes for these trips as often as they can round up enough volunteers to lead them. Anyone can sign up online to attend. Check the Events Page of their website for these trips, as well as other events led by Ranger Amy, or other Master Naturalist volunteers. More volunteers are needed for these fun outings! ~Laura Clark

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