Monday, July 19, 2010

Ottawa Marsh

Spending most of my time and energy exploring the urban wild-scapes of Kalamazoo is of course a joy, but it's also a labor of love, a discipline. Restricting myself to the wild spaces of Kalamazoo has it's pros and cons; the pros being that it's conveniently right out my back door (so to speak) and it's also uncharted territory in the wildlife genre, representing the burgeoning phenomena of urban wildlife, endemic throughout America. The cons are that the wild spaces are always miniature compared to bigger preserves or wilderness and often degraded. In fact, sometimes depressing. 

My explorations into Schippers Crossing, particularly the degraded parts, are more like a photo essay, trying to capture the beauties and tragedies of a landscape that we've deemed disposable. These "truths" can make for interesting material, from a photo-journalistic standpoint, but as soon as I put down my camera, the beauty and intrigue can quickly fade away. From the perspective of the naked eye, it's often a depressed and depressing landscape. There's garbage, garbage and more garbage, there are the casualties of clear-cuts, excavations, dumpings, and did I mention garbage. It's not always pretty, at least in the way we seek aesthetic solace from the natural world.

Now don't get me wrong, there are some real gems in the city, with real fine vistas that serve up generous sensations of the wild and solitude. But when I want to un-restrict myself to the city limits, and explore some truly vast and wild landscapes in the area, there is one place in particular that ranks real high on my list of favorites. It might even be the top of the list for Southwest Michigan. I'm talking about Ottawa Marsh, a marsh system branching off the Kalamazoo River in the Allegan State Game Area. 

I recently ventured out into the Marsh on my birthday, as a present to myself. A brand new birthday kayak, allowed me to get some real nice shots both at dawn and dusk.  What's intriguing and beautiful about the Marsh is that it's a bayou. In fact, one map (might have been Google Satellite) even listed it as a bayou. Although it technically fit's the definition, I--like so many others--always envision bayous in the South and the Gulf region.  Low and behold, we have our own.

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