Wanatango Falls (oil on canvas 5 x 10 in.) Sold
19 September finds me painting Wanatango Falls on the Frederickhouse River, 23 km south of Cochrane, at the site of a proposed hydroelectric dam. I am sitting on a Spruce root that loops out of the mossy riverbank, in the shade of Spruce and Cedar. The river runs toward me through at least three slots in a massive outcrop of angular metamorphic rock, and I have chosen to paint the main falls, which is near the north side.
An Aspen towers majestically above the Cedars and Spruces on the high rocky bank, an important part of the character of the scene. I ask myself "How would I recognize a picture of this waterfall?" and the answer is "Paint its towering Aspen tree". The sides of the rocks are felted with golden and green mosses and their tops are spotted with dark frilly lichens, perhaps little Rock Tripes, which also freckle the jumble of smaller stones at the river edge downstream.
While I paint, Fred and Marigold forage upstream and downstream finding a lot of the lovely "Fatmucket" Lampsilis radiata siliquoidea shells, despite the relatively high water level. The rocks below me are littered with the whitened remains of the Crayfish dinners of some kind of predator. There are both Orconectes virilis and O. propinquus claws and rostra. They alsofound Racoon droppings.
This afternoon we walked about a kilometre to the falls from where the van was obliged to park due to broad deep puddles in the clay track embedded with oval glacier-tumbled stones. A young Black Bear had left its toe prints in the mud before we came along with Marigold and her Dog tracks. She made a few dashes deep into the woods after Grouse, but otherwise stayed close to us in this unfamiliar territory. I photographed the foliose and crustose lichens on a large Poplar snag that rose from the deeply-mossed tangle of fallen branches like a monument to the glorious communion between fungus and alga, and Fred collected a branch bearing the pale beardy Usnea lichen.
As the track descended toward the falls, the tree roots crossed it as living rungs across the clay. Then the road became soft underfoot with duff and leaf litter. Instead of a rocky rutted gash through the woods it had become part of the forest, leading us past the trunks of mossy-bedded trees which hid us from the sky with their finely needled boughs.
We heard the falls before we saw them. Parting the branches at the edge of the riverbank I stood in awe of the powerful rush creaming through the rocky gap from the serene flat water upstream. I thought of the speed that some people hope will turn a turbine - but this fall is less than two metres in height, and to get anything more they'd have to build a dam from shore to shore across the rocks and change this place entirely.