La Grande Chute

"La Grande Chute" by Aleta Karstad
oil on canv. 14x18 in  $1300

22 July 2016 found me on the east side of the Dumoine River, just below the Chemin Dumoine  bridge. 

The Dumoine is The last undammed wild river in southern Quebec, and its drainage basin is the largest area of unfragmented southern boreal forest in Quebec. We were here as part of the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society's surveys of the biodiversity of the Dumoine drainage. 

I painted this in the afternoon, from the river porch of a delightful canoeist campsite beside the bridge. I was fascinated by the warm taffy colour of the water purling over the rock where it rippled like rows of amber beads before churning into creamy froth to rush downriver. Bordering the whitewater, the froth swirled into sparkling lacework on dark waves and eddies. This breathtaking charge of the waterhorses continued down a series of falls and out of sight. 

My blue and white umbrella proved itself invaluable once again, to shield my eyes and blend the warm and cool transmitted sunshine into a neutral colour for painting in.

On the day before, I had hiked the trail on the west side, through a misty rain, to see what I could paint from lookouts over the river as it carved its gorge. I crept out onto an arrowhead of rock, took some photos, and wrote in my journal:

Below the falls
the river boils and writhes,
welling up into shifting lace,
coffee-black to gold, to cream,
caressing flanks and facets of

Stolid but fractured,
a tumbled and jumbled
Still life,
ever thrashed
by the leaping frothing
restless river.

I seem to feel the pounding of the falls
rumbling, drumming
my lichen-gardened
promontory perch.

Fragile, knife-winged Yellowlegs
skims downriver chased by a

Long, low rumbling
Sky roar,
Bumping and booming in unison with
the cascading water,
Cloud Thunder subsiding
into never-ending
Water Thunder.

I stand as sky water begins to fall
on my unpainted canvas.

This place is not far from Gatineau, and even Ontario (as the crow flies), but it seemed very remote to us on the morning of the 22nd, as we towed our little Boler trailer very slowly along 20km of an old logging road which seemed to be potholed or washboarded or lumpy or rough in a different way every 120 metres. When we arrived at Robinson Lake and opened the door of our little trailer, we found that doors and drawers that had never opened on their own before had disgorged their contents onto the floor.

The bioblitz was centered on the Robinson Lake campsite, 3 km downstream of La Grande Chute. Most of those who had responded to the call for the bioblitz weren't specialists in particular taxa, so Fred tried to make up for this by collecting a great variety of things that he at least knew how to preserve: land snails under logs in the woods, Ants from the road and woods, aquatic and emergent plants from the lake, and drifted material from the shores. Aquatic Mollusc diversity wasn't great - mussels were mostly Elliptio complanata (Eastern Elliptio) and a few Pyganodon grandis (Common Floater), and the only snail species was a few Campeloma decisum (Brown Mystery Snail). We didn't find any Crayfish.

The night before we'd gone out after a downpour had somewhat dampened the drought, and heard a Strix varia (Barred Owl) giving one bout of 'cooks-for-you' hoots, and found predated Chrysemys picta (Painted Turtle) nests, and an old crushed road-killed fragment of an adult Turtle. Creatures were so buried, hunkered down, embedded, or dead after three months of drought that the big event of our outing was one Field Cricket that I saw on the sandy lawn lakeshore of a cottage. We walked tracks & trails with lights, and saw no Salamanders, slugs, Anurans, or Earthworms, on rain-wet driven-over vegetation and the broad sandy road, though water was still dripping from the trees.

Back at the campsite, Fred heard 4 identifiable calls of Rana clamitans (Green Frog), and 3 'chuks' that were likely low-intensity calls of this species but might have been Mink Frog calls.

An illuminated moth tent was set up in the Birch/Aspen/Spruce/Fir/Pine woods along the sandy brownwater river, and there we encountered one juvenile Arion cf subfuscus slug. Several moths were attracted to the glowing netting - not as many as there might have been earlier in the season, or if the weather hadn't been dry for so long.


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