Aliens on the Island!!!

July 9th, 2014, 9am

Iris pseudacorus

My field guide to Wildflowers: Northeaster/North-central North America says “The only yellow iris likely to be found growing wild. A European escape from gardens; now established widely but locally in our area.”

While canoing around The Island yesterday, a yellow iris in the vegetation along the shore caught my attention. I have never seen a yellow iris in the wild before, but there I saw one - an alien!

The Army Corps of Engineers created Hearding Island, a dredge island, in 1934-35 by dumping dredging spoils in a shallow part of the St. Louis River estuary (or as a land management document more delicately describes it through the deposition of sandy material dredged from the harbor bottom. Shipping bulk cargoes out of the harbor required 20 to 30 foot deep channels where nature provided only 3 to 6 foot depths.

When I ski the perimeter of the island in the winter, my GPS reports I’ve skied a mile, so the island has room to harbor lots of stuff mostly natural with little human-made except the island itself, of course. Left to natural processes, the island now has hardwoods, willows, grassy areas, lots of driftwood along the shore and a few sand dunes. Oh yes, especially after a storm, some garbage washes up which seems to disappear in a few days. Those few visiting the island carry plastic grocery bags and pick the shore clean.

Never developed, the Department of Natural Resources designated the island a wild life management.

Frequented only by a few, I find it a wonderful, wild retreat just a few steps from my door (requiring some sort of watercraft in the ice free months however). A pair of eagles nest on one end (no eaglets this year due to the cold wet Spring I suspect). The huge steel boxes we call ‘Lakers’ glide by to pick up massive tonnages of iron ore, coal, or wheat at docks the harbor. These huge ships will transport cargoes to the lower Great Lakes or some to ocean ports on the St Lawrence River near Montreal.

When I visit The Island, crows raucously complain about my presence. The city sits on it’s hills not too distant. The bangs, toots, metallic snap of hatch clamps opening, throb of large Diesel engines and hum of tires on the interstate fill my ears, but step into a clearing behind a copse of trees and breathe a blessing for the Army Corps of Engineers and their alien haven.

Shu said thanks.

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Ken Jackson

An avid outdoors man. Retired and retiring, living on the shore of Lake Superior

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