Healthy shorelines yield many benefits

I’m proud of our cabin front yard. It tells me that benign neglect can create something beautiful.
In particular, I love our shoreline. It’s the most attractive part, and where no work is done at all.
It’s tangled with sweet gale, cedar, marsh marigolds, irises, ferns, mosses, and a variety of small flowers—all perfect as if placed by a loving hand.
But, of course, I had nothing to do with it. The plants sprouted from a garden of rocks that’s a couple billion years old.
Kids use these rocks as landing pads to catch crayfish and other wild things, enthusing wide-eyed as they add to their buckets. It’s a rough treasure trove–better than the nearby beach.
Stories reverberate in the rocks, and under their bare feet. The granite is smooth as left by the grinding of glaciers. And at one time, smaller rocks crumbled down from boulders shaped like kingdoms.
Dragonfly nymphs crawl up onto the shore rocks. That’s where their jewelled bodies and laced wings break free from their hardened shells.
It seems an apt feat, considering it’s their mission to make mosquitoes disappear.
This isn’t the only transformation, however. Caterpillars also metamorphose. Most beautiful to me are the large yellow, black, and white ones which turn into monarchs, which we find on swamp milkweed at the lakeside.
We marvel at how it takes generations of these paper-thin insects to get here—all the way from Mexico and California.
And just as interesting: nesting waterfowl, basking turtles, and swishing minnows and fish between rocks, grasses, and tree roots.
All these critters find shorelines vital. It’s a place to hide from weather and predators, and to find nourishment.
It’s what makes lake life unique.
The sounds are different, too. I especially like the croaking of a northern leopard frog. When I hear that, I feel assured that the shoreline is doing a great job.
All frogs are very sensitive to chemical pollutants because of their permeable skin. Their skin acts like a sponge, soaking up the bad stuff. In fact, frogs are dying off in many places, or becoming deformed.
Lucky for us here in Rainy River District, we’ve yet to produce this problem.
Although, according to Environment Canada, our area lakes are not as pristine as they once were. Soaps, fertilizers, packed soil, and leaky septic tanks are mostly to blame, but there also are less obvious culprits like pet feces, dirt, and grass clippings–if they make their way to the water.
All these things stimulate algae, which eventually decompose and create really yucky green goop, like what you hear about in Lake Winnipeg. The lakes in our district have increased algae levels also, but thankfully not as bad.
So, continue to enjoy your tasseled shoreline which filters out the nutrients from run-off. Thanks to our natural lakesides, our waters continue to be relatively clean.
In this case, by doing nothing you’re really doing something great.
Note: If this topic interests you, consider getting involved with the Rainy Lake Conservancy.
More information about this registered charity, based out of Fort Frances, can be found at www.rainylakeconservancy.org

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