Shreveport is on this year’s path to the east, and we stopped there a few days to catch up with friends and family. Brother Ed and his bride Pam roasted a fine boneless beef rib while we knocked back some lovely stouts and porters. Another night our tennis buds from twenty years ago made us feel like we left Shreveport last Thanksgiving. Thomas Wolfe says You Can’t Go Home Again, but I think you can, if you don’t stay too long.
We found a hidden gem of a campground about 25 miles east of Shreveport near Minden. It’s managed by the US Forest Service (Kisatchie National Forest) and located on canoe-friendly Caney Lake. They honor the America the Beautiful pass, and for just $9.50 a night, you get a quiet, beautiful site with full hook-ups and almost no neighbors. North Louisiana’s weather is iffy until March and hot after May, but perfect in October and early November. It’s a good place to roost, in-season.
Beaver Dam campground has just 29 sites, but with so few campers reservations are not really necessary. If you want a lake view, sites 15, 16, and 17 offer the best vistas. We booked 16 and were rewarded within moments of arrival by a flight of white pelicans, and by the time Kat came out with her camera, a bald eagle had wheeled overhead and was already well in the process of moving on.
The dam that forms the lake is undergoing repairs, thus the water level was surprisingly low and semi-disgusting. But many a cloud comes with a silver lining, and ours was the pelicans. Those buggers love shallow fresh water. Unlike Louisiana’s state bird, the brown pelican, whites do not dive onto fish. White pelicans catch them from a swimming posture. Whites are also very social, and they love to get together to fish as a group. Put 80 or so white pelicans on a low-water lake and they will put on a show catching breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here’s how it typically goes. The flock arrives in flight in groups of six to ten. When a leader of the swimming group makes the judgment that “There are enough of us to fish” the birds quickly form a company front (that’s a marching band term for everybody standing side by side in just one row). Then that long skirmish line (a Civil War term for a probing attack) slowly begins to swim toward the bank. Pretty soon the ends circle in toward the middle, cutting off the end run escape route, and then … BAM! Every neck is in the water and there’s a fish in every bill.
White pelicans winter in the south and nest in the far north, usually in Canada. They are large birds, even bigger than brown pelicans, and graceful flyers. If you see some huge white birds on fresh water that look like swans, check for big golden bills and a touch of black trim on their wing tips. Those are white pelicans.
Ah, such magnificent birds.