Swamp Donkey Patrol


When I was growing up, my dad would sometimes refer to moose as swamp donkeys, I think because it made us laugh.  While driving around Errol, NH yesterday morning, I was talking with my co-pilot, “This swampy spot is a great place for moose, do you see any?”, “No”, “How about this one?”, “YES!!”

We pulled the car around and took a few photos (above).  Moose eat many plants that grow in freshwater wetlands, such as catkins and the leaves of water lilies.  I learned at an early age that moose love to hang out in these wetlands, and even if you don’t see a moose, you can sometimes still see the tracks sunk deep into the mud!

But why are there so many wetlands in these parts of Maine and New Hampshire?  Some of the wetlands exist because the ground is not well drained (it is difficult for water to infiltrate into the ground), possibly due to a thick layer of fine sediment, like silt and clay.  One reason there could be an abundance of silt and clay is because during the last ice age, these locations were the home of proglacial lakes!  These are lakes that form along the edge of a glacier or ice sheet because the meltwater from the ice sheet can’t drain away along the surface (usually because there is a hill or deposit damming the flow).  The lakes themselves eventually found an escape route and drained away after the ice sheet retreated, but the fine sediments tell us about this area’s cold and wet history.  I would love to explore these areas more to find additional evidence of proglacial lakes, I just hope I don’t disturb the swamp donkeys.


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