Last Best Streams- #56.

I turned north near the highest low spot of any state, cruising north as early morning unfolds. Broad hills and dewy center pivots, feeding a landscape devoted to corn and stubble. A hen pheasant straddles the center line, another clings to a telephone wire.

This is the whole point, I mused, sipping bad gas station coffee as the road curved, descending into rumpled breaks of river valley.  Seeing the places you miss going ninety down the interstate.  Stopping at the little out of the way spots others pass by. 

It’s tough to love a prairie stream.  Slow.  Warm.  Dingy.  They can go from a torrent to intermittent in a few hours, especially this time of year.  Over eons, extreme conditions shaped unique fish communities that spawn multiple times a season in response to bumps in stream flow, hedging their bets to ensure another generation.  Many species’ eggs and larvae drift miles downstream after spawning, recolonizing river reaches which may have run dry over the past year.  Perhaps not as sexy as trout or bass- but superbly adapted to their environment. 

A badger shuffles across the road ahead of me. A trio of mule deer browse a hillslope, staring at me on the road.  Rocky slopes and dewy blades of meadow grass, feeding a landscape devoted to a more natural state.

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