Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hurricane Lake

From Judsonia, I drove north on Hwy. 67/167 to the delightfully-named town of Bald Knob, and then headed east towards the Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area, which is run by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.  The WMA contains over 17,000 acres, and was originally set aside in 1941 as a game preserve.  The area became a Wildlife Management Area in 1958, which preserves the bottomlands habitat and the birds and deer that live there.

There is a lot of hunting and fishing at Hurricane Lake, but there is also some pretty neat scenery too.  The WMA preserves much of Glaise Creek, several lakes, and woods that run up against the White River.  A lot of the water here is dotted by tall cypress and tupelo trees.  It looked like a neat place to explore.

I drove into the WMA in the late afternoon, and the light was still a bit harsh for pictures.  So I took my time and lazily drove down the gravel roads, trying to scout out a few locations.  I quickly found a few spots that I wanted to visit later on when the light was better.  One of those spots was Bollie Pond.  I looked at this pond earlier on Google Maps and was thrilled to see a small pond that was dotted with hundreds of cypress trees.  I drove down the dirt road to the pond, and parked by a small campground.  The pond was indeed full of cypress trees, but I couldn't really figure out a good place to take any pictures.  The banks of the pond were covered with tall and thick plants, which were nearly as formidable as a castle wall.  The only decent spot to get a picture was through a narrow gap where a boat launch had been carved out of the brush.

I tried to pick my way through the shoreline, hoping to find a decent spot where I could point the camera.  I didn't get very far when my mind began to drift away, thinking about all the numerous snakes that were surely slithering somewhere nearby.  Cottonmouths, water moccasins, and king cobras (I assumed) were rushing through the swampy waters towards me.  Not seeing any clearing in the brush, I hastily retreated back to my car.

Just then, a boat came drifting through the trees onto the boat launch.  A couple, who were camping there, had been out fishing.  I asked if they had caught anything (one catfish).  They asked if I was taking pictures, and so I told them I had been trying to find a good clearing to get a shot of the lake.  Then, amazingly, they said that if I wanted good pictures, they would be more than happy to take me out on the lake in their boat.  Was I interested?

Sure!  So I got in the boat, scared that I'd drop my camera in the water.  We drifted out into the water and the view immediately opened up.  It was amazing, being right out there in the water with the massive old cypress trees.  I took a ton of pictures, but not many of them turned out.  I'm going to blame the rocking of the boat for that, and not any problems with my exposure settings...

This is the best one that turned out....


We got back to dry ground and I tried to get a few shots through the narrow gap in the trees at the boat launch.  Even if there wasn't much room there, the view was still pretty nice.

After that, I got back in the car and drove down the dusty gravel road towards Glaise Creek and the numerous lakes in the WMA.  Along the way, I drove by two small lakes that sat on opposite sides of the road.  In both lakes, there were dozens of cranes perched in the water.  I slowed to a stop and tried to discreetly roll down the windows.  Cranes are very skittish, and will immediately fly away whenever a human gets nearby (or at least tries to take their picture).  But the cranes here at Hurricane Lake were much calmer, at least they waited a few minutes before they flew away.  But it was enough time to get a few pictures.


From there I drove over to Big Bell Lake, which was busy with people fishing and camping.  I was surprised to see so many people out there, until I remembered that it was Memorial Day weekend.  There were a few boats out on the water, and a few people sitting in chairs on the shore with fishing lines running into the lake.  I set up the tripod and got a few pictures as the evening light cast a golden glow on the trees in the lake.


And a view of the Cypress trees lining the opposite shore of the lake: P5261002

And another view from the lake: P5261012

Dusk was starting to settle in, so I drove on to try to get a few shots along the creek before it got dark.  I got stuck in a convoy of other cars and trucks, heading home for the day.  The traffic on the dirt road kicked up a massive cloud of dust, that lingered like a fog.  I eventually just pulled over because I could barely see the road.  The dust had turned everything grey, as if I was driving through a thick gelatinous void.

When the dust cleared some I headed further down the road, to where it ran parallel to Glaise Creek.  There are several places in the creek that featured numerous bunches of cypress and tupelo trees:

And one last shot of the creek. What looks like fog here is actually lingering dust that was sent up by the traffic on the gravel road. P5261023

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