1 of 3
2 of 3
Majesty and Mystery
3 of 3
By Tim Dee Emery
The fog was breaking on an unusually cool late-summer morning. The late summer sky was deep azure blue, painted with wispy clouds foreshadowing what was to come when I arrived at Lewis and Clark State Park in northwest Missouri.
As my fishing companion and I approached the park, we saw the lake and then a campground on our right that was nearly full. It distracted us from the unbelievable site ahead: a crystal blue, oxbow lake full of huge American White Pelicans.
We quickly put the car into tip-toe mode, and I grabbed my camera and attached the zoom lens. The birds had already started to disperse, and I wanted to capture the scene because I had never seen them in such close proximity.
The pelicans were gathered in groups around three percolators, which I assumed were there to aerate the lake. The birds dipped their huge yellow beaks in the upstream of bubbles and caught small fish that were likely trapped in the updraft. Easy pickins.
The birds were huge, big as turkeys, and awkwardly paddled through the water; but, when they took flight they would soar straight as an arrow just inches above the mirror surface of the lake. As we watched they left in small groups of twos and threes and slowly paddled to the other side of the lake.
Later, it was our turn to fish. We had two poles in the water each rigged with a bobber and a night crawler. The lake was very shallow where we were fishing, so our expectations of catching anything weren't very high. We parked our lawn chairs right on the sandy bank with a picnic table no less than fifteen yards away across a neatly mowed lawn (a little different from when Lewis and Clark were here.) We felt the wonder that the two famous explorers must have felt when they discovered the serene and heavenly place and named it Gosling Lake.
We sat at the table, and started our charcoal grill when one of the bobbers started to move. I ran to the bank. The fish fought me with the vigor of a bass, but as I began to reel him in, he looked like none I had seen before. He was long and thin and had a snout. As I got closer, I could see that the snout was lined with teeth like an alligator’s. I thought, “Oh my gosh; how will I get the hook out of this thing...and what the heck is it anyway?” The fish I caught was an ancient species: a Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus).
When we looked up, the pelicans were leaving. First in small groups. Then, more would join them in the sky. They circled and sent a signal of colors to the others as they flapped their wings. Black, white, black, white. That must have meant “Let's go.”
I had a tear in my eye watching them leave. I waved my hat to them and raised my glass in a toast: “I'll be back to see you next year. Safe travels. Goodbye.”
Do you have any tales from your adventures in Missouri’s state parks? We’d like to hear them! Send them to email@example.com.