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Beauty Below The Surface At Bluff Lake

By Anne LaPorta

Writing about the marshlands of Wisconsin in "A Sand County Almanac," Aldo Leopold made this observation:

"Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language."

Depending on the time of year, it may difficult to perceive the beauty of Bluff Lake at first glance. The lake and surrounding wetlands are the focal point of the site, both aesthetically and for the wildlife that depend on it for survival. But the lake changes, and with each dry and wet spell the beauty that reflects the essence of Bluff Lake also changes.

In the summer, the lake is often dry and the brown muck of the lake bottom stretches as far as the eye can see.

The grass crackles with the heat and the cicadas broadcast the scorching temperature. Certain wildlife thrives when these the natural changes occur. A pair of Avocet birds were spotted at Bluff Lake just this July, parading around the mudflat with their new baby chicks.

But without the water, Bluff Lake would only live up to half of its name. Without water, there can be no wetland.

The water in Bluff Lake comes primarily from storm water flows that enter the lake at the southwest corner of the cattail marsh. When rain is scarce in our area, the storm water flows dry up. Just as suddenly, the lake is inundated from the late summer monsoons that drench the land and eventually feed this small oasis. Other wildlife returned to Bluff Lake, celebrating in the bounty of water.

Wetland areas at Bluff Lake also include the shoreline fringes of Sand Creek. Here, where water meets land, the diversity of life is often greatest. Sit quietly along the finger of trail that heads out to the creek some early morning, and listen for the sound of the water. Soon your ears will attune to other sounds � mosquitos, waterfowl, birds, the swaying of the cottonwoods, and perhaps a deer or fox.

The beauty of Bluff Lake will seek you out if you take a moment to reflect. Despite the background of skyscrapers and industry, the upland bluffs shelter this place from the noise of City life. Visit the lake, the creek and the wetlands, no matter what time of year. Explore along the mudflats for the deer and coyote tracks and other wild visitors. Pause for a moment as the trickle of Sand Creek journeys by you. You can't help but appreciate Bluff Lake once you take the time to let its beauty touch your heart.    

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