August 20, 2019 | Topics: Places
Story and photos by Eddee Daniel
The campground was lovely and the beach was fun, but it was really the wildlife that made our visit to Ottawa Lake Recreation Area memorable. Specifically, it was the eccentric sandhill cranes. But I’m getting ahead of the story.
It was the second in what my wife and I hope will be an annual camping trip with our granddaughter. An opportunity to bond and to share our love of the outdoors with the next generation. The previous year we’d gone to Mauthe Lake in the northern Kettle Moraine. This time we chose the southern Kettle Moraine.
Ottawa Lake is a well-developed recreation area. The eponymous lake is the primary attraction. In addition to the beautiful beach, there is a popular boat launch and fishing pier. The campground, which is open year-round, is another major attraction. Although we are tent campers, we were grateful for the clean restrooms and convenient water spigot.
We had booked our campsite online, sight-unseen, which always makes me a little nervous. But when we arrived we were delighted to find a nicely secluded and shady place to set up our tent. The ranger station had firewood and ice for sale, too. We were all set!
We had to make a little detour on the way to the beach so that our six-year-old granddaughter could check out the playground. She rarely passes up a playground!
We hadn’t been at the beach very long before the first sandhill crane showed up at the edge of the sand. It seemed to be studying the human activity, of which there was plenty, warily. I was thrilled and, grabbing my camera, worked my way cautiously around to a good vantage point for a photo of it.
Then I spotted the second crane. And a third. They slowly worked their way between the people, not getting too close, but also not overly concerned about children who dashed in and around the trio occasionally. When they reached the water’s edge they waded right in and began to dip their long necks down for drinks, on the house.
After a while all three of them wandered around—wariness replaced by gluttony—looking for handouts from the people lounging and picnicking on and near the beach. I guess even wild cranes can become adapted to life among humans.
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks and project director for A Wealth of Nature.