Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Oxbow Lake

This week we're heading to the Amazon before coming back to Southern Arizona for the "After the Wildfire Series" which are photo shoots that I took in April, May, and July on Mt. Lemmon and at the Chiricahua National Monument.  After that, we'll be visiting the El Presidio Gardens and property.  Along the way, there will be stand alone articles that interested me over this past month.
One of the things I found interesting on our trip to Peru back in 2008 was an area of water in the Amazon rain forest known as an Oxbow Lake.  At first, I thought it was the name of the lake until our guide informed us that it was a type of lake found in different parts of the world. So what is an Oxbow Lake?  Here's the definition with some really cool illustrations by Ponds and Lakes .

An oxbow is a crescent-shaped lake lying alongside a winding river. The oxbow lake is created over time as erosion and deposits of soil change the river's course. You can see how an oxbow lake takes shape below:

On the inside of the loop, the river travels more slowly leading to deposition of silt.
Meanwhile water on the outside edges tends to flow faster, which erodes the banks making the meander even wider. Over time the loop of the meander widens until the neck vanishes altogether.
Then the meander is removed from the river's current and the horseshoe shaped oxbow lake is formed. Without a current to move the water along, sediment builds up along the banks and fills in the lake.
The Kapok Tree on a trail leading to one of the Oxbow Lakes off the Tambopata River in the Amazon

Here's the experience to the knowledge......and my favorite part:)  We initially went to find the endangered 6-8 feet Giant River Otter that lives in these lakes.  There were also chances to see the black caiman and boa constrictors, but we didn't see any of these elusive reptiles.  However at this point, I was happy and still living off my high that I got to see a jaguar in the wild.  My eyes and camera have gotten a lot better over time spotting wildlife in the rain forest.  My experience in Panama this past summer has sharpened my senses. So in hindsight, I wish I could go back in time with the focus and experience I have now to redo the trip.  I bet I would "see" a lot more the second time around. And let's not talk about my camera at the time.:)

However, we learned a lot about these magnificent Oxbow Lakes.  The trail to the first one was incredible.  We took a boat ride up the Tambopata river to a trailhead.  Once we arrived at Tres Chimbadas, we could only use a paddle boat to get onto the lake.  Here my friend Jen fished for Sardine and Piranhas! And she caught several.  The fish were captured and released.  Talk about aggressive little critters.  We put some "carnada" or bait on a hook and within seconds, a pirahna would snatch it off the line.  I didn't really care for fishing as I had done a lot of it as a kid and don't have the patience for it. So I watched Jen work her magic until I noticed the sun setting.  We had our headlamps, but I started getting a little preoccupied by the darkness.  There was still a lake that needed to be crossed and a trail that had some substantial hiking to return to our boat on the river. The pic below shows why I was a bit nervous.  At night, MOST of the animals come out of the dark and in this particular area, there were some larger critters I didn't want to come across in the black forest....caiman, tarantulas, and especially boa constrictors!  I remember that walk for all 3 of us.  It was fast with some tension in the air because it was scary!  In hindsight, I loved that feeling.  And I'll never forget the night sky.  No people.  No lights.  Just the stars and the Milky Way. Our Southern friends have a great view of space!  Of course, I cracked jokes and said Jen's favorite word, "BUSHMASTER!". There was no denying that we needed to move quickly to make it back safely to our boat.  Luckily, there weren't any bushmasters but it was always the running joke. We would eventually be attacked by killer ants but that is another story.  No one ever tells you about the bugs.....the real dangers!

This is a terrible pic, but during the day, A LOT of caiman could be spotted sunning while at night, they surfaced all over on the rivers and lakes.  The Oxbow Lakes had an eery quality to them. Magical but eery.  If one were to film a horror flick, this would be a place to do it.  They are secluded areas full of wildlife, but I sensed that danger was just lurking moments away.  Thankfully we had our guide Robin with us to keep us safe.  It was definitely an amazing trip and we learned much from this Oxbow Lake experience.  Remember, if you go here, keep your eyes open for that Giant Otter.  They'll play with their families early morning or before dusk.  I would recommend you get up early and go to the clay licks to watch Macaws and other parrots do their morning ritual and then head over to the Oxbow lakes for an early morning view of the Giant Otters.  Until tomorrow....


  1. The stillness of the first photo is so lovely. Have you seen my reply to your question about my silky waterfalls? Are you not using a DSLR?

  2. That is an adventure. I love looking for ox bow lakes they happen on even the smallest of rivers. I don't know if I'd want to handle piranahas. Yikes! I'd have been nervous hiking in the dark too but how cool to be out there. A different environment than I've ever hiked through. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Your oxbow lake picture is stunning! I like the Kapok tree too. There was one growing near here but apparently it did not survive the great freeze last February.

  4. Wow, how fascinating - i love learning about how these kinds of things take shape. And I've love to see an 8 foot otter - geezus!

  5. That was an interesting jungle trip you had.

    Your oxbow lake entry reminds me of our "Earth Science" subject in school (way back a long long time ago...LOL). With Google satellite view I can see the early formation of this kind of water body with the river just behind our farm. Without human intervention, I'm afraid we will eventually lose part of the river. I just hope it doesn't happen during my lifetime.


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