Sun - July 17, 2005

Can Wild Turkeys Swim? A Surprising Encounter on North Platte River in Wyoming



guide to waterproof digital cameras I've seen flocks of wild turkeys when paddling South Platte and Poudre Rivers near Greeley in northern Colorado. They used to walk on sandbars or fly across the river. I've never had occasion to shoot any pictures of them. I got my chance yesterday during paddling on North Platte River in Wyoming from Fort Laramie to Torrington.

I saw a lot birds during that trip including bald eagles, hawks, owls, herons, etc. When portaging one of diversion dams I noticed a turkey on the rocks above the dam. No, it wasn't a goose! It was definitely a turkey lady.

wild turkey

I tried to come a little closer with my camera but she walked away and disappeared behind those rocks. Next, I saw with a surprise the turkey swimming in the river.

wild turkey

She wasn't a good swimmer, rather a competent floater, steering against the current and ferrying across the river. However, the current was really strong above the dam and the poor bird had no chances to fight it. She went over the dam and disappeared in waves and foam. What a sad story I thought ...

wild turkey

But ... A second later, the turkey showed up below the dam. As nothing happened she was slowly ferrying against the current again. She still needed several minutes to reach the opposite shore and hide in bushes. I don't know whether it was accident, act of panic or something what wild turkeys do everyday.

wild turkey

It was quite surprising experience for me. After the trip I did some internet research. Asking Google if wild turkeys can swim reveals several articles mentioning that wild turkeys can swim indeed, although, they prefer to fly over body of water up to 1 miles wide. Anyway, the hen I observed was definitely a white water turkey.

The pictures were shot with my Pentax Optio WP in the middle of day with a rather harsh and unpleasant light. I am carrying the camera in a small neoprene pouch attached to my life jacket. It is always ready to use even on the board of my tippy Sisson kayak. I am going to prepare a more detailed photo report from this 28 mile trip on North Platte River during the annual silt run from the Guernsey Reservoir.

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