American Vistas

As Americans celebrate Independence Day this weekend, it’s a good time to ponder and admire the diverse habitats and picturesque vistas all contained in this one large country.

The western half of the country is dominated by the Rocky Mountains–the largest mountain system in North America–and the Pacific Ocean.

The west has far more tectonic plates at work underground than in the east, creating more rugged mountains and geologic features. West coast beaches in general tend to have more craggy rocks and chilly water currents.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, America’s first national park, has over half of the world’s geysers and hydrothermal features.

The west is home to expansive deserts, too. Arid regions with minimal precipitation and unique landscapes.

Much of the country’s central section, the Midwest, is flat. Once a land of vast prairies, it now hosts over 127 million acres of agriculture and has some of the richest soil in the world.

Some U.S. prairies still exist, like this one in Texas.

Bisecting the near-center of the country is the Mississippi River, the second largest river in the nation (second to the Missouri). It drains all or parts of 31 states before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico, another of our nation’s coasts, is one of humid subtropical climate bordering five states.

America’s Great Lakes, in the center of the country and eastward, form the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth. They were formed via glacial activity.

All of the Great Lakes are huge, this is just a small section of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The eastern half of the country is dominated by the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean’s coast and coastal plain. Mountains on this side of the country are older and not as high as in the west. Warmer waters and long stretches of white sand beaches enrich the eastern seaboard.

In addition to the 48 contiguous states, America also has five major island territories; a tropical island state, Hawaii; and Alaska, our largest state, in northern, arctic regions.

Alaska is the state with the most islands, 171, and the country’s tallest mountain, Denali, with a peak reaching 20,310 feet (6,190 m.).

Lots of rivers in this country too — over 250,000.

Link: Map and List of U.S. Rivers

The Columbia River, pictured below, has the largest discharge into the Pacific Ocean in North or South America.

Wetlands in the U.S. are critical habitats for improved water quality, erosion control and flood protection to name a few. They are found in every state, but there are more in the east where glaciation created an abundance of aquatic habitat. The largest wetland system in the U.S. is in Florida, the Everglades.

This is the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin, below. I was born in this region and visiting America’s marshes and swamps is always like going home to me.

Most of our eastern nation’s southern states fall into the humid subtropical climate zones, where warmer temperatures, bayous and swamps can be found.

Cities occupy much of our country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2020 the United States has over 300 cities/towns with populations over 100,000.

It is no wonder that Americans like to flock to our 423 nationally protected parks, monuments and preserves for recreation. Our nation maintains more than 85 million acres of parks in all 50 states. Of those, there are 63 classified National Parks.

While many of America’s cities in the west are lovely…

…the cities in the east boast more national history.

The city where our Declaration of Independence was signed is Philadelphia. It served as the nation’s capital for one decade in the 1790s.

Today, Washington, D.C. is the capital city and federal district of the United States.

This week, the 2020 Census reflects a current U.S. population of 334,861,117.

Our country and its peoples have come a long way since the early days. So many different people and cultures have built this country, called it home.

We all have a lot to celebrate.

Happy Fourth!

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Texas Wildlife

Texas,-Barred-OwlMy idea of a vacation is to be out in the wilderness as far away from people and as close to nature as possible. As an outdoorsy adjunct to a family visit in Houston, we stayed at a working ranch in the Texas countryside.

 

The fortunate delight of our isolated and rustic cabin was the beautiful barred owl whose territory we happened to occupy.  Every morning and every night we could always count on seeing him, and often at various other times throughout the day.  Not only was he stunning to observe and a skilled, silent flyer, but he was also a “lifer” for us–a bird we had never seen before.

 

Carolina Wren, Texas

Carolina Wren, Texas

Also outside our front deck was a Carolina Wren who frequently visited a hole in the nearest big tree.  After watching this wren just a short time, we soon discovered she was feeding a nest full of chicks.

 

Other gems we found nearby that we don’t see in California were the painted buntings (wow), northern cardinals (lovely), more wonderful birds, frogs, and turtles, and two snakes.

 

The first morning we went for a walk outside our cabin.  The grass was very tall in places, so we followed our instincts to stay on the path.  As we walked along, a startled water snake quickly unwound from his lakeside resting place and ducked into the water before we could get a photo.  He swam away and said “good day.”

Painted Bunting, Texas

Painted Bunting, Texas

 

Texas,-Snake

Texas size snake (not a garden hose)

At one point we were in the car on a road near our cabin when I said, “Stop the car!”  Of all the snakes I have seen all over this world, I saw snake behavior I had never seen before.  It was a very, very long snake flipping through the air.  By the time we got the car stopped, the snake was no longer tumbling.  He was moving away quickly, on the ground.

 

Although this isn’t a very good photo (it all happened so fast), you can at least see how very very long this critter is.  OMG!  The longest snake I have ever seen!  “Texas size” as they like to say in Texas…and they’re not kidding!

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Big Horn Sheep Routines

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mtn. Nat'l. Park, Colorado

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mtn. Nat’l. Park, Colorado

It is about that time of year when the big horn sheep must be coming down to Horseshoe Park again.

 

It was in June a few years ago when these Big Horn Sheep greeted and thrilled us in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.  They descend from the high altitudes of the mountains in spring and early summer to a meadow with lakes called Horseshoe Park. Here they graze on grasses and soils that have desirable minerals they cannot otherwise obtain in the alpine regions. They prefer life in the upper reaches of the Rocky Mountains where their specialized hooves and traversing skills help them avoid predators on the rocky cliffs.  (Click here for my earlier post highlighting the Big Horn Sheep.)

 

I find it so comforting to think back on routines in a place I once visited.  Their routines, they keep going long after I have departed.  That humble routine of the rangers stopping all the traffic and the sheep heading for the meadow must be occurring right now.  This warms my heart.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

The Bliss of Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay Overview

Bodega Bay Overview

I went on a short vacation to Bodega Bay, California last week.  I love this little fishing village for many reasons:  authenticity, wildlife, and beauty.  It may look sleepy to the outsider, but this northern California town has been a lively place for a long, long time. 

 

No matter how many times you visit this area you never know what it is going to look like because of the influence of the ocean tides.  You can be there at 10:00 in the morning one week and see the Bay loaded with water, birds, and boats.  Then go back at 10:00 a.m. a few days later and the Bay will be mostly mud.  The Bay is the center of town, the main attraction for recreation and commerce, yet it is nothing but mud for half of every day.  But even when the water is low, there are still boats moving out to the ocean along a narrow channel, and birds and wellie-wearing humans digging in the mud. Sometimes you can’t even see the other side of the Bay, so shrouded with thick, drippy fog.  This is what makes Bodega Bay so authentic. 

 

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher

The wildlife here is awesome.  In the fall and winter the bird migration is at its peak.  There are hundreds of shorebirds, ducks, geese, and pelicans occupying the Bay.  It’s a source of endless attraction to us birders from all over the San Francisco Bay Area.  When I was there last week the migration hadn’t started yet, so the Bay hosted primarily summer residents.  The birds and seals pictured here are just a few of the many visitors we enjoyed. 

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

 

The world of fish is also a big draw to this area.  Crabs, salmon and other culinary catches are an important source of income for many people.  I had the joy of being here one year on Christmas Eve day and the area was absolutely hopping with residents from all over the San Francisco Bay Area who were here on their annual holiday trek.  Many people come here to collect their holiday feast of local Dungeness crab. 

 

There are crab pots (cages for catching the crabs) stacked wherever you look and happy holiday folks with their coolers collecting the day’s catch to share with their friends and neighbors.  Commercial fishers and many other fishing folks are fervently moving the day’s harvest on the boats and docks.  There’s also a wonderful tiny restaurant called Spud Point Crab Company right across from the small marina.  They advertise that they have the best crab chowder on the coast, and it truly is.  In December it’s often rainy and cold, and sipping a hot cup of their fantastic garlicky crab chowder is pure bliss. 

 

Western Gull

Western Gull

On top of all this local charm, abundance of wildlife, the briny sea smell and the ever-present ebbing tides, is the exquisite beauty of Bodega Bay.  Look at the scenery behind this Western Gull.  That gull was three feet from our picnic table at Bodega Head.  Our view was the glorious Pacific Ocean where we had spotted harbor seals minutes earlier.  On the rocks in the sea:  sea palms bow and undulate with each ocean wave, bright orange starfish peak out when the waves subside, crustaceans mingle with oystercatchers, cormorants, and gulls.  Visitors in the winter watch for migrating whales, watching expectantly for the telltale spouts.    

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

 

Lastly, there are many tourists who enjoy this place for its historical significance in the film industry.  Bodega Bay and the neighboring town of Bodega were the primary locations where Alfred Hitchcock filmed “The Birds.”  Posters, informational brochures and of course the ubiquitous t-shirts remind every visitor that Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette worked here in the early 1960s. 

A few spots still remain, like the famous schoolhouse where the birds descended and terrorized the town’s innocent children; and the view that Tippi Hedren scanned of the quaint town on her arrival, executing her plan to use her dainty figure and high cheek bones to woo the town’s ruggedly handsome bachelor. 

"The Birds" schoolhouse

“The Birds” schoolhouse

 

Alfred Hitchcock filming "The Birds"

Alfred Hitchcock filming “The Birds”

This town is still quaint.  Tourists come and go; thrills from old Hollywood days are embraced, San Franciscans visit during the holidays for their crab fests, and birders are dazzled by the winter arrivals.  The locals embrace these people passing through, but they also protect their environment to keep it a wholesome fishing village.  I am reminded every time I come here of the fierce battle in the late 1950s over a nuclear power plant. 

 

It’s now called Hole in the Head.  It provides good birding and a picturesque vista overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Bodega Bay.  But in 1958 the local power company proposed this spot for a nuclear power plant.  Opposition was spearheaded by rancher Rose Gaffney, who was forced to surrender 64 acres of her property to the power company.  This fight became one of the first anti-nuclear grassroots events in the country…and they won.  Over a half century later, the hole that was dug is filled with rainwater that hosts marsh reeds, trees, brush, and dozens of bird species.   It is a serene spot with bluebirds and sparrows flitting among wild lupine, squawking gulls and barking seals, and the occasional background bellow of a fog horn. 

 

It’s a place on this planet of pride, pristine beauty, and all the natural rhythms of the mighty Pacific Ocean. 

Bodega Bay aerial view

Bodega Bay aerial view

 

 

The Very Cool Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

One of my favorite land-dwelling mammals in the U.S. (besides humans) is the bighorn sheep.   In early June of 2011, I was in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and had the good fortune of close-up viewing in Horseshoe Park.  That year it was still frigid and snowy in the mountain peaks so the sheep were grazing in this meadow at the mountain base.  They are vegetarian and primarily eat grass.  The management at this National Park take their bighorn sheep seriously–rangers that week were directing traffic near the main road so the sheep could graze in peace. 

 

A member of the Bovidae family, wild sheep are primarily found in the western United States and Canada.  Although they were widespread throughout the west 200 years ago, bighorn sheep are now in far fewer numbers.  Like many of the spectacular wild mammals in our country, the bighorn sheep population was nearly obliterated by the early part of the 20th century.  They were over-hunted and also killed by diseases.  Fortunately the sheep were reintroduced and other conservation efforts were successful, rejuvenating the population. 

 

Bighorn sheep and elk

Bighorn sheep and elk

Both genders have those crazy horns, but the rams (males) have more significant curvature.  Older rams’ horns can eventually curve around into a circle!  Besides being a fashion statement, the horns of the rams are important tools for the males’ battles for dominance.  The rams commonly spar and posture and bash each others’ heads during the mating season.  Their brains are protected by bony cores in the horns as well as large sinuses in the skull; but sometimes the rams are seriously, even fatally, hurt by the clashes. 

 

A formidable creature, the males each weigh several hundred pounds and the Rocky Mountain subspecies, shown here, can even reach 500 pounds.  Females are smaller.  Females (also known as ewes) typically have one lamb, which is able to stand, run and climb soon after birth.  This is a good thing because the lambs are easy predation especially to bears, wolves, cougars and others.  The sheep, in their large herds, disappear up the mountain as soon as upper mountain grazing is available to avoid much of the predation. 

 

Big-Horm-Sheep,-ColoradaIf you happen to be in one of the national parks out west, take the time to look around for the wild sheep, ask at the visitor center where you can see them.  I have seen the Dall’s sheep, another wild sheep, in Denali; but at that time they were tiny dots of white way up at the top of the mountains.  Fortunately we had our spotting scope and binoculars and we could admire them even from a distance.  Taking the time to observe and revere the wild mammals of our country is one easy step toward preserving them.

 

The Art of Travel

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

I just got back from a day and a half vacation in beautiful San Francisco and it was so diversified and lively that it felt like many more days than it was.  Here are some suggestions for making all your travel dreams become a reality. 

 

1. Be realistic

2. Budget

3. Stay focused

 

Being realistic sometimes bites.  But it goes a long way in the art of travel.  It’s about understanding who you are and what makes you happy.  You may, for example, one time have dreamed about going to The Galapagos Islands.  But if you prefer big, bustling cities and can’t handle getting seasick, then in doing your research you will find that The Galapagos may be an old or misplaced dream that probably won’t be very fun for you.  Let go of that dream and figure out what currently suits you. 

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

 

Budgeting is the key to travel; and it’s not just about money, it’s about time too.  With all the lovely places there are to visit, it is not easy to choose.  And inevitably as you visit more sights, the list of new places just keeps expanding.  We all have limitations in life, figure yours out and work within them.  Planning, research and talking to others about their travel experiences all help.  I’ve eliminated whole countries by asking pointed questions of fellow travelers who have visited places on my list.  And of course there are so many books, magazines, websites and blogs to consult. 

 

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, closing doors is also very helpful.  I once thought, for example, that there were many places in Alaska that I wanted to visit.  We planned the first trip there with the understanding we would go back another time and see other parts.  It’s a huge state.  We thoroughly enjoyed Denali, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.  But once we were there, we saw the wildlife wasn’t quite as abundant as we liked (so much frigidity), and realized tropical venues are more our style.  A future trip to Alaska is now lower on the list.  It was a beautiful trip, lots of fun, and an awesome state, but there are other places we want to visit more. 

Here’s a real eye-opening way to prioritize.  Spoiler alert:  it’s painful.  Count how many years are left in your life until travel will become physically impossible.  Then multiply it by the number of times in a year you can realistically take a trip.  That’s how many big trips you have left if you’re lucky.  ouch.  sorry.  If you’re middle aged and realistic, it doesn’t amount to many trips.  But as harsh as this is, it does give you insight.  It forces you to focus. 

 

Focusing on where you most want to go in the world is not as easy as it sounds.  Make a list of your top choices and allow for frequent re-prioritization.  Some folks prefer not to make a plan, want the spirit of the moment to move them.  But besides the time restriction of a finite life, there are over seven billion people on this planet.  Reservations, permits, and planning are necessary in most popular visitor destinations. 

 

Lastly, go to places with your companion that you both enjoy.  If you prefer to travel alone, this isn’t a problem.  But I can’t emphasize enough that compromise on a vacation is not usually fun for anyone.  I was once on an African safari with a family who obviously forced their teenage daughter to join them.  She spent the whole trip with ear buds and a frown, and wow, they threw away so many thousands of dollars.  The spirit of travel sometimes requires a person to be temporarily inconvenienced or uncomfortable.  If a person is where they want to be, these brief moments are easily overlooked…but forget it if they never wanted to be here in the first place.  yikes. 

 

SF Ferry Building

SF Ferry Building

Our trip to San Francisco had limitations, as every trip does.  We had only two days for this trip.  We planned accordingly and had so much fun!  (For tips on planning a bigger trip, like a safari, see my post Let’s Go on an African Safari.)  We wanted it to be carefree, easy, summer fun…and it was.  We took a ferry across the Bay and left the car behind, enjoyed the markets and gourmet shops, ventured along the waterfront, found the America’s Cup Village where the fastest yachts in the world will compete next month.  There were booths of crafts and art, local soccer teams playing, street artisans playing music, roller skating, and performing, boats of every size and color.  This two day trip transported us out of the so-much-to-do homeowner mode and into a vibrant, colorful summer world.   

SF Farmer's Market

SF Farmer’s Market

 

Earth is a big place.  But once you manage a few basics about what would be fun for you, you can focus on just where you want to spend your precious time, money, and energy, and then have a blast.  Bon voyage!

San Francisco California

San Francisco California

The Horicon Marsh Lives On

Common Muskrat

Common Muskrat

I had the fortune of spending the past few days all around the Horicon Marsh, a vast wetland in southeastern Wisconsin.  Right now they are just beginning their summer and it’s an ongoing jubilee of outdoor joys after a frozen, frigid winter.  I like the Horicon Marsh for three reasons. 

 

1.  I’m a birder, and this 32,000 acre wetland boasts 300 species of birds.  Joining this muskrat (a “muskie”) and Canada Geese pictured here are raptors, cranes, owls, songbirds, waterfowl, reptiles and other mammals. Every May they have a bird festival hosting hundreds of birders for the spring migration of numerous species. 

 

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

2.  I like this marsh for its history.  There were mistakes made along the way, but the land and its people have co-evolved to create this successful ecosystem.  You can walk along the paths as terns silently fly overhead and red-winged blackbirds deliver their melodic liquid burbling, hidden rails squawk in the cattails while chiggers quietly munch on your ankles. 

 

The area is the result of glacial formation during the last Ice Age many, many years ago.  There were nomadic hunters, prehistoric Indian cultures, then Native American tribes, then white settlers.  Closer to our time, in the mid-1800s a dam was built, flooding the marsh, creating a large man-made lake.  A few decades later, controversy ensued and the dam was destroyed.  When the dam was torn down the marsh habitat was restored, with that came an influx of ducks and geese. 

 

So the ducks and geese began congregating again in the Horicon Marsh, much to the delight of the local residents.  It was the late 1800s and early 1900s and the wildlife had returned to what was feared to be destined as a wasteland.  The wildlife came back and began once again to multiply, the people were elated.  What happened next?  Hunting was unregulated and hunters wiped out all the ducks and geese! 

 

Back to a wasteland.  Around 1910 they dredged the marsh since there was no life left, prepared it for agriculture.  But farming failed.  Next the land turned into peat moss and it caught fire and burned and burned until there was nothing left again.  Another period of being a wasteland, until 1921 when conservationists pushed through some laws and regulations. 

 

Today it is the opposite of a wasteland; it is a wetland managed both as a national refuge and a state refuge.  The largest cattail marsh in the United States, it is home to abundant wildlife and appreciative humans.  There are duck hunters here, and much of the marsh is funded by them, but there is also regulation and conservation.  Hunters, wildlife conservationists, Packer fans and dairy farmers…we all learned how to get along together.  This marsh turned into a success story. 

 

3.  I like the Horicon Marsh because I was born here.  I have memories of my father and his kin and friends hunting ducks, duck for dinner, decoys in the garage.  The summers were thick with mosquitoes and one of our childhood thrills was running after the “spray trucks” that blew giant plumes of insecticide in our faces. (imagine!)  There was an annual festival every summer called “Marsh Days.”  The parade had dozens and dozens of contingents, many of the floats decorated with cattails and duck decoys.  We always knew that summer was coming to an end when the honking chorus of geese began, the sky was filled with v-shaped lines of geese beginning their migration.

 HoriconMarshSign

Marsh habitat all over this country has declined, but I have witnessed the Horicon Marsh as a thriving place of wonderment for a half century.  It’s not to say there aren’t current problems, because with more people come more problems; but this marsh, this beautiful brackish expanse of water and weeds, is not going away. 

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

 

Flycatcher Lessons

Pacific-slope flycatcher eggs

Pacific-slope flycatcher eggs

Here in northern California right now many birds are being born.  Thinking back on all the years I have watched more and more baby birds coming into this world, I realized I have learned some important life lessons from them.  Take this pacific-slope flycatcher.  For 8 years in a row the female has built her mossy nest on our front door beam.  Almost every year chicks have hatched and fledged; but it’s different every year, and some years are harder than others (Life Lesson #1). 

Here’s what else I’ve learned: 

Pacific-slope flycatcher mother

Pacific-slope flycatcher mother

 

#2.  Home is where the heart is.  This little bird is only about 5 inches long but she manages to fly 1,900 miles from Mexico to our front porch year after year.  I’m sure this couple is just as happy when they reach our porch beam, as we are, the human couple, when we hear that first seet of the spring.  But then one day in late summer they will be gone, off to their winter home.

#3.  We get by with a little help from our friends.  In 2005 the nest was an absolute mess, it was too small for the brood and poorly constructed.  When temperatures hit one hundred one day, while we were at work a chick either fell or got pushed out of the nest.  When I came home I found a drooping, half-dead, panting chick on the door step.  I brought the chick a bottle cap of water.

#4.  Diet is everything.  I watched that little guy revive from a few sips of water and was so encouraged that I decided to find him some food.  Hmmm, I thought, a flycatcher must eat flies.  Armed with a flyswatter, I found a big fly, swatted it dead, and hand delivered it to the panting chick.  Don’t you know, within an hour the fly was consumed, and the flycatcher’s little head had lifted.  We slipped him back into the nest and life was restored.

Pacific-slope flycatcher nestlings

Pacific-slope flycatcher nestlings

#5.  Tenacity is critical.  One year I heard a thump outside the front door and found the nest on the deck, four little chicks were frantically scattering.  They looked like those wind-up chicks in novelty stores at Easter time.  It would have been comical if there weren’t four lives at stake.  One chick dropped between the deck slats, fell down below where snakes reside.  With a long arm, quick action and the concerted effort of my partner and me, we managed to gather the chicks.  But with the drop, the nest had become bottomless.  Fortunately, the year before we had installed a bird platform beside the beam, so we returned this rumpled mass to the platform.  All the birds survived.

All of us living, breathing beings keep going.  Another lesson:  life goes on.  What have you learned from the creatures around you?

Pacific-slope flycatcher adult singing of life

Pacific-slope flycatcher adult singing of life

An Awesome Aussie Swim

Even though my favorite kind of travel is wildlife adventures to remote locations, there are inevitably cities that an adventure traveler has to pass through to get out to the wilderness.  If you aren’t a rock star chartering your own plane, there is usually a train, bus, jeep, boat, or puddle-jumper plane required to get out to the wild side. The City of Cairns (pronounced “cans”) was such a place for me on three different occasions. 

Cairns Esplanade

Cairns Esplanade

This is a small city as cities go (population less than 200,000) and is in northeastern Australia in the state of Queensland.  You can access the Great Barrier Reef from here, or drive further north to Cape York Peninsula, west to the Atherton Tablelands or other remote jewels.

This palm-studded photo is one of my favorite spots in Cairns:  the Esplanade.  Tourists like to go here because there are shops and restaurants down near the marina, as well as a departure dock for snorkel and dive boats.  The main part of the Esplanade is this long park that flanks the ocean.  It has a well-maintained path (or “track” as Australians call it) for locals and tourists alike. We saw several dozen species of birds here, from parrots to pelicans.

 

Cairns Swimming Lagoon

Cairns Swimming Lagoon

At the marina end of the Esplanade is an interesting gathering place, the Swimming Lagoon.  It is a public swimming pool, and it sparkles under the searing Australian sun.  This photo of the pool is where it begins.  You enter it like a beach, just walking gradually off the pavement and into the pool, but it’s a concrete pool.  The pool is built right next to the ocean, like an infinity pool, so when you’re in it the glittery turquoise sea stretches out as far as you can see. 

 

Things are different in Australia.  They’re always different.  Here in the United States we have elaborate luxury resorts with numerous pools built right next to the ocean.  Sunbathers lay beside the pool on chaise lounges so they never have to experience sand grains on their feet or the unpredictability of a crashing wave tossing them down.  In Australia they have a pool beside the ocean for a different and more sympathetic reason:  so the box jellyfish can’t kill you. 

 

There they have beaches with giant nets in the water to keep the predators out, daunting jellyfish signs on shore, and dedicated life guards who really do save numerous lives.  The box jellyfish have seriously fatal stingers and the undertow is like nowhere else in the world.  You can read more about it in my Australian travel mystery Wicked Walkabout

 

But if you’re not inclined toward smashing waves, convulsing undertows, or jellyfish that suck the sap out of you, then you can tiptoe into this man-made lagoon and enjoy an easy and refreshing soak in crystal clear water. Cities have their joys too.