Running the Dragon

Our kayak trip starts directly across from Big Island. The Friends of Dragon Run have owned Big Island since 1988, and The Nature Conservancy helped the group acquire connecting lands, including the landing. © Daniel White/TNC

Teta Kain, the Friends’ paddlemaster, leads the way as we glide off along the Dragon’s dark tannic waters. The protected woodlands on both sides rise up like the walls of a green canyon. © Daniel White/TNC

Andy Lacatell, who has led the Conservancy’s work along the Dragon since 2001, calls this spot ‘The Cove.’ It’s one of the largest and most scenic of the countless channels we see reaching like tentacles into the forest. © Daniel White/TNC

The prothonotary warbler is a common sight during spring and summer. Like scores of other migratory songbirds, it nests in the Dragon’s forests and then vacates its summer home to spend winter in the tropics. © Dave Spier

Andy Lacatell’s kayak hugs a line of plum-colored silky dogwoods as he rounds a bend through a narrow channel. Then the channel will suddenly widen. © Daniel White/TNC

‘Our Dragon Flats Preserve is everything on the left for the next mile and a half,’ says Lacatell. ‘It’s a beautiful, beautiful tract.’ © Daniel White/TNC

Arrow arum, spatterdock, and flourishes of purple flowering pickerelweed, pictured here, sprout along the water’s margins. © Mary Porter

Our eyes are drawn to the bald eagle nest topping a battered old cypress directly across from Dragon Flats. The Conservancy helped Friends of Dragon Run acquire its Eagle's Nest preserve in 2008. © Daniel White/TNC

We take our time drifting past Dragon Flats, taking photos, catching up on field notes and just enjoying the sights and sounds of this watery wilderness. © Andy Lacatell/TNC

Our trip winds down as we approach the bridge at Mascot. The Friends of Dragon Run own another small forest preserve here with a birding and nature trail. © Daniel White/TNC