Low head dams are small dams that span streams or rivers. These dams are extremely common throughout North America – and they’re extremely dangerous to boaters, people fishing and swimmers. An earlier post used their common name – drowning machines.
There’s a low head dam on the river, the slack water above the dam is a good place to see waterfowl during migration so I often walk a path along the shore looking for ducks and gulls that are seen in our area only during migration.
It was on one of those shoreline walks when I saw a small flock of buffleheads on the water. The birds would float slowly downstream on the flat water, diving and feeding as they went, until they got close to the dam and then they'd fly back upstream to repeat the process.
When I arrived at the dam I saw that one of the female buffleheads had been swept over the dam and was caught in the boil –
People frequently drown at low head dams, but even waterfowl that spend the winter on large bays or the ocean and make their living by diving for food can be victims of the drowning machine.