Saturday, April 4, 2009

RISING WATER…

This is a sort of follow-up to yesterday’s posting and its brief mention of the effects of upstream rain, with today’s view of the recently fallen snag I wrote about last Monday.[here] As you can see by comparing the two photos, the river is up. I’d guess about a 5-6 foot difference in the water level. Most of this rise occurred yesterday, from mid-morning onward. When I checked yesterday morning—and mentioned afterwards in my posting—the water was up no more than a few inches above what it had been prior to Friday night’s thundershowers. I speculated then that the real effects of the storm and the amount the water level might subsequently rise, would depend on how much rain fell upstream, in the river’s upper drainage area to the north and northwest of here. Upstream rain is always the critical criteria for any riverside dweller; rain sluicing down upon our home stretch of river matters not a whit to the stream’s level, though it could be disastrous to those who live farther downstream. While this high-water view might cause one to conclude that upstream rainfall had been substantial…judging from past experience, I’d say probably not. I base that on the river’s slow rise. I’ve seen it reach this level within an hour following a drenching storm—and yes, that’s scary! This time, I’d say we’re just now seeing a fairly modest rain which fell on the drainage basin’s woods, fields, and farmlands, found its way into ditches and tiny tributaries, then into brooks and small feeder creeks, and drained on into mainstream of the river. From here the water will soon join an even larger river, which will itself empty into the Ohio River, get dumped into the Mississippi, and thence into the Gulf of Mexico after something like a week of downhill travel time. Another point—if you look at the two photos and compare the width of the island between views (see the water just over there, through the trees) you’ll notice how much narrower the dry land mass has temporarily become. The distance in the low-water shot from the near bank to the island’s far edge is approximately 75 feet. The island is about 400 feet long, and is one of several, all equally long and skinny, strung like the white-line center dashes marking a highway lane. In the high-water shot, that width is reduced to about half, maybe 35 feet. You can also see one of the low transverse areas which, during times of high water, allow the two channels to merge, temporarily sub-dividing the single island into three or four shorter islands. Note a large section of the fallen snag is lying in this now-flooded low area. That’s why I speculated the downed trunk might not be around following a rise in the river. We’ll see about that…though so far the old stub is hanging tough and staying in place. Perhaps you might wonder what island wildlife other than birds do during high water periods? Well, the fox squirrels have no problem; they simply imitate their gray cousins and take to the treetops, foraging on bud tips or whatever other edibles the season offers. I presume coons, possums, and skunks either abandon ship or den up, snug and dry, in of the many hollow sycamores. I’ve have seen deer become marooned for several days. The normal depth the water in the channel beyond the island is, in places, less than knee deep. Consequently, as the water begins to come up, even with a fast rise, there’s usually plenty of time to make an escape. But wait too long to move to the mainland, and they find themselves having to decide whether to swim for it, or stay stuck until the water levels lowers. For any deer which does manage to get themselves stuck, there’s a fair amount of browse available on the island, so food for a few days usually isn’t a problem. What can be a problem, of course, is getting caught on a rise where the water comes up even higher than pictured here. Once, the winter after I moved to this riverside cottage, a pair of whitetails became stranded on the island as the water rose to a point as high as I’ve yet witnessed. Fortunately, there’s a little knob at the island’s upstream tip that rises about eight feet higher than the land you see here. This became the deer’s home—a tiny island about 20 by 30 feet, or about the size of my cottage’s great room; yet a sufficient and safe enough refuge, nevertheless. The whitetails selected a sunny spot to bed down, out of the wind and facing upstream, and simply waited. Of course, there wasn’t much else they could do or anywhere else to go. While they probably got hungry during their ordeal, both deer made it off a few days later. The next twenty-four hours will confirm whether my guess on the water’s rise proves correct. It will also reveal (for this round of high water, anyway) the old snag’s fate…stay or go. I’ll keep you posted.

6 comments:

KGMom said...

Well, it doesn't take much rain to cause a flood. An inch of water spread out over a wide area amounts to a great deal of water flowing into a river.
Witness the Red River flooding of late--a flat surface and the water goes everywhere. Spill a glass of water on your table top, and demonstrate the effect.
For you, it's that effect in reverse.
I don't know if your (unnamed) river is as great as the Susquehanna--the river nearest us (although we don't live along its banks)--but we have witnessed how rain upriver can cause tremendoes floods. The Susquehanna River floods periodically, as it did during Hurricane Agnes, which was admittedly more than a little rainfall.
Here's hoping that "the good Lord's willing, and the crik don't rise" for your sake.
Keep your powder dry (it's easy to understand why that expression arose, is it not?)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

You know, I'd never though of any small amount of upstream water in terms of the water-spilled-on-a-table analogy…but you're absolutely right. That's exactly it. Doesn't take much to make a mess! This is the reverse of that spill, isn't it?

I don't think "my" river is anywhere close to the size or volume of the Susquehanna. (And BTW, you know my river, didn't you used to spend some summer time with relatives upstream?)

By highwater standards, this is not much. Now next week, with the predicted rain, might be different. But I still have about six feet of "freeboard."

My powder is dry, but keeping my dogs from having muddy feet is problematic—though Moon is good about flopping on her back at the door and letting me towel off all four; Willy, the visiting pooch (my "granddog" according to my daughter) is kinda antsy and prancy, and it's not so easy giving him his clean before he tracks into the house.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hope the old snag stays put Scribe. I wonder about ground nesting birds - would there be any on the island? We have moorhens and coots nesting on our beck and occasionally , when the water rises, their nests are washed awy - but as they are such water birds I think they probably go with the flow and hope for the best. I must say your river looks so interesting - what a good place to live - there is always something interesting to see.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

The water began receding yesterday afternoon. It is down two or three feet this morning (it's still dark here and when I had the dogs out a minute ago I couldn't really see.) So I'm okay this time around and I'm pretty sure the old snag stayed put.

We're supposed to have more rain today and tomorrow, changing to snow. (Seventy-four degrees a few days ago, twenty-eight to come! Typical Ohio spring.) Where I can get in trouble is several days of heavy rain in a row, with no break in between, no time for the river to "get ready" for more. But that's the bargain you make to live here.

I am worried about my geese. The goose had gone onto a nest somewhere on the next island upstream from the cottage the day after I did that piece about them becoming my "lawnmowers." The gander has been coming down for cracked corn off-and-on throughout the days since; the goose has made a couple of really brief appearances. But I didn't see either at all yesterday. I'm hoping they came and I just missed them…but I don't know.

Ultimately, geese, ducks, and other ground nesters seem to take this sort of thing in stride; the water rises or it doesn't, the eggs or nestlings survive or they don't. If disaster happens, they try again or wait until next year. Not indifferent or fatalistic, just practical.

And yes, this modest place by the river is an endlessly interesting places to live—but then, you also have such a lovely place in such lovely countryside. I think almost anywhere in the countryside, or wild areas—or even just a near such areas—can be interesting if we become acquainted with the land and its creatures, the natural rhythms and seasons. Some more interesting and varied than others, of course. And most waterside situations are a real draw to a variety of birds and animals.

I am indeed blessed.

KGMom said...

So, is the old snag still holding?
Have the waters receded?
Are any deer trapped?

You can't just go raising these breathless open-ended mysteries and then not keep us posted!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

No trapped deer.

The waters were down two or three feet by Sunday afternoon…then we had rain that evening, several tornadoes reportedly touching down within three or four miles of here (though not even particularly high winds here) more rain, and today the river is up to about the same height as where it peaked at the time of the photo.

The old snag is still there, except part of it, or a portion of another snag, is standing almost vertical in the river's edge of the cut you see in the photo. If the river continues to rise, it will at least topple, and probably be swept away.

I've been typing away—well, keyboarding—at other things all day and not paying too much attention (yes, I'm hanging my head in shame) and can't even say for sure whether the river is up or down or holding steady since noon, when last I actually stepped outside and looked. (Okay, driven by guilt, I've just this moment looked: the water level is definitely about the same…I think…and the old snag or new snag…but definitely a vertical snag…is still there. Ahh-h, such powers of observation the man has!)

I am worried about my goose, however. The male has been here today, but not the female; I'm almost sure she is now nesting on the island upstream from the one across from the cottage. I'm hoping that if she is, she's high and dry and safe.

I'll try and do a better job of updating. Enquiring minds do want to know.