Looking downstream from the front-door deck.
Visitors to my streamside abode always ask the same two questions. And they are also the ones I see in this "comments section" whenever I mention the rise of my cottage-side river in a post.
How close does the water actually come to the house?
Am I afraid of getting flooded?
My answers, in order, are: pretty close, and, yes indeed.
I certainly understand everyone's curiosity. I wondered the same thing the first time I laid eyes on the place. So I thought you might like to see a few photos.
Note the stone step and the one, barely visible below, which lead
down to a landing, now under several feet of water.
The deck (with rail) runs across the front of the cottage.
The shots were taken a few minutes ago. I was standing just outside the door, on the end of the wider deck that runs alongside the cottage at a right-angle to the riverbank. The bit of deck you see in the right of the second and third shots is the narrow deck that runs across the width of the house. In the middle shot, below the small platform, you'll notice a stone step or two. There are eight of these steps leading down to a stone landing which is, itself, about 2 to 3 feet above the river at normal pool. So what you're seeing is about 8 to 9 feet of rise.
Here you can see the yard level; though hard to tell in the photo,
it's actually 8-10 in. above the water. Several times the
water has been high enough to come under
the platform where you see the rock.
Actually, this is not particularly high water—or maybe I should say it's not the highest the river regularly gets. Every year there's a rise or two that exceeds this point by a foot. Not high enough that all the grass you see in the bottom shot is underwater, but high enough that water an inch deep creeps under that wooden platform, and edges its way toward the main deck and my front door.
But…from what you see here, to the a point where water would actually be level with the bottom of my door would require about another two feet of rise. And inside the cottage, the door opens to a vestibule level that's 6–7 inches below the main floor level. So I do have some additional leeway.
This particular rise didn't result entirely from days of downpours—though Friday night and Saturday we did have several heavy rains. Rather, the problem was it came on the heels of a heavy snowmelt which had the river up the first of last week to one step below the point you see here. The water began to recede, and had gone down three or four feet when the rain arrived…which sent it right back up after a day's delay. There's usually a lag between the rain and the rise, since it doesn't matter how much falls here, rather how much falls miles to the northwest, upstream. I often never see a raindrop, yet have a two-foot rise the following day.
This stone cottage was built in 1919. Since that time, it has had water inside three or four times. So chances are, it will happen again…though conditions have to combine in just the right (or wrong!) order. Plus, the floor has been raised by that extra 6–7 inches, so that will help and might spell the difference. You do have to accept the potential of flooding if you choose to live so close to a river. I pay my flood insurance and figure I'll move such things as books, art, photos, computers, and my Steinway piano should the river decide to keep on coming; the rest is just stuff, entirely replaceable.
Nevertheless, do I worry? Not as much as you might think. Myladylove does, but she's not the risk taker and semi-fatalist (realist?) I am. I try and reassure her. Mostly, I talk to the river, pray about it some, too. I accept it for what it is—a river. A living bit of landscape that runs through my life. Beautiful almost all the time.
And always the one in charge…