Posts Tagged ‘Ohio River valley’

Skyliner, Falls, late Feb. 2014

We are all getting antsy for spring to arrive…winter has been hanging on and on for dear life.  It’s been hard to access the river because the water level has been high.  Most of the places I visit at the Falls of the Ohio State Park are currently under muddy water.  We have had just a handful of nicer, warmer days, but that has accelerated the melting of the snow and ice throughout the more than 800 hundred mile long Ohio River Valley.  I don’t mind the cold so much, but it’s harder to do what I like to do on a swollen waterway.  Here’s how one of my spots under the railroad bridge looked during my last visit.

muddy, high water at the Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 2014

Not a pretty picture seeing a river as brown as gravy.  Lots of logs and wood floating on top and when you look more closely…there is also plenty of plastic and polystyrene in the mix too.  Another view this time with me standing on the wall that separates one side of the river from the other.

high river at the Falls, Feb. 2014

All those white spots are pieces of Styrofoam.  With my usual haunts inaccessible I moved further east…just outside the park’s entrance.  There has been a lot of activity in this area that has caught my notice.

Skyliner on the riverbank, Feb. 2014

There has been a campaign on the Indiana side to make the river more accessible particularly in areas that afford a good view of Louisville’s skyline.  To do this the vegetation has been bulldozed away.  I came across an elderly person walking her dog and she said to me quite unsolicited..”Bout time they did something to clean up this mess!” as she pointed a thin finger in the general direction of the river.  In this case, one person’s mess is another creature’s habitat.  The true “mess” comes from all the plastic bottles and chunks of man-made junk that make it into the water.  No amount of removing trees and creating views will help with this and it seems what we prefer looking at is a very selective process.  I brought my collecting bag along.  I’m hoping to pick up materials to use in an upcoming art workshop at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, but I find a few other interesting items as well and photograph them upon discovery.

Taco Bell cat toy, Feb. 2014

I came across this smiling yellow cat toy that I think came from a fast food establishment.

plastic containers for paint, Feb. 2014

Finding these paint containers made me realize how hungry I’ve become for color.  I’m looking forward to the world turning green again with color notes supplied by wild flowers.

bright orange plastic paratrooper, Feb. 2014

This plastic man with his bright, radioactive orange color was hard to miss.  He was a skydiver or paratrooper in a former life and probably fell to earth using a plastic parachute.

Skyliner with the City of Louisville behind him, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 2014

There were other signs from life that the season’s are about to change over.  I’m ever alert to what the birds are doing.  I spotted my first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year and they are among the first migratory species to arrive.  Male Northern Cardinals are singing their courtship songs and scouting out the best spots to build a nest.  On the river, however, I spied what I consider a bird sign of winter.  A nice sized flock of Lesser Scaup ducks were mostly sleeping and relaxing on the surface of the water.  In this area, it seems we see more duck varieties in late fall and early winter. Here’s a peek at the scaups.

White-winged Scoters, Falls of the Ohio, Late Feb. 2014

Before I move away from the ducks…I found one other to add to my growing collection.  This is a Mallard decoy made from plastic.  Not too long a go, I found another plastic decoy representing the Pintail Duck.

found plastic Mallard duck decoy, Falls, Feb. 2014

One other bird note…I heard them before I could see them, but I knew what they were instantly.  The familiar calls of migrating Sandhill Cranes winging their way back north.  Like geese, they fly in V-shaped formations to avoid the air turbulence created by other cranes flapping their wings.  These birds are high flyers and this was the best I could do in taking their picture with the camera I have.

high flying Sandhill Cranes, Feb. 2014

As February becomes March…the forecast for the Kentuckiana area is calling for freezing rain and snow.  It appears that Old Man Winter will be hanging out for another week.  Spring will eventually get here and already you can tell that it stays light outside longer with each passing day.   I am, however, really eager to see how the river has rearranged this familiar landscape.

Skyliner on the Ohio River's edge, Feb. 2014

Once the Ohio River recedes there will be a new landscape to explore and who knows what I will find?  I like that each year is different from the last.  Well this post is drawing to a close.  Thanks for visiting and see you soon…from the skyline of Louisville and the Falls of the Ohio.

Looking toward the skyline of Louisville, Late Feb. 2014

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high Ohio River, 8/09

As a child, I can remember the moment when it occurred to me that recorded history doesn’t always measure up to the truth.  It happened in the third grade when we were reading about the discovery of North America by Christopher Columbus.  The teacher brought up the subject of Leif Ericson and his documented voyage to Vineland.  I remember thinking that if the Vikings were first…why were we making such a big deal out of Columbus?  Unfortunately at the time, the proprietary rights of the indigenous Americans didn’t figure into the discussion.  Later I learned that history is indeed fickle and subjective and usually supports the point of view of the victor or whomever was doing the recording.  That turned out to be a valuable lesson in life, although I didn’t know it at the time.

Prince Madoc, detail, 8/09

Among the many things I love about the Falls of the Ohio is the story of Prince Madoc and the Blond-haired, Blue-eyed Indians.  When Lewis and Clark began their exploration of the continent, President Jefferson asked Lewis to confirm their existence.  These people would be the descendants of a colony of Welsh travelers  that accompanied a Prince Madoc back around the year 1170 A.D.!  An even earlier date, five hundred years earlier, has been suggested as the time of the actual voyage and is connected with the descendants of King Arthur!  The most persistent stories, however, go back to the 12th century.

Prince Madoc, 8/09

After arriving in what is believed to be Alabama’s Gulf Coast…Madoc and his people eventually filtered into the heartland by traveling along the rivers.  In their wake, they left little evidence, however, a series of stone fortifications built by unknown hands is attributed to them.  According to a native American oral tradition, these blond-haired, fair-skinned people existed and were routed in battle near the Falls of the Ohio.  The survivors kept moving where they may have merged with the Mandans in the Dakotas.  Lewis and Clark did encounter the Mandans and found them different from the other Indians.  The artist George Catlin did the most extensive study of this tribe before they were all but destroyed by smallpox.  Those survivors later integrated with other native American groups. 

Prince Madoc at the Falls, 8/09

The physical evidence isn’t great.  There are the stone works… walls, fortifications, altered caves, a limestone slab from Kentucky with what appears to be runic writing in ancient Welsh on it.  A few unusual burials have been documented in our area, but nothing definitive has made the case.  Strangely though, there have been documented discoveries of Roman coins. One cache was turned up in the 1960’s during the construction of a bridge crossing the Ohio River at Louisville.  The coins’ discoverer gave two of them to a friend and kept the rest for himself and these were lost again?  The two surviving coins were eventually given to the Interpretive Center at the Falls where they were put on display with facsimiles to simulate the discovered horde.  Other coins have been found in other locations.  Usually, these finds are poo-pooed away as outright forgeries or instances where modern people just happened to lose Roman era coins!

Prince Madoc, in progress, 8/09

I’m sure that history must be full of forgotten stories and the discovery of this continent is among them.  This place has probably been “discovered” and “lost”  on a number of occasions.  With Madoc, whether his story proves to be fact is not as important as the tale itself.  What we remember frequently trumps the truth anyway and seems all the more compelling because there is a persistent mystery surrounding it.  In my own way, I enjoy working in this gray area between fact and fiction as I interpret life at the Falls of the Ohio.  If anyone is interested in the Prince Madoc legend…the links provided for the Falls of the Ohio State Park and the Falls archaeological society can be found in my web log to the right.

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