Posts Tagged ‘river flooding’

I have been doing some armchair beach combing while my knee recovers and I have selected images to help tell the story of wood at the Falls of the Ohio.  Since this wood was also once alive, it is also the story of trees along the Ohio Valley. When I went through my last three year’s worth of images…I found enough material for a few “wooden posts”.  Hence, this is Part I of what may prove to be a couple of stories.  The Falls of the Ohio is well-known for its driftwood deposits and many people (and some animals when I come to think about it) like to take advantage of this resource.  I have met many a person in pursuit of a select piece of wood.  What folks do with this wood is as variable as the person.  Some people like to use driftwood to enhance garden displays, some are inspired to make art from the found wood, and others may choose to burn this wood during cold winter nights.  I’ve seen Pileated Woodpeckers make short work of decayed tree trunks in their pursuit of carpenter ants and beetle larvae.   And once I found a Mallard duck’s nest inside a hollow log.  I’ve seen many beautiful fungi helping to convert this wood to humus. Driftwood is plentiful in the park and what usually happens is the Ohio River during its high water moods moves the old wood out and lays down a fresh layer that originates up-stream from us.  Sometimes I wonder if the wood I’m seeing is also part of the riverbank eroding in the northeast? These days, riverine ecosystems are under so many pressures. Since the Falls environment is continually being rearranged by nature, no two years are exactly the same and the riverbank is ever-changing.  It is interesting to me to think about these very images as digital driftwood that flows from the rivulet of data coming from my computer and tumbled into the ocean of info that is the internet.

A prolonged rainy system upriver from us or a sudden flash flood caused by short, but intense rain storms causes the Ohio River to rise quickly.  “New” wood flows over the top of the dam and soon mixes with wood already in the park.

Prevailing winds and river currents push the driftwood which can form large rafts and mats against the Indiana side of the Ohio River.  If you notice, there aren’t many trees here with intact branches.  The river breaks each tree down and keeps subdividing it into ever smaller and straighter pieces.  The wood chips in the water are the remains of tree bark that have been ground off by continually rolling against the other tree trunks in the waves.  Of course, there is other detritus much of it man-made also in the water. Eventually the water recedes and strands the wood in interesting formations that are a part of a new and rearranged environment.  Here are a few images made while the river retreats.

Not all the driftwood gets corralled by long logs that organize the smaller ones into neat parallel rows that fill in beach space like pieces to a puzzle.  It’s fascinating to get a sense of the water by how the wood was laid down.  Sometimes there is just so much material that immense mounds are formed by the interlocking wood.  Exploring these mounds can be tricky because the wood is still settling and caution is recommended.  At the moment, there is a sizable amount of driftwood under the railroad bridge which is also closest to the dam.  Here are a few images of all these logs after the water has drained away.

The small creek that flows into the Ohio River gets backed up with logs during high water.  When the water recedes and deposits the wood, it covers the contours of the creek’s banks.  Here are a few more recent images.

In the above image you can see how the trees that line this bank are beginning to be exposed by the river.  I believe there is just so much additional water and energy in play now because of climate change that the days of gentle rains will be fewer and farther between one another.  In our area, many residents have noticed that our storms seem to be fiercer and becoming more event worthy.  The main beneficiary of this are the television weather forecasters who love to hype the weather anyway.  I believe I will end here for now, but will continue later because there is more to say about this driftwood.  To close, I will end with another large and sculptural mound of driftwood.  Have a great week and month everybody!!

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This is a post from the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  The high waters from the recent flood have taken their sweet time abating.  I slogged through a lot of mud, but have to admit I had a good time exploring.  Along the way, I could see odd items that had been snagged by the trees and here they will stay until they decay or another flood carries them away.  Here’s a wooden stand of some kind that found refuge in the branches of this tree.

And here is part of a hurricane fence that the river deposited high and dry onto another tree.  Nearly every where I go I can find (mostly plastic bags of all sizes) stuff caught by the tree branches.  Sometimes this items “decorate” their new homes for years to come.

I’m always on the look out for signs of life.  On this trip I came across a flock of American Coots, but they swam away before I could take one decent image of them.  In the soft mud all around me, were the tracks of the various small animals that call this place home.  I believe these are tracks made by raccoons next to this plastic baby toy that floated in with the river.

Investigating the other debris, I nearly missed seeing this Eastern box turtle.  He looked like an old-timer and because it was still a cool day…he was moving slowly.  This allowed me to take several pictures and I had a great opportunity to check him out.  Here is a series of images of it.

The weird part is that earlier in the day, I came across a completely different kind of turtle.  This one is usually found in close proximity to sand and has a penchant for children’s company.  While the previous turtle embodied substance and image…this one is all image.

I also came across my “Mud Duck” which was hanging out in an area that was much drier than before.

This duck and all the genuine birds and small animals better look out this spring and summer because the feral cat population keeps increasing.  On my way back to my vehicle, I came by this site near the Interpretive Center.  Frankly, this “blew me away”.  There were two picnic tables and each one had the equivalent of a large bag of dry cat food spread under each table.  I’m sure this person has a kind heart and means well, but I don’t see how this helps the other wildlife in the park.  Well fed cats still catch birds and hopefully they will also catch the rats that I’m sure this scene also attracts.  I’ll end with these two images, but will be posting more post-flood pictures very soon.  Until then…

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I’m looking forward to new adventures at the Falls of the Ohio and once the river subsides I’ll be able to do that.  What I knew so well over the past year is just that…the past.  Floods always rearrange the riverbank around here and a new supply of “stuff” will be deposited…unfortunately.

There is so much trash and debris floating around here it is a bit amazing and depressing.  Just for the record, most of the trash is not coming from my home city of Louisville.  It’s not that we are any better than anyone else, but the fact is this garbage has traveled with the river from as far north as Pittsburgh and other venues north of us.  The Falls of the Ohio seems to catch-all particularly at this very spot.

This was the view under the railroad bridge on Sunday.  A tremendous amount of debris has been concentrated here and once the water recedes there will be mountains of driftwood with garbage mingled throughout.  You can see how daunting a task it would be to try to remove what can be recycled here from what should decompose naturally.  The prevailing currents and wind push all this floating debris against the Falls of the Ohio until the next bout of high water adds or subtracts it from here.

Yes, it’s very colorful, but completely unwanted.  Most of what you can see here seems to be plastic drinking bottles.  I guess it’s much easier to throw them in the river than to deposit them in some recycling bin!  Once the river backs down, I imagine I will find all sorts of “treasures”.  A good friend of mine who also happens to be an artist has a difficult time reconciling why I spend so much time down here making art from Styrofoam, etc… I tell him that there are more important issues in the world than what occurs in the art world and that I’m worried about the planet.  Making something creative from this junk is my way of calling attention to the problem.  It’s not just the objects, but the context that all this is presented in that’s more crucial.  It’s not a gallery or museum but rather the very space of life itself.

As far as floods go…this has been a fairly gentle one for us, thus far.  More water up north will translate to an increase in the river level again.  We may go through this a few more times over the next couple of months.  There were record snow falls this year and all the melt water from that has not been reckoned with yet.  The staircase beyond the sign is a common way that people access the riverbank.  Now let’s check out the stairs themselves.

I walked along to all my favorite spots…or at least the ones I could reach.  My boots were a wet and muddy mess, but it felt good being outside.  I saw a few of the early migrating birds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Rufous-sided Towhees, Belted Kingfishers, and yes the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which I believe to be the same woodpecker that I have spotted visiting the same sweetgum tree for the last four years.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good day for bird photography, but maybe next time!

This is a view near the Interpretive Center.  The rising water does so centimeter by centimeter in very undramatic fashion.  It can be very disarming, however, to feel your feet getting wet when just a few minutes before the ground you were standing on was dry. 

I found this to be an interesting and melancholy image.  Usually, picnic tables conjure up pleasant images of family outings, but the river obviously is disinterested.  This table has its legs up in the air like some dead cartoon animal.

Just a typical view of bottomland when the river rises.  I think the water accentuates the vertical elements in this composition and causes me to notice the trees more.

As I was walking along the Woodland Trail, I came across this storm sewer that services the town of Clarksville.  Why it’s exactly here next to park land is debatable?  While I was walking by I was startled by an increase in the volume of water gushing from this location.  This is another aspect of flooding.  So many of our small towns and cities need serious overhauls to their aging sewer systems and the increasing volumes of water exposes their weaknesses. 

The water here smelled like the combined scents of every laundry detergent known to mankind all mingled together.  There was also a “nice” foam head along the margins.

For now, I haven’t been able to do as much with my project on site.  At home and in my new studio room, I have been sifting through images and bits of plastic that I have accumulated over time and wondering what to do with it all?  I’ll end this post with one more recent flood image.  In a small back water area, I came across this flock of Canada geese who seemed to be like me…just waiting for the river to return to normalcy.

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