15Riparian report

An occasional blog by Kevin Jones on discoveries, things figured out, while living on the Swannanoa River across from Warren Wilson College, 28778.

The highway guard rail that stuck upright like an inverted v in the far sandy shoals a few months ago has created a tiny coherent ecosystem. A slender 25 foot tree with flaky bark fell onto the top of the v and lodged there, rather than being ripped out of the earth, by a following flood. So the shady leaves now go 25 feet diagonally to create a shady place. The guard rail also slows the flow of water, and diverts the fastest flows around it. So sandy soil has collected down stream that allows grasses to grow when the rocks just outside the protection are scoured. That part of the river bank is also growing soil into the river as the whole ecosystem establishes a place in the flow, but those peninsulas are usually the first to go.

Another discovery I announced on Facebook a few months ago, a big tree that fell but the big root stayed connected to the island, creating a 20 foot wide blockage of the river itself, upstream from the lower shoals ecosystem, on the little island downstream from the first, postcard rocky shoals; the most photogenic part of the Riparian area.

It’s created a whole new shoals as its become the place the river slows and rocks get dropped as the current has less force. It’s pretty much a long triangle from the farthest end of the root, back to the shore about 50 yards above the small water fall. I love shoals; interesting leaves and stick get stuck and change the laminar flow to turbulence around rocks. That starts to happen in the fall; for me my favorite time to take pictures. The colors here are things people fly from new york to come see in the fall. And I like how it creates the smooth, rippling patterns that are like collaborative standing waves from rocks and leaves stuck over small flows between rocks in shoals. And when the light is partly on them and partly not, from shade, it’s even cooler. Now there is a place where that will happen right on our side of the river; there hasn’t been since they created the waterfall to save Owen Park and its big ponds from being undercut and creating a major flood.

They built what’s called a J hook waterfall. It’s like a j with a fish hook on the end, on our side. It changed the flow so and they built some bank out from the ponds to create a base to change the flow. A friend said they must have spent $2 million on it. It was a contractor for the department of Natural Resources. They spent so much, he said because hundreds of people see it walking by Owen Park, across from our farm on the other side. We just got the benefit. It’s also a great place to take pictures. Anyplace that disrupts the flow and catches stuff interests me. I like the tension between laminar flow, when the water is smooth and rippled, and when it’s turbulent, and just foaming.

A highway guard rail and not fallen tree, a fallen tree and a two million dollar public works project are all part of the continual construction and reconstruction of the place the plants meet the river, the riparian way.

Most of the time I take a picture of what’s in front of me. Sometimes what’s new in front of me will make me understand the history, so far, of my life on this river. My daughter, BJ, said the river told her it would bring our family healing. It’s working for me.

I will publish pictures of all three on instagram and go back and put in the links.

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