Friday, September 10, 2010

An Oasis in the Creek

The drought continues and many gravelly areas of the creek have become like a crunchy, dry desert. I know that life will return there when rains come, but it feels lonely in the creek and I miss all of the exciting aquatic creatures that were around a few months ago.

In a desert, there’s a chance of finding the cool, clean water of an oasis spring. Someone walking up the dry creek might think they were seeing a mirage in the distance, but here we find an actual pool of water hidden in the shaded channel. How can there be water upstream when all below is dry?

Here’s where the water is going. Within a dozen feet we go from open water to wet spot to dry.

There’s no deep water here, just a few inches at most. The water extends about a hundred feet along the creek channel and makes me feel as if May has returned.

This is about as clear as water can get. There are even a few fish here.

Here’s the upstream end. There’s no current here. The water enters at such a slow rate it is almost undetectable. We have to track just a little bit farther to find the source.

Seeping along a thick layer of shale, the water emerges above the creek bank and follows the rock face into the creek. Water movement is barely detectable and to the casual eye, the spot looks like no more than a damp spot on the rock, but this almost immeasurable flow results in a large volume of water. Think of the water conservation commercials that talk about the amount of water lost each day from a dripping faucet. That’s the kind of force at work here.

But where did that water come from? To find the ultimate source, we would have to climb up the slope, where we would emerge on top of The Hill we were on yesterday. The water in the creek today is the rain that fell on The Hill several months ago. It has spent the time slowly moving through the rock layers and is now resurfacing as water in the creek. This movement of water through the ground is what keeps creeks and streams flowing. Rain runoff is a fleeting thing and stays in the creek for only a short time. If it weren’t for ground water movement, all streams would dry up on a regular basis.


  1. Steve, what a wonderful blog. So glad I found it. I teach on a 200 acre campus, a wooded oasis in very metro Atlanta, and I have visions that it too might be "managed to improve the integrity of the special ecosystems found here." And that our students might do good work following the model you've established.

  2. Clarkbeast - Thanks for visiting and the comments. Sounds like you might be set up to do some long term projects that could have wonderful results.