Friday, October 24, 2014

Water Returns to the Creek

Following a three month absence, water has returned to the creek.  Gentle precipitation spread over a two week period resulted in a total of five inches of rain falling on Blue Jay Barrens.  This recharged the ground water enough to cause a rise in the well level and to allow water flow through the creek channel.

Most of the aquatic life has yet to become active, but the pools are full and shallow riffles sparkle in the sunlight.  It won’t be long before the creek animals reclaim their domain.

The water flow is still below its wet weather norm.  The rate of flow suggests that the ground water has been recharged sufficiently to maintain a stream flow until the wet weather does arrive.

The rain fell at a slow enough rate to allow practically all of the water to penetrate the ground rather than run overland to the creek.  Leaves in the channel lay undisturbed except in the lowest part of the channel where the water flow originated.

The upper portion of the creek channel is more entrenched and has a steeper grade than the wider channel downstream.  This generally results in a more rapid water flow.  Even in these reaches, the water flow was so slow that leaves in the water were not carried away.

Decomposing leaves are a prime source of energy for organisms living in headwater streams.  The longer the leaves remain in place, the more benefit they are to the stream ecosystem.  In years where the leaves are not washed away by flood waters, there is a noticeable increase in stream insects and other organisms.

Reflections of sky and trees on large bodies of water usually result in an attractive image.  Reflections on a small creek are often less appealing.  The green and yellow leaves reflecting on the water make this creek appear to have acid mine drainage or similar contaminant fouling the water.

A colony of Coltsfoot, Tussilaga farfara, has become established on the toe of this bank.  Coltsfoot is a non-native that can form dense colonies on gravel bars and creek edges.  I always remove it when I find it, but seed from upstream continues to bring me new colonies.
Flood water hasn’t yet come close to reaching the bottom of the new bridge.  The support beams sit just above the record flood level for this stretch of creek, so it’s going to take a flood of disaster proportions to cause any damage here.

Water Striders were quick to reclaim the surface of the newly filled pools.  When the creek is dry, the Water Striders shelter beneath flat creek rock in the channel or beneath vegetation on a moist bank.  They emerge from hiding as soon as water appears.

The only fish left in the creek in early summer are the recent hatchlings from the spring spawn.  Most of those perish when the creek pools dry up in July or August.  A lucky few manage to end up in the one pool that holds water in all but the driest of years.  Now considerably larger than they were a few months ago, they will begin to spread out along that section of creek.  It’s always a good feeling to have the water return to the creek.


  1. You should make the distinction between European-introduced Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and native coltsfoot (Petasites palmata). Indians burned coltsfoot and used the ashes as a seasoning, like salt, according to E. Barrie Kavasch in the book Native Harvests: American Indian Wild Foods and Recipes.

  2. Hi, Mark. I added the scientific name to the text. Petasites is a northern plant that doesn't range as far south as Ohio. It is more commonly called Northern Sweet Coltsfoot or Arctic Sweet Coltsfoot.