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After the Flood

Posted on March 21st, 2013

This week I had a chance to get out to Old Man’s Timber to continue my timber stand improvement work.  This day was especially satisfying, not so much because I made a some progress on weed tree removal, but because my two sons, Ben and Michael, joined me.  It was a real pleasure for me to be able to spend time with my boys at the timber.  We elected for a stay at home spring break this year, which allowed us a day together in the timber.  Its amazing for me to see these two boys grow up to be such great young men.  I’m sure their friends will have interesting  stories to tell next week, but we will have a few memories as well.

Ben and Mike -- Working (and Playing with Fire!)

Ben and Mike — Working and Playing with Fire

 

After a few hours of cutting, piling and burning on the ridge top Oak-Hickory stand, we took a walk down to the floodplain to have a look around.  One of the most notable observations was that the river had risen just enough to over top the bank after my visit a week ago Sunday.  If you read my previous post, I had noted that Old Man’s Creek was about a foot from spilling out onto the floodplain.  Apparently, sometime later on Sunday the creek did in fact begin flowing on the floodplain, although the high water marks indicated that the water only slightly over topped the banks.  The floodplain, although relatively flat, has an interesting topography of remnant channels and oxbows, now partially filled with standing water.  It will be interesting to see how the flood waters affect the flora and fauna of the floodplain this year, especially in comparison to last year’s drought conditions.

Remnant Creek Channel

Remnant Creek Channel

 

We arrived at Old Man’s Creek as the creek makes a nearly 90 degree turn, from flowing northerly to easterly.  As expected the inside of the bend had a new accumulation of sand grained sediments.  The area of the sediment deposition had been a sand bar prior to this event, but had begun to re-vegetate.  During this most recent “channel-forming” flow, two Hackberry trees along the northern shore had fallen across the creek.  The trees were located at the outside of the bend at a location that likely saw the most energetic scour potential from the bank-full flow.

Fallen Hackberry Trees

Fallen Hackberry Trees

 

The fallen trees along with the secondary flow patterns the form downstream of the bend resulted in a large sand bar formation.  I would conservatively estimate that around 4 feet of sand depth accumulated along a distance of approximately 30 yards.  The sand was clean and well sorted and had almost no silt cover indicating that the creek level dropped relatively quickly after the flow crested.  Also, the dunes (or wave-like) formations on the sand bar are a result of different recirculation eddy sizes that occurred at different water levels.  All very interesting from a stream hydraulics perspective!

New Sand Bar Downstream of Creek Bend and Fallen Trees

New Sand Bar Downstream of Creek Bend and Fallen Trees

 

Ben, Michael and I had a lot of fun exploring this area.  Ben found a neat area just upstream of the newly fallen trees where an older tree caused a nice gradation of bed materials to form.  You can see the sand ripples in the foreground of the photo and coarser materials that have accumulated along the old log.  He found several pieces that appeared to be chips from arrowhead shaping work, but no fully intact arrowheads.  Also, from this photo, you can see the water clarity is very clear, a result of the creek being fed mostly by groundwater (baseflow) now that the rain has stopped.  Note the mussel shell that Michael found near the bottom of the photo.

Ben Searching for Relics

Ben Searching for Relics

 

While Ben was looking for relics, Michael couldn’t resist the temptation to cross the creek on the newly fallen Hackberry.  In this photo you can see the result of the aggressive flow on this outer bank.  It is a very steep cut bank with small exposed roots everywhere.  Even with the clear water the deep pool on the outside of the creek extended beyond visual sight, probably 4 to 5 feet deep.  I am happy to report that he made it over and back without falling into the creek!

Michael Crossing on a Hackberry Bridge

Michael Crossing on a Hackberry Bridge

 

In the end, we didn’t have spring break in some warm exotic locale, but we did have our own private sandy beach to explore, plenty of sun and fresh air, and fond memories from a day at Old Man’s Timber!

 

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