Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Change in View

We don't see a lot of water out in the desert, so when we do find it, it really catches our eye. Here's a peaceful stream on the valley bottom, meandering through the sagebrush and meadows. This is how I usually see this stream, a small section at a time. But once in awhile, I have the opportunity to go up in a small airplane and see things from a different perspective.

Here's part of the same stream from the air. Now I can see that it meanders much more than it looked like from the ground. I love looking at meandering streams, thinking about how the water moves one way and then the next.

From a bit further away, you can see that this is quite an extensive stream complex. Some of the water helps feed wet meadows. Those little black dots are cows grazing on the meadows. We're too far away to see the many birds that also use the meadows, like Great Blue Herons, Mallards, Long-billed Curlews, Killdeer, and Egrets.

Finally we can see a tree along the stream. It's a Russian olive tree, which is nonnative, but nevertheless it sure breaks up the scenery. It appears that the natural riparian (streamside) vegetation for this stream is small plants. No saplings are growing anywhere. Still the stream provides a home to five native fish species that have been around for thousands of years since a Pleistocene lake was part of this desert. The stream is quite productive, and obviously the fish and other aquatic organisms have evolved to deal with the lack of shade from trees.

I like the deep bends in the stream. Because it is primarily spring-fed, it doesn't experience large floods and thus the water keeps moving at about the same height and speed year after year. Therefore it is different from rivers that do have flooding that cuts through weak sections of soil to create oxbows (u-shaped sections of water cut off from the main stream). This stream sort of reminds me of my life, moving through all sorts of twists and turns, but keeps chugging on.


Lori said...

Beautiful - just beautiful!!

Anonymous said...

great pictures

Anonymous said...

love the aerial views!


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