Yesterday began our first in depth look at the ecology and geology of the Chesapeake’s watershed as we paddled down the Susquehanna River. Our tour guide, Steve, had requested from us one simple thing: be observant. While on the river, on what I would describe as the most perfect day for such an activity, it was almost impossible for one to not be observant. Throughout the paddle I found myself, watching the wildlife, listening to the flowing of the water down the ledges and comparing these waters to the bay. The only thing I failed to do at first was let this scenery tell me a story, something our professor, Doug Levin, had taught us.
The landscape of an area can give so much information about what is and has happened in that ecosystem. We had lunch along the river on a rocky shoal just down river of the Rockville bridge, the longest stone arch railway viaduct in the world. As we walked towards the shore, you could notice sediment dried up all along the bushes and trees, just at the bottom. There were large dead tree limbs stuck about six feet up on the branches of the trees here. Larger pieces of debris and trash was wedge under bushes or lying in the sediment among which was a bowling ball and a large trash can. We were asked to tell the story. Why was this all here and how did it happen? Just by being observant, we were able to tell that story.
The rainfall in the area was high enough that the river was flooding. The waterline was at least six feet higher than what it was when we were observing because debris was stuck that high up in trees. We know that the water was fast moving, but was slowed by this vegetation enough to deposit sediment on the bushes and grasses. We could tell that this was fairly recent because the sediment was still dried on the vegetation and had not been washed off by a rainstorm yet. After our conclusions had been made, we asked Steve if there was a large amount of rainfall that could have caused this. He confirmed our observations. A large accumulation of rain in July had caused this flooding of the River.
There is so much that we can learn by looking around us. Everything around us had to have been put there by someone or some event and these things or events will leave behind clues. All we have to do is observe these clues and we can put together that storyline. This is something that I will be conscious of from this day forth.