Archive for the 'Lake & Pond' Category

The inlet that disgorges rocks

Friday, May 29th, 2009


I think I may have shown you this photo before. this is the western-most end of the lake at Roundrock. This is where all of the water pouring down the Central Valley enters the lake bed. Notice all of the rock in the ground. They’re all trying to make their way into the lake, and they’re succeeding.

Where I was standing when I took this photo there were boulders that were too large for me to lift. They weren’t there when the lake was first built. They were pushed there by the force of the water that comes down the Central Valley sometimes. The first thing all of these rocks encounter when they enter the lake bed is Libby’s Island. Some have begun piling against it, which isn’t so bad since my original worry was that the island would get washed away by the incoming water. Most of the rocks are being directed around the north side of the island where they are accumulating like a loose, gravel lava flow.

The water that you see is not connected to the lake. It is actually a scour pool that has formed. It is about twenty feet long and perhaps three feet deep at its deepest and, happily, it has stayed around from week to week. I feared that all of the gravel at this end of the valley would mean that the area couldn’t hold water, but it appears that it can.

I suspect that some of this washed-in gravel is actually returning home. When the lake was constructed, the man on the dozer pushed all of the gravel from the area farther up the valley. I don’t know why he did that. He had to have known better. He made a sort of dam with the gravel across the dry stream bed. You can now stand on the bedrock where he had made this gravel dam because in the ensuing years, all of the gravel has been washed away by the water.

So I have gravel washing into the upper end of the lake. It’s another thing I’m resigning myself to accept, and I don’t mind so much except that it means that Libby’s Island is never really going to be an island.

Missouri calendar:

  • Young bald eagles beging fledging.

Shades of gray

Thursday, May 28th, 2009


I don’t believe the world is black and white. At best we have an infinite number of shades of gray.

For the longest time I wanted my lake to be full. Then I cursed the leaks in the dam. I welcomed every storm, hoping it would fill my lake.

Now I’m grateful for those leaks because they drained away sufficient water from the lake to keep the recent rainstorms from sending it over the dam again. I welcome a less full lake now, and I curse the rainstorms.

I hope we can get the dam and the spillway repaired before the next incident, which might breach the dam and empty the lake. But I’ve also come to some resignation if the dam should fail.

This would give me the chance to repair that part of the dam properly and ensure that the leaks there are ended. Maybe we could apply Bentonite more effectively to the face of the dam if we could get to it better. It would also allow a bulldozer into the lake bed itself. I see two benefits to this immediately. Such a machine could scrape away all of the many willow infestations in the middle of the water. It could also clean out all of the gravel that has been pouring into the far end of the lake. It’s a mix of challenge and opportunity, of fear and welcome.

And so this is all part of the responsibilities of property ownership. It’s never going to be easy, and there aren’t going to be simple answers. Someone once said I should write a book about building my lake, but I never thought there was any story in it. I’m beginning to think otherwise.

Missouri calendar:

  • Young woodchucks (groundhogs) leave dens.

Still standing

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009


It was with a mixture of heartache and dread that I watched the weather forecasts call for rain in the Roundrock area as the last week passed. On Saturday and Sunday, I looked at the radar maps showing rainstorms directly over my part of the county. I had hoped that the dry week meant the man I spoke with would have had the chance to get out there to do the repair work to the dam and spillway, but he hadn’t called me, and I suspected that he hadn’t done the work yet.

We decided to go out to Roundrock on Monday to see what there was to see. I hoped we would see a repaired dam and a widened, re-directed spillway. I feared we would see a breached dam and an empty lake bed.

We didn’t see either.

What we saw was the status quo. Nothing had changed in the week we were away. The drive down was ominous though. We passed through several storms; the fields were flooded; the rivers were swollen. But the closer we got to Roundrock, the less rain appeared to have fallen. Certainly the woods were wet, and the tall grass we had to wade through in places soaked our pants, but overall it didn’t seem that the really heavy rains had fallen in the area in the preceding week.

The lake was down about half a foot, attributable to those leaks I used to loathe. I suspect that more water was drained off but that the rains that did fall had replenished some of what was lost. Even so, the leaks seem to have prevented the dam-topping flood I feared all week.

I had also worried (I seem to do that a lot) that when the man did come out with his big machines to push the dirt back up on the dam, he might not be able to see the valve cover or the valve drain outlet. He might bury them with all of the dirt he moved, or worse, he might break them by driving over them, causing an unstoppable draining of the lake. Thus my plan was to mark these two “delicate” parts of the dam so that he couldn’t miss them.

You see the fruits of my work above. I took this photo across the inland sea that is the pecan plantation these days. I hadn’t thought to take a picture of the two posts at the time I finished driving them into the ground, and by the time I “waded” across the soggy acre and remembered it, I wasn’t about to “wade” back again for a better shot.

What you see is the dam rising in the background. The exposed dirt in the top left corner is the eroding spillway. The exposed dirt in the top right corner is the eroding dam. The post on the right marks where the valve cover lies mostly buried in the flowing earth. The post on the left is just a best guess of where the outlet of the drain pipe is. We couldn’t find it. I think it is buried by the rocks and dirt that have washed off the dam. We dug for a while, in several places, looking for the pipe but never found it. So I drove the post in about where I thought it was, and a man on a dozer should be able to steer around the general area and miss the pipe (wherever it may be).

Had I been able to open the valve cover, and had I been able to open the valve, it might have been fun to see the water pressure bursting from the end of the pipe explode all of the rocks and dirt before it. But the ground we were standing on when we pounded the stakes quaked like jelly, and I had no intention of lying on my stomach in that muck to lean down into a buried barrel and reach for a valve that might not even open. Sigh.

Missouri calendar:

  • Coyote pups begin emerging from dens.

View from Rumination Rock

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

I was all set to share a video with you of the view from Rumination Rock, but for some reason, I can’t upload the video to Yahoo as I could in the days before the new hard drive. (If I can figure out what I’ve done wrong, maybe I can share it with you later.)

Instead I offer this still photo of the view. A long time ago, someone going by the name of Rexroth’s Daughter said she would love to see a view from Rumination Rock. I never forgot that request, but I also didn’t have a lake that wasn’t mostly an embarrassment to show.

This post is for you, Rexroth’s Daughter. I hope you get to see the view in person some day.

Missouri calendar:

  • Watch for goldfinches eating sunflower seeds.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Moses Austin, called by some the Grandfather of Texas because of his son Stephen, was born on this date in 1761. During his time in Missouri, Moses Austin refined the lead mining and smelting industry of the state into a powerful industry that is still in operation today.

On swimming in lakes

Saturday, August 9th, 2008


There is a large suburban park near my home that has a lake of more than a hundred acres in it. At one end there is a sand beach that many families visit in the summer with their little ones. Years ago, when my children were small enuf not to have a preference, we sometimes took them swimming in this lake. I casually mentioned this to a coworker one day, and she was aghast. Swimming in such dirty water disgusted her. You could not see what was in the water, she cautioned me gravely, though that didn’t prevent her from knowing that there were fish in that water. Who would want to swim in the same water as fish?

I can’t remember the first time I swam in an actual lake. I suspect it was during the first of those many idyllic summers I spent in western Kentucky as a boy. All day long I would do chores about the farm (it seemed like all day long to a boy), and my grandparents would reward me by taking me to the beach at Kentucky Lake for hours of splashing and swimming about (it seemed like hours to a boy). If people had an aversion to swimming in lake water, I knew nothing of it then.

In later years, chiefly during my time in the Scouts, I swam in other lakes, and canoed in rivers (though most Ozark streams are crystal clear — but there are still fish in them). All of my life I never hesitated to go jump in a lake. I didn’t even have to be told. The same is so with Libby, and I know #1 Son Seth has no trouble with it. (As for my other offspring, I can’t really tell you what their opinions are. I practically have to pay them to get them to go to Roundrock as it is. If one of them is reading this — there, I said it!)

I think people who are averse to the natural world are really missing a rich and varied resource that can fill a part of their lives that has shriveled. I’m not sure I want to join a Polar Bear Club and go swimming in January in Missouri, but for much of the rest of the year, I am glad I have the chance to swim in the lake at Roundrock (with all of the fish in it).

Missouri calendar:

  • Hawthorn fruit ripens.
  • Baby bats begin flying.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Lieutenant Zebulon Pike departs St. Louis in 1805 on his exploration of the upper Mississippi.
  • Helen Stephens of Fulton, Missouri, known as the “Fulton Flash,” set a new world record and won a gold medal for the 100 meters at the Berlin Olympics on this date in 1936.

View to the lake

Monday, August 4th, 2008


I mentioned in an earlier post that I am slowly cutting an open view from the shelter tarp down to the lake. I’m doing this slowly because Libby isn’t altogether on board with the idea.

My intent is to create an avenue through which we can get an unobstructed view of the lake as we sit in our post-lunch stupors under the tarp. Similarly, I want to have a clear view of the shelter tarp (and eventual cabin) from across the lake (and from in the lake when we float along). Such created vistas are commonplace in formal gardens, but they are generally so well done that they seem merely coincidental. My view will be more obvious, but I consider it a practice effort in anticipation of the view we will create from the house to the lake (and from the lake to the house).

Libby is slowly warming to my idea of removing the remaining trees in the opening you see above. The big ice storm last winter and the subsequent wind storms of the spring knocked the top off of one of the trees about in the middle of the opening. On the day that we had the pole saw a-roarin’ she blessed my petition that I cut out that broken tree. Then, since I was there and the proper tool was at hand, she pointed to another tree that she would allow me to remove.

The opening emerges slowly. Inertia and sloth are playing as much of a role in the fitful progress as Libby’s casual objections are.

But when that cabin rises, watch out!

Missouri calendar:

  • Pocketbook mussels begin breeding this week.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The Centennial Road Law, providing for the construction of a modern system of Missouri highways, was signed into law in 1921 on this date.

Reflecting on stuff

Friday, August 1st, 2008


I get regular compliments when I post pix of the lake reflecting the forest. I just point and shoot and let the camera make all of the decisions, but this subject matter never lets me down. I seem to always get a good shot of the lake reflection.

I was standing on the edge of the dam when I took this shot. The foreground is just about the spot where Libby and I wade into the lake when we go swimming. Across the lake you can see a partly bare patch of ground rising from the water line. The soil here is full of clay — the builder harvested soil from there to pack the dam — and plants have been reluctant to colonize the area. Except in the driest times, a walk across that bit of ground means boots caked with sticky mud.

Libby has talked about making a sand beach there, but I don’t like the idea for two reasons. First of all, a sand beach is not something that would naturally occur in an Ozark lake. We’re not sunbathers, so I don’t see how we would use it. Secondly, I’m not sure just how we’d get enuf sand over there to make it look like a beach at all. The dam is too narrow for a truck to drive across, and even if one could, there is no "road" on the other side that would lead to the area. Water washes down the hillside above there, so I expect any sand I put there would get washed into the lake. Then there’s the trouble of adding more sand to make up for the loss. It seems like a fool’s errand.

I thought for a while that I should put a bunch of check dams on this mud slide to prevent it from silting up the lake. But now I think that if some of this clay soil is washing into the water, it may be helping to seal the lake bottom and dam. As you can tell, I can rationalize on eight cylinders.

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for flocks of purple martins gathering for migration.

Today in Missouri history:

  • William Clark was born on this date in 1770. In addition to his time with the Voyage of Discovery, Clark’s years in Missouri as territorial governor and militia leader counted the names Astor, Jefferson, Boone, Audubon, Caitlin, Lafayette, and Lee among his friends.

Well shod

Thursday, July 31st, 2008


Swimming in our lake at Roundrock has grown even more pleasurable this year because of how we now shod our feet. Libby gave me these water booties as a gift this year after I had given her a pair. We acquired them in the winter, so we faced several months of anticipation and apprehension as we waited for our first chance to use them.

We got them at a dive shop in Kansas City. A coworker had worn them to the office when she dressed as a scuba diver for Halloween, and I asked her where I could get a pair. What I like about them was that they have hard soles. Most aqua socks I have seen have soft soles, and that would not work on the rocky Ozark ground.

Though they are ample sized for our feet, they fit snugly around our ankles, thus keeping out pebbles and other debris in the lake. The old high-top sneakers I used to wear never stayed snug, and when I took them off after our swims, I could usually pour out a few rocks along with lots of water.

So along with being caressed by the warm lake waters and being washed of the sweat, grime, and pests when we swim, we can wade with comfort. The right tool for the job.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • William Clarke Quantrill was born on this date in 1837. Considered one of the bloodiest, most ruthless leaders of anti-Union forces (he was never formally a part of the Confederate military), he made repeated raids back and forth across the Missouri/Kansas border. He died in a skirmish with Union forces in Kentucky, but more than forty years after the war, when a crazed old man in Canada claimed that he was Quantrill, citizens from Lawrence, Kansas traveled there and killed him just to be sure.

Saturday Matinee – 7.12.2008

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Like a gated community, like a Washington cover up, the duckweed that has covered my pond won’t let you peek at what may be hidden below.

I give a bonus pan of the pond with some birdsong that is delightful.

Sorry about the shaky hand in the beginning of this video. I think the heat was already getting to me.


You probably already know that today is Henry David Thoreau’s birthday.

Missouri calendar:

  • Dragonflies lay eggs on ponds and streams.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The first number of the Missouri Gazette is published in 1808 on this date.
  • A pro-slavery convention is held in Lexington in 1855, with 25 Missouri counties represented, advocating “just and constitutional measures” to prevent Kansas from becoming a free state.
  • African American inventor and scientist George Washington Carver was born near Diamond, Missouri in 1864.
  • Governor James Blair and his wife, Emilie, die in the governor’s mansion on this date in 1962. He had left his car engine running parked in the garage and the fumes were drawn into the house via the new air conditioning system. Blair’s time as governor included fiscal responsibility and compassionate social legislation.

Point of view

Monday, May 26th, 2008


"It’s a pretty scruffy view," I said.

"But it’s our view," she said.

And that made all the difference!

Missouri calendar:

  • Memorial Day (observed)
  • The large yellow flowers of Missouri primrose bloom on Ozark glades.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The Spanish at St. Louis repulse a combined British and Indian attack in 1780. This was the western-most battle of the Revolutionary War.