Wonderful day at Roundrock. Let me tell you about it.
We stopped in town to meet with the USDA man at his (air conditioned) office, and the first thing he showed us was a nifty online site that allowed us to look at aerial photos of our woods. There are all sorts of ways you can filter data to get different views of the target. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work with Macs, but I’ll work on that and report later.)
The fellow was all spit and polish. Very by the book, but also very well informed. He talked about various techniques for curing leaky dams. Mostly it came down to lots of Bentonite, but he also cautioned that sometimes, well, there is no hope.
After our air-conditioned meeting, we headed out in the 90+ degree weather and drove to Roundrock. As I said before, we’ve gone several weeks without rain now, so we expected Lake Marguerite to be a bowl of dry mud. As we came down the hill through the trees, L peered through them and exclaimed that there was water down there! Astonishing. We had assured Mr. USDA that we would have very little water, and yet the lake was fuller today than when we had last visited — after a series of big rainstorms — two weeks before. The photo above shows what we found. (The photo is looking to the southwest. I am standing on the dam. That black thing on the far shore that is also reflected in the water is an old burned log, about five feet long. That should give you some scale.)
Mr. USDA was instantly impressed. We’d misled him (and ourselves), and what he found was far more than what he expected. He must see hundreds of lakes in a year, but he complimented us on the “really nice lake” we had. I was smiling, inside and out. As we stepped out onto the dam, three ducks rose from the water and flew into the trees in the west. Mr. USDA thought they looked like wood ducks, which is what I have been hoping to attract.
He examined the dam and the overflow devices. The primary overflow drain pleased him. It is a sort of cage near the top of the dam to allow water to exit without going over the dam. The emergency spillway, however, needs some work in his estimation. An afternoon with a small bulldozer should be able to fix it, though.
He said he thought the soil used for the dam was pretty good despite being gravely, and when we walked along the base of the dam, he said that he didn’t think the leaks were too bad. He’s concluded that the leaks are not coming from the dam itself but that the water is making its way under the dam. This gives us a better idea of where to apply the Bentonite. We’ll drop it in the water about 40 feet west of the top of the dam so it can fall to the lake bottom and begin creating a better seal there. All we need now is a boat. Hmmmm.
He stuck around for a couple of hours with us, answering questions and pointing out all sorts of interesting things. He showed us how to distinguish between grasses, rushes, forbs, and sedges (they really do have edges). He looked askance at our pecan plantation, fearing that the trees would not survive. (We found plenty that looked to be surviving nicely however!) And he doubted I would ever find an arrowhead at Roundrock. Yet he made plenty of suggestions for opening the forest and rejuvenating the native prairie grasses that are resting dormant in the ground, waiting for their chance. He frowned on my ambition to grow maples, but only because they are not native to the immediate area. He said that if I could manage to get them going, they would be good for the wild things. He encouraged us to call or write him anytime, and he said he would be happy to come back to the site whenever we asked him. Overall, his prognosis was very hopeful. He thought we could beat the leaks and then have a lake ready for stocking with fish.
Then he left.
And then we jumped in the lake!
How fine that was! The water was warm, all the way down to our toes. In fact, on the surface it was a little too warm, and if we kicked our feet, we could swirl up pleasingly cooler water from below. What a contrast to the conditions we’d meet only two weeks before! We stayed in the water for more than two hours, swimming, floating, and wading. We went from one end to the other and across to both sides. We watched the antics of a large turtle (perhaps a snapper?) on the other side of the lake. Every 20 minutes or so, it would surface for a while and splash around then disappear under the water. As we bobbed in the water, a deer came down for a drink at the other end of the lake. It wandered around the area a bit and very slowly disappeared into the brush. With great reluctance, we finally pulled ourselves out of the water. After two hours of swimming, however, we found we had to reacquaint ourselves with gravity and balancing. Eventually we mastered them both.
Before leaving, L encouraged me to take a picture of the lake since the water was so still. The photo above is the result. The sun was beginning to go down, which is why the light is bleaching the top right of the photo a bit. Nice reflections though.
There’s lots more to tell, and I’ll manage to do that in more posts.