MARCH 2011

Tuesday -- March 1, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 42

Well, it appears that we did not get near as much rain as they were expecting. On Sunday, they predicted that the river would go up above 8 feet by Wednesday, but today they say that it will barely get above five feet. So the ferry is open today and will probably be running tomorrow too.

I have a funny story. Its a story that could only happen to an ancient club like Sycamore island, where the Club stays the same and the world keeps changing around us. The other day I noticed that there was a large tree limb that had fallen and was leaning against my power line. I called Pepco and informed them of the problem, but when I gave my mailbox address of 7023 Macarthur boulevard, the woman told me that I was not in her computer. I assured her that I was indeed a Pepco customer and that I did indeed have the correct address. She checked again and tried using my phone number, but still no recognition from the computer system. Well, since the computer never lies she suggested that maybe I was a customer of another power company, like Baltimore Electric or Allegheny Electric. This was baffling to me. How am I getting power if I'm not a customer? I wasn't getting anywhere with the Pepco lady so I called our treasurer, Alan Gelb and he explained the problem. For some reason, the service address for the club is not 7023 Macarthur Boulevard, the service address is 100 Sycamore Island Drive. I thought that this was hilarious. It seems that back in the wild west days of yore, when pepco was just getting started and before we had a mailbox on the Boulevard, back when the Boulevard was called Conduit road, our forefathers simply fabricated an address so that Pepco could put them on the map. So, according to Pepco anyway, I live at 100 Sycamore Island Drive, but don't try to Mapquest me, I won't be there.

Monday -- March 7, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.5     Water Temperature: 42

The rains that dominated yesterday have passed over and now the river is on it's way up. We are at 6.5 now and the river is rising. The ferry is closed.

We had the Army Corps of Engineers down here on Friday. They were working on ridding A. U. Park of its unexploded ordinance when they heard that we had a cannon ball on the Island. I thought it was laughable but they came down anyway to check it out and they assured us that the cannon ball would not explode. Apparently some of the old cannon balls were infused with explosives, but not this one.

I haven't seen any cormorants yet, but we do have wood ducks now and the first of the virginia bluebells are poking through the ground!

Tuesday -- March 8, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.0     Water Temperature: 44

I just learned that there is a potential for us to get over three inches of rain later this week. Considering that the river is already above 7 feet and that the ground is thoroughly saturated, this has the potential of being a major flood and it may be necessary to get people down here to help with flood preparations.

Friday -- March 11, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 8.4     Water Temperature: 44

The rain was not as bad as they had predicted and even though the river will reach above flood stage, it will not be a major threat to the Island.

We did do some precautionary flood prep on Wednesday though. Tryon and Drew Walsh were here for about three hours as we tied down the picnic tables carried all the grills to high ground, and pulled all of the boats out of the bottom rack of the canoe shed. We also had to move all of the materials that we had just brought down for the dock-building project, it was a good workout.

It looks like the ferry will be closed until at least wednesday.

Monday -- March 14, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.0     Water Temperature: 44

Now That the waters are receding, it gives me an opportunity to talk about flooding on the Island. This is the first time since 2002 that we did not have at least a minor flood (above 8 feet) in January or February. This is also the first major flood (above 10 feet) that we have had since all of that snow melted last March. Additionally, this recent flood was only the seventh time that the river has been above ten feet since I moved here. I was a little surprised to learn this since I have now become so accustomed to canoeing across the high water to the mainland.

The high water is a hassle. We had to do a lot of prep work before the flood and now that the flood is over, I have to deal with this layer of mud that is covering everything. I am also faced with the large job of getting all of the canoes back into the bottom rack of the canoe shed before the next rain storm comes through. The high water is a hassle but I think it's good for me to have a flood every once in a while, it keeps my skills tuned and keeps me from getting too complacent about the seriousness of floods.

It's amazing to watch the river take over the Island and it's interesting to see how it travels through the Island. The river actually does a zig-zag pattern as it heads downstream. Instead of pointing the canoes upstream when we unloaded them we should have pointed them toward the Maryland shore, because, suprisingly, that was the direction that the river was coming from. Sycamore Island is protected from the current by Ruppert's Island above us, but as the river comes around Rupperts, it heads towards the Maryland shore and slams into the head of the Island. Then, with a heading that is almost perpendicular to normal downstream flow, all of this water crosses the top of the Island and passes around the high ground where the clubhouse stands. The river gets slightly constricted beyond this point and the current takes a hard right. Strangely, the path of least resistance here is straight through the trees, into our canoe shed and across the lower half of the Island towards the Virginia shore.

The negative effect of this river action is that our canoe shed is slowly getting buried. The shed acts like a strainer and it catches all of the trees and debris that are floating through it. Then, the stockpiled trash creates an eddy where loads of sediment are deposited inside the canoe shed. It's funny how the river is eroding some areas of the island while at the same time it is also building up other parts of the Island with layers of sediment.

Wednesday -- March 16, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.0     Water Temperature: 44

Big news, there is now a new view from the river. The old Beasley castle at the top of the hill was bought and, for the first time in over ten years, someone is taking care of it. The first thing that they have done is clear all the underbrush from the front yard so that now this majestic, stone structure is easily visible from the Boulevard and from the river.

Thursday -- March 17, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 44

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


I'm organizing a work party today at 5:00. We need to do a little fixing-up after the last flood. Feel free to come down and join us.

I don't have an explanation, but there are over fifty fish crows on the island right now and they are making a lot of noise with their strange croaking sounds. I can also here the sound of a red-winged black bird, a cardinal and a carolina wren.

I saw an owl last night, up close too. I was just arriving at the ferry landing around 10:00, and as I stood there on the steps, talking on the phone, a barred owl flew up silently and perched on the muscle wood tree, just 10 feet above me. The cool thing was, that even though I continued to talk on the phone, it did not fly away for several minutes.

As promised, we have new little baby eaglets in the nest. There is more activity around the eagle nest now that the adults take turns hunting for their growing family.

Thursday -- March 31, 2011
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 44

I haven't written for two weeks so there is a lot to catch up on. The word down here lately is Tryon Wells. Not only did Tryon design a new and improved captains float but he also ordered all of the floatation and transported all of the lumber. He then organized and supervised all of the construction of this awesome new dock. Tryon did have some help of course, and I think we should recognize, Drew Walsh, Joe Membrino, Ed and Sherrie Fizdale, Gordon Phillips, Steve Newman, Garth Ross and David Winer for coming down on more then one Saturday to help out. Good job everyone, the dock looks great!

We also had to replace our hot-water heater this month, which was no simple thing since it was down on an Island, but we got it done and it works great.

Canal update: I heard that they may lay a pipe down where the canal berm is breached up at Anglers and that would allow water to pass downstream from Great Falls and rewater our section of the prism. (prism is how the Park Service refers to the ditch, which is the canal) They have also opened the gate at the feeder canal down by lock five and now the canal below lock five is rewatered all the way to Georgetown. Unfortunately they discovered a leak in the berm wall during the last flood and there is no water in the canal between lock six and lock five.

I could only find three active goose nests on the Island this year. When I first moved here there were closer to ten goose nests on the Island. I think I may have convinced most of them that nesting on Rupperts island is better idea. In the past the protective geese were a nuisance and they would attack anyone who came near their nests. Nests that were often built right on the trail.

I think we have bluebirds nesting in Gerry's bluebird house! We also have a phoebe nesting under the tool shed. The shad are running, the cormorants are roosting, and the wildflowers are blooming, it must be spring!!

Stay tuned for updates on my first annual Island to Island River Awareness Kayak Trip! I've teamed up with the Riverkeepers to do a ninety-mile kayak trip from here to St Catherines Island in St Mary's county. Get involved and help me raise money for this great organization!