Monday -- March 2, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7 Water Temperature: 48
The river has finally gone down and the wind has quieted a bit so the ferry will be running today.
Friday -- March 2, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0 Water Temperature: 48
Shuuuwee that is some serious wind out there today. Not a good day to be doing a lot of ferry crossings, especially since the river is high as well. The gauge read five feet but it's hard to get an accurate reading with this tremendous wind. The wind is so strong the the bell rope is bowed like a sail across the channel and every once and a while a gust will come along that is fierce enough to actually ring the bell.
I was prepared for the wind so we haven't lost anything. Some of the canoes and kayaks in the higher racks were blown down inside the canoe shed. We lost one tree so far, but of little consequence. It was an old knarly mulberry that was half dead already anyway. Plus, it fell safely away from any buildings or other healthy trees and only skimmed one nearby box elder. It looks like it will be a good source of fire wood once we get it all cut up.
The ferry will be closed tomorrow, March 3, but we'll have to wait and see about Sunday. Between the wind and the high water, I'm not too hopeful that the ferry will be running.
Wednesday -- February 28, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8 Water Temperature: 48
The ferry is closed. The river crested at 6.2 feet and is slowly on it's way down. The gauge in Paw Paw WV. crested on Monday at 14.7 so it's going to be a while before the river is below five feet again.
Our own Gerry Barton was featured in Kent magazine last month. Kent is the neighborhood within Palisades where Gerry has been living since he built his house there back in the sixties. Congratulations Gerry, we miss you down here. I hope you can get us a copy of the article.
With all of these donated boats laying around here, I found that I needed some more rack space to accommodate them all. I decided to add on to the kayak rack that I built a few years ago. I didn't need to buy a bunch of lumber to do it either, I just used the lumber that was laying around here from the old canoe dock. The hardest part was dismantling the old dock but I'm happy with what I built and it's nice to get those kayaks and canoes off of the ground and out of the mud.
Monday -- February 26, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4 Water Temperature: 48
The ferry is closed again.
Not that many people would show up on a day like today but it looks like we'll be closed most of the week.
I haven't heard yet how the annual winter bird walk went. Hopefully they were able to see some interesting waterfowl. I'm curios if they saw any eagles since I haven't seen them near the nest yet.
Thursday -- February 22, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9 Water Temperature: 44
The ferry is open and running again.
I saw a red fox run across the Island yesterday evening. I had a feeling that there was a fox here and two weeks ago someone else spotted it, but I'm still surprised that this fox has remained on the Island for so long. Maybe it came over when the river was frozen and is now reluctant to swim away. I guess she's finding enough voles and mice to keep herself fed. I hope she didn't catch any of my squirrels.
Wednesday -- February 21, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1 Water Temperature: 44
The river is still a little bit high but we should be able to open the ferry tomorrow.
Had a great time yesterday canoeing on the Monocacy river in Frederick. I highly recommend this trip. We had never paddled upstream of town before and it was surprisingly picturesque and wild, despite being close to such a large urban area.
Saturday -- February 17, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1 Water Temperature: 40
I had to tell the relief caretaker to stay home today, the river is on it's way up again and is expected to get over 6 feet later this week.
Luckily we did not have this problem last week when there was an open house for future members. I never heard how it went or how many showed up for the event but there were several chairs gathered around the banquet/ping pong table. Hopefully it was a success. I know it overlapped with the Canoe Cruisers event and hopefully that went well. Thanks for cleaning up so nicely.
Monday -- February 12, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2 Water Temperature: 40
It looks like they have changed the predictions for the river and the water will crest at 5.7 on tomorrow. I'm glad that we won't have any flooding but sadly, the ferry will be closed on Valentines Day, so no Cupid on the Island this year.
Mary and I went to explore High Island just below the dam last week. On the way there we stopped at the other island down there which doesn't seem to have a name. It's the island on the other side of the feeder canal where the kayak gates are. Since it doesn't have a name, I wonder if it used to be part of High Island. Anyway, the cool thing was that as soon as we started walking across the island we startled up a flock of turkeys! They went hustling off when they saw us but we counted twelve big birds as they crossed over the river channel toward High Island. We followed them over there but by then we could see them gathering on the Virginia Shore, just below all of those big mansions. It was cool exploring High Island, it used to be a canoe club, and the view from up there rivals the views from the cliffs near Harpers Ferry.
We also spotted an eagle perched near the nest but so far it does not seem like a lot of activity is going on around the nest. I'm a little concerned since last year they had already laid their eggs by now. Other fine bird sightings, besides the common and hooded mergansers that we see everyday now, are the ring-necked ducks and duffle heads. Hopefully we will be able to spot the turkeys and eagles during the Winter Bird Walk on the 25th.
Sunday -- February 11, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0 Water Temperature: 39
The ferry is closed. The river is rising and they say it will cerst at about 6.5 feet. It might be all week before we're back in business again.
Monday -- February 5, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7 Water Temperature: 34
Like I mentioned before, we have been sorting out all of the canoes on the canoe rack. One of the canoes that was abandoned is an old wood and canvas canoe built by Old Town Canoe Co. I am interested in refurbishing this old boat so I did some research. I contacted the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association and they were extremely helpful in finding out the origin of this canoe. They actually have a data base that includes most of the build records from the Old Town Canoe Company's original records! Because I was able to provide the serial number, WCHA was able to give me the original build record.
It is a 16 foot long, CS (Common Sense or middle) grade, guide model with a keel. It was built between January and March, 1956. The original exterior paint color was turquoise blue. It was shipped on May 24th, 1956 to Falls Church, Virginia.
It was shipped to Wesley D. Gray of 7719 Dockser Terrace, Lake Barcroft Estates, Falls Church Va.
Then, at some point, the canoe was then brought to the Island by former members Richard and Virginia Dianich. I wonder if they bought the canoe from the original owner. Maybe they met on Sycamore Island?
Sunday -- January 28, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7 Water Temperature: 40
The river is ice-free and back to normal now but we have a thick fog above the water today. I guess the air is pretty warm.
A big "thank you" to Joe Cecil, our canoe supervisor, who has been working hard trying to organizing and reassigning the canoe racks. It's such a relief to finally get some of these boats sorted out. The good news is that we now have a few racks that are open and available for Club members to rent and store their boats. The bad news is that many of our long-time active members are no longer using the club and have given up on using their canoes and kayaks.
Many of these former members have offered to donate their boats to the Club so if you are looking to get a canoe or kayak, talk to me first. We have so many Club canoes and other canoes that were donated that I'm thinking of trying to sell them so that maybe we can purchase a paddle board.
Friday -- January 19, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6 Water Temperature: 32
The ferry is closed. For the second day in a row I woke up to find the ferry trapped in the ice. The weather forecast looks pretty good so I think the ferry may be running tomorrow but no promises. There is still a lot of ice in the channel between the Island and the mainland.
Thursday -- January 18, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.89 Water Temperature: 32
The ferry is closed again today because of ice.
Wednesday -- January 18, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.07 Water Temperature: 32
The ferry is open. The ice in the channel is slowly melting and it looks like I'll be able to run the ferry today, unless a big slab of ice happens to break free and block the way again.
The cool thing is that as soon as the channel cleared up, two male hooded merganzers arrived and I watched as one of them ate a small fish that it had just caught in the cold murky waters. The way that they survive out there in the winter is just incredible.
Monday MLK Day -- January 15, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.74 Water Temperature: 32
Whites Ferry is closed again today because of ice, and our ferry is also closed today because of ice. All is as it should be.
The initial clearing of the ice took place on Saturday, and on Sunday the river was high and muddy but not Icy. Today is a totally different matter. Today the channel between the mainland and the Island is chuck full of giant pieces of ice that have congealed into one huge ice dam. While the rest of the river seems to be flowing fine, the channel has an inch of solid ice from beyond the top of the Island, all the way down past where the Island ends.
I really wasn't expecting the river to refreeze so quickly. I thought that the rising waters from the rain would keep the ice from reforming so I wasn't worried when I left for the night last evening. But, once again, the river has shown me that I need to learn to expect the unexpected. I arrived at the ferry landing this morning and my plans for an easy ferry ride were dashed. When I jumped onto the ferry it didn't budge and I realized that I might not be going home today.
I was about to climb back up the hill when I remembered an old trick that I used before. One time I used a bunch of members to stand on one end of the ferry so that I would be able to pop a wheelie, so to speak, and that way get on top of the ice where we could break it with the weight of the ferry. Well, today there were no members around and dancing with the ferry over dangerous ice was not something that I would ask a stranger to do. Again I was about to give up but instead I moved all of the roofing shingles and cinder blocks that I use to balance the ferry and put them at the back of the ferry. This counterweight got the front of the ferry above the ice and with the addition of my 135 pounds I was able to get the bow high enough, and up onto the ice. I was a little nervous leaving the safety of the mainland behind but I slowly and methodically heaved the ferry forward toward the Island, making ice-breaking noises the whole way. It took me almost an hour to push through the one hundred and fifty feet of ice, but I made it home safely. Thankfully there was little wind and no frostbite temperatures.
Sunday -- January 14, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.05 Water Temperature: 34
It may seem a little crazy but I let myself get stranded on the Island on Thursday night and I haven't been to the mainland for over two days. Coming and going on the Island can be a potentially dangerous issue when the river begins to freeze, and also when the river begins to thaw out again. We were able to walk to the Island last Sunday but with the forecast of warm weather and rain, walking on the ice would not be an option, and it was going to be a while before the ice was clear enough to run the ferry again. I had to make a choice, get stranded on the Island while I could still make the crossing, or get stranded off the Island and wait until I could canoe over. I have seen first-hand just how damaging and destructive ice flows can be, so, since I am such a dedicated caretaker, I sat on the Island, ready to jump in case of an ice-related emergency, like the ferry being crushed by ice. Also, since I would be worrying about what might happen while I was gone, getting trapped on the Island seemed better than being trapped off of the Island.
Thankfully, I did not run out of provisions and thankfully, the ice did a gradual melt and there were no major ice flows to worry about, whew! It was also a treat to be here for the awesome fog event. The air was so warm that it made the icy river look like a giant smoldering fire.
So here we are, one week after being able to walk across the river to Virginia, and the river is the highest it has been in months, muddy brown, and completely thawed out!
Watching the river has been a preoccupation of mine this week, not unlike most weeks, and when I heard that White's Ferry was running while our ferry was trapped in six inches of ice, I had to drive up there and take a look. I was expecting to see a narrow path through the frozen river for the ferry to pass through, but when I arrived there on last Thursday I saw a river that was completely ice-free! Seeing all of that open water in the bright sunshine made me a little concerned about our little ferry downstream. I didn't get it, how did the river ice disappear? Maybe the power plant upstream was warming up the river. Even stranger, I thought, was to hear that today, White's Ferry is closed because of ice and our ferry will be open.
Wednesday -- January 10, 2018
Water Level at Little Falls: ICE Water Temperature: 32
I must say that it has been an interesting week down here on the Island, A.K.A.,frozen tundra. It is so rare that we have this much ice on the river that it is hard to get used to. There is no river barrier around the Island now, and since people can just walk over here, it's like we're an extension of the Park. We haven't heard the sound of the ferry bell for ages, which is strange, and now I have to actually lock my front door.
This past Sunday was crazy. It was like the entire river was one big ice-skating rink with people coming and going in all directions. There were people on the ferry-landing stairs putting on their skates. There was a family camped out on the side of the ferry where they piled their coolers and packs. There was even a hockey game going on out in the middle of the river just down from Rupperts Island! Some brave souls courageously skated over to Virginia and others ventured down close to the dam.
That's when the police helicopter showed up, flying extremely low and barking out warnings to everyone. Party poopers. The police couldn't stop the fun and on Monday there was a person mountain biking across the river and yesterday there was an adrenaline junkie attempting to kite-skate. Sadly the incredibly perfect conditions that we had on Sunday couldn't last (the ice was so clear that schools of fish could be seen swimming below the surface.) and the smooth, black ice has turned to slush.
It was a little weird though, having all of these non-members strolling around on the Island, but what are you gonna do? Most people were very respectful and chill, and you can't blame them for being curious. Some people wanted to bring their dog into the clubhouse so Mary made a very polite, "Members Only" sign.
This deep freeze hasn't been all fun and games and I've had to stay on my toes to keep the pipes from freezing and to be ready for the possibility of crushing ice flows and flooding ice dams. When blocks of ice that are eight inches thick come rolling down the river at five miles an hour, it's no joke.
I moved all of the boats and life rings away from the shore in case of flooding. The two mini docks that are stuck in the ice will be at the mercy of the ice since I can't move them now.
My main concern is the ferry, and not only the ferry but the ropes and cables that support the ferry. Before the river froze I made sure to have the safety chains out of the water. That way I can detach them from the ferry and secure them safely on shore. I was afraid that if the chains were locked in an ice flow it could potentially bring down the overhead cable and even the support poles on the shore. I added another tether to the ferry and tied it tight to a tree, never under estimate the power of the river and it's ice flows. My motto this week is prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
The worst part about the river freezing is that we can no longer enjoy observing the abundance of winter water fowl that we had here last month. We still have our little buddies at the feeders, but gone are the small flocks of scaups, buffle heads and hooded merganzers. Even our resident geese have been forced to find open water somewhere else.