Raleigh Nature

February 14, 2019

Raleigh Swamp Recovers from a Swamping

Raleigh Swamp is a prominent, even dramatic feature of the Raleigh Greenway at the intersection of Crabtree Boulevard and Raleigh Boulevard, joining Buckeye Trail to Middle Crabtree Trail and crossing a large shallow body of water with a causeway. The water was never intended to be permanent, but a wetland was turned into a shallow lake by the work of beavers, as explained in this 2013 post.

The place is a paradise for visiting birds, thirsty deer and other wildlife, and an amazing collection of turtles that bask by the piled up dozens on the many logs protruding from the water. The causeway was built with best ecological practices, minimizing disruption, but it has needed repairs recently because of extensive flooding. Cara and I visited in November 2018 and saw some of the work.

The crossing of the greenway with a utility cut has been strengthened and guarded with metal gates. The northwestern end of the site has a short stretch of asphalt that has repeatedly been ruined as the flooded marsh cuts through the shoulder of Crabtree and dumps excess water into the creek. looks like they are going to repair (instead of culvert) it once again, but this spot has closed the causeway, officially that is, for months. Most people just make their way around the mild barricades.

Different species of trees can tolerate shorter or longer periods of flooding. Ash, river birch and of course willows can survive many weeks of inundation. But if flooding lasts too long, trees die and the vegetative regime changes.

This area was a scrubby wetland with a smattering of drier tussocks and paths through it until the construction of the Raleigh Boulevard bridge. Many relics of the former trees dot the wide expanse of water. There is thus a small justiofication for the term used by locals and myself, Raleigh Swamp, though in fact this is a marsh. Whatever you call it, it’s a great place to bike walk, fish, or bird watch.

Below is the illustration I created from the lead photograph for my new book, the Natural History of Raleigh. Raleigh Swamp is featured in Chapter Four.  Happy trails!

The Natural History of Raleigh

 

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August 21, 2012

Crabtree Canoe

Filed under: About & reflection, Central Raleigh, Crabtree Creek, Nature Lore, waterways — Tags: , — raleighnaturalist @ 5:23 pm

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (click to enlarge)

One of my favorite ways to really plunge into nature inside the Beltline is putting a boat in above Lassiter Mill.  We took my Mad River solo and our blue tub of a kayak and made it up to North Hills Drive in reasonably high water.  That’s just about the first place it’s an issue: the water below Yadkin Drive is always as high as the dam and presents a long narrow lake-like stretch for easy canoeing.  Upstream, just below Glenwood Avenue, the creek is banked with a slate outcrop, hinting at the graphite, or plumbago lead, which is found higher up the slope.  The trip from the Lassiter Mill dam to Crabtree Valley Mall is possible in high enough water; round trip is less than 3 easy hours.

Spanish Moss on Crabtree Creek at Marlowe Drive

rock outcrop on Crabtree Creek at North Hills Drive

Blue heron in flight on Crabtree Creek

Cara spotted the blue heron standing on the side downstream on our return trip.  I was able to get my camera ready as i drifted into his view.  It was a pretty lucky shot, but you can see i was tracking him with the camera at least a little.  The butterfly was sipping from the mud on a small pebble beach where we rested.

***********************

Having retired from fulltime teaching, I am developing my free-lance activities and hope that gigs as the Raleigh Naturalist will be a part of that!  I have taught Environmental Ed with emphasis on local ecology for the last ten years, and presented to the Bain Project artists group and the Wakefield Middle School Ecology Club.  If you know a way to keep me busy sharing about local waterways and nature lore, let me know.  Thanks

John Dancy-Jones  email: paperplantpressATyahoo.com

August 4, 2011

Torn Still, by the Tornado

Filed under: About & reflection, Central Raleigh, East Raleigh, Nature Lore, South Raleigh — Tags: , — raleighnaturalist @ 6:09 pm

Tornado Damage on Marlborough Road 3 Months Later

The April tornado is 3 months past and yet unredressed signs of it  are still scattered about Raleigh.  I haven’t posted in all that time, finishing the school year and having a summer  swallowed by book arts, as I made paper, printed, and started a Paper Plant blog.  Before covering the rich naturing Cara and I have done in spite of my new blogging obsession, I wanted to address the previous post and show that East and Central Raleigh are still reeling as fall approaches.

The tornado totally changed the visual landscape of my regular bike rides.  Looking from the back lower corner of the federal courthouse campus at East and Hargett, an entire city block was just razed.  From that spot on the shoulder of Raleigh’s cap, it now feesl as if you are looking southeast straight down into the coastal plain.

Martin and East Street downtown after April tornado

Mount Hope Cemetery April 16, 2011

Mount Hope Cemetery didn’t get covered in the first post, but a visit last week revealed many of the same sights I had photographed but not published in April.  It and City Cemetery are still closed.

click on cemetery pics to enlarge

    

old cedar torn by April tornado at Mt Hope

Marlborough Road in East Raleigh still looks like the disaster zone it is.  My old childhood creek runs beside it and has become a tangled mass of dead trees scattered with stagnant pools.  The city is making plans to clean it up, but it will be a while.

 

torn pine on Marlborough Road

Marlborough Street hit close to home, but the damage is widespread.  The Raleigh Public Record provides this info from the city’s waterway inventory:

The report stated that a total of 1,436 trees were found damaged as part of the inventory. The areas with the most debris were areas near Beehnon Way and Tryon Road, Marborough Road and King Charles Road, Skycrest Road and Capital Boulevard, and Valley Stream Drive and Louisburg Road.

RPR did a good general look at Raleigh damage in this post.  The damage to nature is most relevant to this blog, but we felt very lucky after trees were decapitated 30 yards from our house, and we had many friends who sustained damage anywhere from annoying to catastrophic.   Many of them have praised Chris Crew of FEMA for his TLC to friends in this situation.

Nature knocks!!!  Sometimes hard.  Take care of yourself, now.

Washington School and downtown from Mount Hope Cemetery

April 18, 2011

Nature Knocks Downtown Raleigh

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Gems & Surprises, Nature Lore, Raleigh History, South Raleigh — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 7:00 pm

piece of Memorial Auditorium roof with damage visible right background

A tornado or series of tornadoes accompanied a quick moving spring storm on Saturday afternoon, April 16th and left a trail of death and destruction across Raleigh, mostly south and east of downtown. Farther north, pine trees crashed into a mobile home at Stonybrook off Brentwood Road and instantly killed three young boys. There were 21 fatalities across the state, and Shaw University closed down for the semester with widespread damage. Raleigh Public Record has a big portfolio of images, as does NandO, and WRAL has a gallery as well – but what I want to see is a track record of these powerful winds, which sheared off trees 50 yards from my house and caused widespread lasting damage. I hope to update this post with more meteorology info later. Below are my images – mainly of the venerable oaks toppled and pruned in City Cemetery and elsewhere downtown.

closer look at Memorial Auditorium damage

City Cemetery at New Bern and East Street

cropped cedar in City Cemetery

 

The entrance to City Cemetery on New Bern Avenue.  A comment on Goodnight Raleigh’s photos mentiones the extensive damage from here to Tarboro Road.  Clearly the damage was overwhelming and Sunday morning it was amazing to see unattended damage, unpoliced intersections with no stoplights, and downed lines with no crews in sight.  I fully realize they had their hands full elsewhere.

New Bern Avenue closed by tornado damage

New Bern avenue family surveys damage

Martin and East Street downtown

South East Street after tornado

damage at corner of Moore Square

touring the tornado damage Sunday April 17

Blount and South Street after 4-16-11 tornado

damage at Shaw and Memorial Auditorium

cropped trees in Shaw's practice field

uplifted turf in southeast downtown Raleigh

I have another whole set of pictures from the Maywood Street area between S. Saunders and Lake Wheeler Road.  I’ll post them soon with updates on the scientific measure of this storm, which may have generated as many as 8 tornadoes, some at least F3 in scale.  Hope you all are well!

September 16, 2010

Mushroom Madness

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Nature Lore, North Raleigh — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 3:13 am

Heavy (though quite sporadic) rains have brought a veritable plethora of mushrooms this summer. Below is a taste – the whole set of them is over on the Natural History of Raleigh Photos.

These twin babies, found in Cedar Hills Park, might get much bigger.  Check out the grapefruit sized monster below, which was part of a faerie ring at my school, The Fletcher Academy.

North Carolina’s Piedmont and Coastal Plain boasts over fifty speciesof mushrooms, according to the Duke Mycology page.  I would not begin to identify positively any of these, but they are fun to examine and track as they release their spores and decay.

The shelf or turkey-tail mushrooms above are also from Cedar Hills Park, contiguous with the TFA campus and often visited by “Mr. DJ” and his students.  Below is an ancient, algae encrusted shelf mushroom from the other end of my life’s spectrum – the parking lot at Sadlacks!

The faeries must have had a wild time in THIS circle.  Found in the Capitol Square in downtown Raleigh.  A reminder: mushrooms form these circles because the parent organism, consisting of thousands of intertwined undergound threads, has a central core and radiates outward in all directions.  The mushrooms we see are the spore-producing “fruits” of that organism.

Mushroom photo album

Duke photo site for NC Mushrooms

July 2008 Mushroom post

April 12, 2010

Pigeon House Re-Hab Project Helps Edna Metz Wells Park

A wonderful piece of graffiti has garnered some media attention for the stream restoration project along Smallwood Drive just below Cameron Village.  Cameron Village was the first shopping center in the Southeast, and when Willie York built it he diverted, ditched and straightened the headswaters of Pigeon House Branch, which gather between Cameron Village and the Raleigh Apartments.  The creek takes a straight shot right under Clarke Avenue into Edna Metz Wells Park, and after heavy rains the water, which gathers from a large section of the Oberlin Road ridge of Civil War fame, would roar through the tiny park, eroding and scouring and backwashing debris into the tributary water piped down from the glade along Forest Street above the park.  The City of Raleigh is working on a general rehabilitation plan for Pigeon House Branch, and the Smallwood project, which is pretty much finished, is part of that.  Apparently they are going to remove some invasive species before doing final plantings, both on Smallwood and in Edna Metz, in the fall.

From the main approach, the park looks beseiged..  But as you will see below, in the interior, all is well.  This spot is a real haven in Central Raleigh, and was a mainstay for my young children and me in the nineties.

 The Smallwood St. project involved using large boulders and some nice terraces to slow down and complicate the path of the water.

 

The media interest, started by a nice post from Goodnight, Raleigh, centers on a graffiti portrait of Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol’s muse, painted on the culvert where Pigeon House enters Edna Metz.  My picture of the scene is below.

Josh Shaffer called me and asked about the construction and Ena Metz, but never specifically mentioned the graffiti.  I’m pretty sure they won’t scrape it off as part of the re-hab project, but I can’t really say for sure.  Hope not.  It is indeed a nice harmless piece of art.  The figure says “De,” which is the word for power in Taoist philosophy.  I appreciate Josh’s feature of it and the park, as well as his kind words for my work.  And thanks as always to John Morris and his compadres over at another of Raleigh’s “splendid blogs!”

Goodnight ,Raleigh post on Edna Metz Wells Park

photo album of Edna Metz and Smallwood project

 

to buy the book based on this blog, click below

The Natural History of Raleigh

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