Raleigh Nature

November 15, 2009

Hodge Road Creek Levels – Crabtree Changes with the Weather

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Crabtree Creek, Gems & Surprises, waterways — Tags: , — raleighnaturalist @ 2:54 am
Atlantic 11-11-09_1_1

Crabtree under Atlantic Ave at Hodge Road Nov. 11, 2009

Crabtree is a low -flow system that has carved itself an impressive channel through Raleigh over hundreds of thousands of years.  That course fills to overflowing fairly often, as Crabtree drains a huge swath of Piedmont terrain, from Brier Creek in north Wake County, out to west Cary and down to Walnut Creek south of Raleigh.  Flood control lakes such as Lynn and Shelley have eased flooding in Crabtree Valley, but Middle Crabtree Greenway in central Raleigh, as well as Walnut in East Raleigh, continues to flood after heavy rains.  Above is 12 hours after high water at Atlantic Avenue and Hodge Road.  Below is a high-low pair of pictures for the same spot.

                           Atlantic Ave greenway underpass_1_1          Atlantic Ave Crabtree bridge
              Crabtree threatens 9-08          Underpass completed 7-08

I have posted about flooding here before at Raleigh Nature, and maintain an ongoing post of comparison pictures at my nature projects blog, Pecans & Mistletoe.  “The Gar Hole” is the most important feature of this favorite stretch of greenway, accessible at Atlantic Avenue on weekends (parking available then at the plumbing supply warehouse) or at the deadend east of the Longbranch on weekdays (unless it’s flooded).  So I take regular shots of the gar hole and the view from the railroad bridge at different seasons and water flows.  Below are some interesting pairs.

                            gar hole with young slider 6-20-07          gar hole 11-07-09_1_1

                              June 07                                       November 09

                              gar hole March 7_1_1          Gar Hole 9-7-07_1_1

                                       March 07                              June 07

Gar Hole after December 07 rains

                                    Hodge View 11-7-09_1_1          Hodge 11-11-09_1_1

Crabtree from Hodge Rd RR bridge 7 November and 4 days later after “Ida” rains.

                            old bridge 12-31-07_1_1          RR Bridge 11-11-09_1_1

               Hodge Rd. RR bridge Jan 07 and after rains 11–11-09

Creek Levels at Pecans & Mistletoe

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                              box elder beetle at Hodge Rd RR bridge_1_1          barn spider in silhouette_1_1

box elder beetle at Hodge Rd RR bridge; barn spider

gar hole butterfly

gar hole butterfly

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August 9, 2009

David Spain, steward of moss

David Spain tends the Urquhart moss garden

David Spain tends the Urquhart moss garden

I recently had an opportunity to document the Southern Living photo shoot of one of Raleigh’s most interesting residential landscapes.  The Southern Living article about the moss garden at the Urquhart residence on Marlowe Drive will come out in about a year – we’ll return to that incredible piece of landscaping, and promote the article, closer to the publication date.  In the meantime, I wanted to introduce Raleigh Nature readers to David Spain, Richard Urquhart’s son-in-law, who has cared for the property since Urquhart’s passing in 2008.  David follows Raleigh Nature and has been very encouraging of my efforts to portray the Lassiter Mill section of Crabtree Creek, which adjoins the Urquhart property.  This post shares some of his photography and offers a sneak peek at the moss garden, which senior writer Steve Bender at Southern Living describes as the finest he’s ever seen.

photograph by David Spain

photograph by David Spain

The landscape of the Urquhart residence is unique in several respects, and David Spain is keenly aware of the ecological and geological wonders of the place.  The property slopes down steeply to the deep stretch of Crabtree Creek just northwest of the dam.  There is a rich stand of mountain laurel on the slope, and above the moss garden and water park of large pools, waterfalls, and huge rocks.  The rocks were unearthed by creek erosion out of the slope, and the Urquhart family has pried them out, hauled them up the hill, and used them to create a magnificent setting for the plants and water.

Urquhart backyard area with landscape boulder

David's newest addition with landscape boulder

David puts into Crabtree in his canoe about as often as I THINK about doing it – which is pretty often- and gets some great pictures, which he has shared and consented to have on the site.  Enjoy some great sights of Raleigh Nature courtesy of David Spain, whose hard work and dedication is maintaining one of the most interesting and valuable residential natural areas in central Raleigh.

 

photograph by David Spain

photograph by David Spain

duck by D.S._1_1

photograph by David Spain

photograph by David Spain

photograph by David Spain

creekside poplar by D.S._1_1

photograph by David Spain

What a brave poplar tree!  David can walk the creekside and offer endless lore and history about the area.  His contributions and friendship have been a big reward for my work on Raleigh Nature.  Below is his picture of the Urquhart front yard.  I’ll share my own photography of the site when it’s time to celebrate the Southern Living shoot, which was arranged by local super-gardener Helen Yoest, whose acquaintance I made at the shoot.  Her Metro feature on the Urquhart garden is a great introduction to the site, and it will be fun to see how Southern Living shows off the garden and David’s meticulous work with the moss.

photograph by David Spain

photograph by David Spain

 

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

A related fun tidbit:  I received a while back the photo below, which depicts what the senders states are gears from Lassiter Mill.  He asked for advice about who might be interested or what might be done with them.  I thought I would post the picture and give my contacts at the Raleigh History Museum and Yates Mill Park a heads-up.  Any ideas?

mill equipment- photo by Jimmy Gordon

mill equipment- photo by Jimmy Gordon

 

June 18, 2009

News, Notes and Another Promise

The Natural View

The Natural View

Why I have posted just once a month for 3 months:

Best reason – my new column on nature and environment at Raleigh Public Record.

Very good one: I have been documenting The Bain Project, posting like a madman at Raleigh Rambles.  The Bain Water Treatment Plant has plenty of relevance for Raleigh Nature, as it used nature’s own filtering process – gradations of rock and sand – to clean water drawn from Lakes Raleigh, Johnson, Benson, and Wheeler.  It and the more ancient pumping  station which served as the city’s first water facility sit beside Walnut Creek (more about Walnut Creek below).  Just behind the Bain facility is a wonderful greenway deck that traverses wetlands strewn with swamp mallow,  huge white blooms that startle in a sea of southern green.

Raleigh Naturalist at Bain

Raleigh Naturalist presents at Bain

 Good news: I have more time now, being a teacher, and I also hope to bring Raleigh Nature readers some neat photos from our anniversary weekend in Charleston and our upcoming trip to Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island.  My promise is at the end of the post.

Walnut Creek greenway at Rose Lane

Walnut Creek greenway at Rose Lane

Lots of happenings around the greenways.  The section that follows Walnut Creek  parallel to Poole Road got flooded Tuesday June 16, along with Rose Lane and other roads near the creek.  The NandO story about the flooding was being followed up the next day by Josh Shaffer, who I met walking Rose Lane when I went to photograph the high water on the greenway. He was hoping to chat with some of the folks who are stranded by high water once every year or so at this dead-end extension of Rose Lane across the creek. I remember quite well my teenage years when Rose Lane dead-ended into a meadow well short of the creek, because we used to drive down there to park in what seemed like deep country in the sixties. Whoever decided to build houses past a perennial wetland with no outlet is the real problem, but the curent residents are facing the consequences.   Josh covers lots of interesting stuff for Nando, from Legos to beloved beer slingers to taking small children to play in cemeteries.  His recent story on kayaking Crabtree Creek   really struck a chord, with its realistic description of the grit, mud and smells encountered on the creek, but I prefer the much quieter section of Crabtree above Lassiter Mill for canoe jaunts.  Getting back to poor Walnut Creek, the heavy rains that caused flooding also sent 15,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the creek upstream in Cary, but the Nando story said no fish kills had been reported.

sliders at Yates Mill_1_1

Newsflash from NandO:  the 4 inches or so of rain also did damage at Yates Mill Pond, pictured above, which has temporarily closed the millsite and trails. Repairs are expected soon.

Lonnie Poole golf course_1_1  The new Lonnie Poole Golf Course around Lake Raleigh is mostly finished and expected to open in July. I posted dismal views and comments about this project in February 08, but when I stopped by recently I felt a little better.  There are lots of wooded buffers, especially next to Walnut Creek, and I must admit the course is looking pretty.

Raleigh skyline from Poole Golf Course

Raleigh skyline from Poole Golf Course

The Fletcher Park water garden is being fine tuned.  Apparently the water level, though quite low down in the retention ponds, was too high for some of the plantings, so a crew came in and extended a kind of penisula of land into the lowest pool, as you can see below.  The crew that explained this to me were taking survey sightings to appraise the work that had been done.  Many of the original plantings had been shifted to higher ground.

new Fletcher peninsula_1_1

The ponds still look pretty muddy to me, but I know time will do wonders. They had an opinion on one item that had been bugging me since the NandO article – springs.  There are no active springs in Fletcher Park, just surface water from the neighborhoods and seep from the ball fields.  Fletcher Park’s lilies are in full bloom!

Fletcher lilies_1_1

There!  All the nature news fit to post.  I can’t promise any certain frequency of posts, but I promise to stay totally committed to getting fresh postings up about nature and wildlife inside or near the beltline.  See you on the greenways!

May 18, 2009

Grassy Branch Sees Daylight

Pigeon House culvert_1_1

Many waterways in Raleigh travel unseen, as does Pigeon House Branch above.  Recent years have seen efforts to rehabilitate – uncover and often “un-straighten” – creeks.  The process is called daylighting.  It helps with flood control and improves the ecosystem.  It happened in Northeast Raleigh last year, and it’s set to happen for Rocky Branch on the NCSU campus(pdf).  So Raleigh has recognized the process as valuable, but it is still an unusual occurrence.  For one Oakwood resident, stymied in efforts to have the city uncover his backyard branch, the benefits were worth the huge personal effort of unearthing the waterway himself by hand.

Grassy Branch in Oakwood

Grassy Branch in Oakwood

Chris Crew is a longtime Oakwood resident who co-authored the wonderful Oakwood nature essay I recently featured.  He lives on Elm Street, almost at the bottom of Oakwood’s slope.  Grassy Branch is a small but steady flow that passes under Elm Street and edges his backyard. Until a couple of years ago, it passed unseen in a large buried pipe.

Chris's side yard_1_1

Chris learned of the city daylighting program and tried to get Grassy Branch uncovered.  During heavy rains, the water backed up and even spouted out vertically from broken places in the pipes.  The city couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work because other contiguous neighbors would not enlist their properties.  Tired of the geysers and wanting a healthier backyard creek, Chris decided to do the job himself.  So he and his family hand-dug and wenched out two sections of the 42 inch pipes.

Grassy Branch re-exposed below Elm Street

Grassy Branch re-exposed below Elm Street

I don’t have pictures of “the dig” – I just heard about Chris’ project recently.  But there is one more section he can remove before Grassy Branch crosses his property line.  I’m hoping he’ll invite me to help, and I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Grassy Branch re-enters pipe

Grassy Branch re-enters pipe

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

Both Pigeon House and Rocky Branch involve daylighting projects that have or will be addressed in other posts.  An interesting neighborhood daylighting project finished up a couple of years ago near my school, the Fletcher Academy.  The picture below shows the view my students and I have on nature walks at the bottom of Cedar Hills Rotary Park. Three years ago we were looking at the creek disappear into a large pipe.

former pipe entrance for Big Branch_1_1

Today, the adjoining houses have less to fear from flooding, and the biological and geologic interactions missing from pipe existence have been restored to the creek.  One slightly bizarre feature of the project was the city’s purchase and destruction of a house on Mapleridge which sat practically on top of the creek.

site of former house at Big Branch

site of former house at Big Branch

  Big Branch daylighting project_1_1   Big Branch above Mapleridge_1_1   Big Branch re-exposed below Mapleridge_1_1

 

March 19, 2009

Look down, look closely, at Spring’s lovely weeds

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Gems & Surprises, Nature Lore — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 2:17 am

 wildflowers-and-dandelion

   Weeds are just plants someone thinks are out of place.  As the season arrives, we can all get some pleasure from these signs of a diverse ecosystem  in your yard.  Take the time to look down and closely!

snowflakes, an early bulbous wildflower

snowdrops, an early bulbous wildflower

 

snowflake-patch_1_1

 

blue-wildflowers_1_1

February 6, 2009

Pigeon House Branch Part 2

heron-on-rock-outcrop_1_1

     In our previous post, we began with the hidden headwaters of Pigeon House under Cameron Village, and followed it through the the Park Avenue  neighborhood and down West Johnson Street to Peace Street, with a reach-out to Capital at Wake Forest, where the heron above (remember all pictures should click to enlarge) found a rocky spot of wilderness.  This post backs up to Devereux Meadows and follows Pigeon House Branch down to its intersection with Crabtree Creek. An unhappy course, for the most part. The city is trying to rehabilitate it, one tributary at a time. Below is the map of their plan.

pigeon-house-plan-map_1_1

     Pigeon House Branch drains the northwestern quadrant of downtown, gathering water east of the Oberlin Road ridge, bringing it through a series of open stone culverts through the Park Drive neighborhood.  At St. Mary’s Street it enters the Glenwood South business district and is piped under the roads and railroads tracks and down to Devereux Meadows.   The dark blue line is where they want to uncover the creek, and the brown area is where the city wants to create a “Riverwalk”  at Devereux Meadows.  Below we see the creek as it begins its path through this area.

     Pigeon House Branch is under there somewhere!  The creek escapes out a large pipe and continues down between West Street and Capital Boulevard.  About here is where the 42 inch pipe pictured below delivers all the water collected from Fletcher Park and its $700,000 water park!

     Pigeon House crosses back and forth across Capital Boulevard, traveling through wide manmade ditches covered with kudzu.  The water passes over the heron’s rock outcrop and turns northeast.  It dives under Capital yet again and emerges at Watkin’s Grill, a venerable blue-collar breakfast joint at Old Louisburg Road and Atlantic Ave.  Traveling between the north and southbound lanes of Capital, it accepts the water from off the Blount St. ridge (Mordecai to Oakwood), and makes its way through successive parking lots, including Johnny’s Motel, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Foxy Lady and the bowling alley for over a mile, before turning east at Crabtree Boulevard.  Here Pigeon House lends its seepage to a small marsh between it and Crabtree Creek.  It feeds into Crabtree at Raleigh Boulevard, its mouth visible from its bridge over Crabtree as well as the nearby greenway deck.

Pigeon House Branch enters Crabtree Creek

     Pigeon House is decidedly urban and yet makes its way through former waste lowlands turned into thoroughfares, so its riparian buffer is actually less stressed for space than many other creeks in Raleigh.  Thus the heron, thus the opportunity for a high-end greenway at the site where I watched many a minor league baseball game.  Much hope can be found for success with the city’s project to rehabilitate Pigeon House Branch.

pdf. Pigeon House Plan

Pigeon House Part 2 photo album

This is a thorough sequence from Devereux Meadows to Crabtree Creek.

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