Category Archives: water

Susquehanna, October

Susquehanna River, central Pennsylvania, early October: Fall takes its time arriving, the leaves take their time turning and the river keeps flowing.

Also posted in Autumn, Pennsylvania, Susquehanna River, Watersheds

Reflections on Water

DSCF5994copy_1WParkersburg, WVA, June, 2014

We tend to take clean water for granted, but — in case you missed it — read the NYT story at the link here. It takes place in and around Parkersburg. Below, reflections in the North Branch of the Winooski River, Montpelier, VT, this past December, a month that broke records in Vermont for warm temperatures and lack of snow. Looks like I did something horrible to it in PhotoShop, but I didn’t. Just a reflection in water, turned upside down.


Also posted in reflections, Vermont, West Virginia

Florida Keys


In the Florida Keys, especially for someone coming from the frozen north, the color is blue: warm blue ocean water running to emerald blue-green, setting off white beaches and a big unobstructed sky that highlights the clouds and the expanse of sea on the Atlantic and Gulf shores.

It’s a unique and beautiful place, but to an outsider on a short visit, it seems a shame that Theodore Roosevelt didn’t set it aside as a national park or a national monument when he did the same for the Grand Canyon in 1908.

There’s not much land in this stretch of islands that runs about 125 miles from just south of Miami to Key West at its southern tip, the southernmost point in the continental U.S., 90 miles from Cuba. Much of it within a stone’s throw of the constant traffic on U.S. Route 1 is covered with hotels, condos, strip malls, shell shops, sandal outlets, marinas, and housing developments that were created by dredging up the bottom to make house lots and canals where wetlands once were. Key West, the most intensively populated place, is one of the most attractive because so much of the old architecture has been preserved.

The national, state and municipal parks and wildlife refuges are beautiful and have saved some of the Keys for public use in something close to their natural state. Tourists come from around the world. Freshwater comes from the mainland via a 130-mile-long water main. Sewage treatment is a big issue because nutrients from even treated sewage degrade the quality of the surrounding water. Residents and government are working to build treatment plants with deep wells to dispose of treated effluent and they are attempting to protect the Key deer and the coral reefs, but they have a lot to do.

For a slide show, from Key West and the Ernest Hemingway House to kayaking, CLICK HERE.

Information on environmental challenges in the Keys is HERE.


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Also posted in Florida Keys, ocean

Northern River, Maine’s St. John

The St. John River is just about as far north as you can go in Maine, paralleling the Quebec border where the river begins in the ponds, streams and bogs of the North Woods. It runs 418 miles from the middle of nowhere, north and then east and south to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. The St. John is surrounded by land owned by paper and lumber companies. You pay their fees ($24 per day per person) to run it and you spend hours rattling over their dirt roads (made for logging trucks) to get there. But the Maine branch of The Nature Conservancy has bought 40 miles of shoreline, there are no dams on the northern reaches, and the river feels wild and remote like few, if any, others in the Lower 48. For mile after mile, tinged like tea from the tannic acid of the woods runoff, the river turns past shores lined with spruce, fir, pine, and poplars and birches in their lightest spring greens. It is narrow and shallow at the top but grows wider and deeper with every branch and brook that enters. It’s northern river and shore country, but for the East, it’s also big sky country: big expanses of weather stretching out over the trees and water. It has to be run during spring runoff because, barring storms, it’s too low in the summer.

Paddling down the river last week we saw moose every day, including a calf so small it must have been only a few days old, and a big moose splashing across the river in front of us, high-stepping from shore to shore. Unfortunately, it also rained every day, culminating in an all-night rain, followed by an all-day rain, headwinds, rising water and plunging temperatures. When we pulled off, a day early, record river heights for the date, snow and temperatures in the 30s followed. We were happy to head for the Northern Door Motel in Fort Kent (La Porte du Nord, as the sign says) and burgers at the Swamp Buck. I should have more pictures of the rain and foul weather and the big white- and brown-topped waves in the Big Black Rapid, but — except for the one of Lisa and Andrew and their border collies Rigby and Nitro, below — I kept the camera in its waterproof box when the weather turned bad and stayed bad. Need to get a waterproof housing. And I need to go to Maine more often.

A classic article on the river is John McPhee’s 1976 New Yorker story, “The Keel of Lake Dickey”, which describes a trip down the river and concerns that the proposed Dickey-Lincoln dam would flood much of it. The dam was never built.


Also posted in canoeing, Maine, rivers, Spring, St. John River, Weather

Green Again

Spring always creeps slowly into the winter-brown Vermont hills and then explodes. This, the other foliage season, a riot of green, seems to arrive in the space of three days. And in the space of two weeks we go from skiing (bottom photo, Mt. Mansfield on April 22nd), to plowing (top, East Montpelier), to bicycling, paddling and mowing the lawn. Summer’s so short it’s a good thing that when spring finally gets here it pounces.


Also posted in farming, kayaking, mountain biking, mountains, rivers, roads, Skiing, Snow, Spring, Vermont

Stick Season, High & Low

When the fall leaves hit the ground, it’s Stick Season. The reason for the name is obvious but the attractions of this sixth Vermont season aren’t. It can mean raw, gray days with rain and sleet. But it can also be beautiful, as it has been for the past two days, with temperatures in the 60s. At its best, the lowering sun streams through the leafless woods and strobes through the trees as you drive along. People are scrambling to get their fall outdoor work done, but it can still be incredibly quiet and calm, as we wait in that spot between autumn and winter for the seasons to change. Above, Waterbury Reservoir; below, Worcester Mountain.


Also posted in exercise, kayaking, mountains, Stick Season, Travel, Vermont

Wildwater on the Deerfield

On a beautiful late summer afternoon, the United States of America Canoe and Kayak 2012 Wildwater Team Trials began today on the Deerfield River in northern Massachusetts. Fastest kayaks down the 2-mile course in men’s and women’s classes win. Two sprint races will be held over the next two days to determine team members for the 2013 world championships in Solkan, Slovenia. These photos were taken in the Zoar Gap section of the river, the toughest part of the course. It’s mainly a Massachusetts river, but, hey, a lot of the water comes from hydropower impoundments in Vermont.

Also posted in canoeing, kayaking, rivers

Farm Aid

David Cram and his partner, Anna Coloutti, run the Stone Village Farmers’ Market just north of Chester on Route 103 in southern Vermont. They lost 18 acres of produce when the Williams River flooded from the rains of Tropical Storm Irene last August. Cram is one of 177 farmers who have received aid through the Vermont Community Foundation’s Farm Disaster Relief Fund. VCF has so far awarded $1,576,300 of the more than $2.41 million in total contributions received or pledged to aid Vermont’s farmers in the wake of Irene and has just finished accepting a new round of grant applications.

An earlier post about VCF’s flood relief work is here.


Also posted in black & white, disasters, Hurricane Irene, People, Vermont, Weather

Picking Up the Pieces

When Tropical Storm Irene swept into Vermont in late August, Kara Fitzgerald and Ryan Wood Beauchamp prepared for the effects of high winds on their five-acre field of vegetables. They picked tomatoes and otherwise battened down their small produce farm tucked into a bend of the Mill River on Route 103 in Cuttingsville, VT. But they weren’t prepared for what the normally placid river had in store for them. Rampaging from Irene’s downpours and running higher than it does in spring runoff, it changed its course and ripped across their crops, destroying everything and leaving them with a rocky field and nothing to harvest.

Above, Kara and Ryan stand in the only piece of green left of their summer’s work. Below, they walk across the stony rubble that was their vegetable farm, past what remains of a new irrigation system.

Now they are looking for new land to farm. But they are heartened by aid that has come from sources such as the Vermont Community Foundation’s Farm Disaster Relief Fund,  Northeast Organic Farmers of Vermont and Pete’s Greens’ Vermont Farm Fund. They have also received an outpouring of support from their Vermont neighbors in the form of contributions and encouragement.  One of their customers cried when they returned to the Rutland Farmers’ Market with the remnants of their crop. A fellow farmer gave them use of an acre and a half to grow fall greens. By mid-October they were ready to offer their community-supported-agriculture customers a produce pick-up. It wasn’t big, but it was something.

Information on the Vermont Community Foundation’s flood-relief work, part of which I am documenting, is here. 

 Or click here for a few more photos and some information about recipients of VCF flood-relief grants.

Visit Evening Song Farm here.


Also posted in disasters, Hurricane Irene, People, Vermont, Weather

Another Kind of Water

I wasn’t in Vermont when Hurricane Irene hit. While Vermonters were fleeing water, some friends and I were seeking it in Algonquin Park in Ontario. We left several days before Irene arrived in town and got back after she had rained her way out over the Maritimes. A mini-storm, unrelated to Irene, got my camera so wet that I had to take the lens off and stick the camera on a rock in the sun, turning it like a pig on a spit until the moisture was baked out of it.

I was going to wait to post these since they seemed inappropriate to the mess that Irene made of Vermont, but maybe it doesn’t hurt to remember, in the midst of the mud, another kind of water. Click here for more Algonquin pictures.

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