Talkin' 'bout springs

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 11:29:07 11/26/16

In Reply to: Alley Mill and spring posted by Hoot


When I saw the post with the subject "Hodgson Mill", I found myself wondering where the water was coming from. I thought back to the Catskill Mountains in New York, which were in my backyard where I grew up. There are a number of creeks and rivers that drain those mountains, but they start drying up once the summer heat arrives. When we were backpacking those hills in late July or August, we had to do some serious planning around water supply. My backpacking mentor, who was 3 or 4 years my senior, was big on topo maps that showed springs on them. It only took a couple of 3 day trips with him in late July or August to realize that most of the springs also dried up over the summer. There were only two lakes in the entire mountain range, and one of those was private and fenced off. With the heat and humidity occasionally approaching the 90s, and hauling gear up and down those steep-sided (heavily glaciated) hills, dehydration was a very real threat. In one memorable instance, 3 of us did one particular August itinerary where all the streams and springs were dried up. We each brought all the water we thought we would need in the event we could not resupply, but John and I were out of water by midday of the second day. Jack, my mentor, did a much better job of conserving, and actually made his last until the last morning. Walking out that third day was sheer torture! I'll never forget how John and I reacted to finding a few old remnant patches of old water in an otherwise dry creekbed. These "puddles" were only an inch or two deep, had all sorts of debris in them, and bugs,including water striders present. As Jack stood back, calmly lecturing us about the dangers of drinking such obviously putrid water, John and I dropped to our knees and started lapping up whatever water we could access without risking undue ingestion of unwanted protein. It was literally something out of a 1950s western movie or an episode of "Death Valley Days".

The Catskills rise to an elevation approaching 4,000 feet above sea level, and get quite a bit of snow in the winter, but the snow is gone by May every year. When I see photos like yours or recall Big Springs, the source of the Henry's Fork in Idaho, south of Yellowstone, I wonder what the key factors are in producing these springs. I know that the Catskills are really old, geologically speaking, while the area around Big Springs has experienced recent volcanic activity. You mentioned rhyolite around the Ozarks, which implies more recent volcanic activity, recent being a relative term.

All in all, this is a great photo series, resplendent with great color, some of it manmade, but most of it courtesy of Nature. Thanks for "brightening" our lives.


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