Happy ThanksSpringing!

I was nourished by a wellspring of thankfulness and joy today.  I’m lucky to be retired and have the opportunity to work at the Scuppernong Springs, and it just gets better and better.  To everyone that loves and inspires me…. thank you, thank you.

I swung the brush cutter all day starting on the hilltop at the South end of the Nature Trail by the Scuppernong Spring.

And after.

I’m coming back to this area later this week with the chainsaw.

I spent the rest of the day cutting phragmites and cattail by the river.  Walking the land like this is a great way to take an inventory and I’m finding evidence of a lot more springs.

And after.

It was a very peaceful day and I hung out for a while enjoying the moonlight.

River Views

Dave Hoffman completed the grant request to get a slice of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act pie for the Scuppernong River Habitat Area restoration effort.  We’ll find out in March 2013.  The volunteer hours we are putting in at the Springs would be used to help provide the matching funds required for the grant.  Thanks Dave!

Lindsay and I ignored the threat of rain today and had some fun by the River.  The first thing I worked on was taking down these two huge Willows by the Hotel Spring.

I had to get a 25″ bar for my chainsaw to attack these monsters.

Meanwhile, Lindsay mowed the Phragmites by the Emerald Spring that had regrown since we cut it back in July.  We are hoping this will make the plants more vulnerable to die off this Winter.

After I finished the two Willows, I went down by the Scuppernong Spring to finish cutting some buckthorn that I was not able to get to on the 21rst.

Lindsay proceeded to clear some Willow shrubs between the Emerald and Hotel Springs.

And I cut a huge patch of Phragmites on the West side of the River (you can see it in the center of the picture below).

The rain held off all day and we had a great time!

Phragmites Spraying and Indian Campground Cleanup

On Thursday, October 11, Lindsay and I returned to the Hidden Spring to spray the Phragmites that had grow up since we cut it back in July.

Lindsay used the following recipe:

3 gal. clean water
20 oz. Habitat herbicide
2 oz. non-ionic surfactant

Pour 1.5 gal water into sprayer or storage container.  Add Habitat.  Add surfactant while pouring in remaining water.  He used and even flat fan tip on the sprayer.

While Lindsay sprayed, I cut phragmites by hand that was right in the Hidden Spring and along its channel (shown below, before and after).  I made the cuts as close to the ground as possible and then carefully dripped Habitat poison into the cut stems, some of which were 1/2″ in diameter.  I also pulled some water cress that had regrown.

After that, we resumed our effort to prepare the Indian Campground/Sand Prairie for mowing focusing on an area where Ron Kurowski showed us a huge patch of Lupine growing last Spring.  This is in the North West area of the Sand Prairie.

Here are some before pictures.

And after.

Later, we took a walk around to enjoy the scenery, as we usually do, and I got this picture at the Indian Springs looking back up stream towards the source.

There are a lot of Asters, Golden Rod and other flowers in bloom.  We are looking forward to when the whole area we are recovering around the Indian Springs is carpeted with native grasses and flowers.

Get After It! Interview with Dave Hoffman

It’s good to be back at the Springs!  Pati and I had a great time on our road trip out West, which included Yellowstone, The Tetons, Glacier, Crater Lake and Mt Shasta.  I know this will sound crazy but I am able to share our experience ala John Coffey, the death row prisoner featured in the movie “The Green Mile”, so be sure to visit me out at the Springs so I can lay my hands on you!

Out West, when you want to get something done, you “Get After It” and that is going to be our new motto out at the Springs.

Lindsay and I “got after it” yesterday, 10/4, and the day started with removing a huge Red Oak that snapped off at the base and fell across the trail just up the hill from the Scuppernong Spring.

Then we went down to the river just below the Scuppernong Spring to attack a patch of Phragmities that we are treating as a test plot.  We want to see how the technique of bundling, cutting and poisoning with Habitat works.  Lindsay learned the technique while volunteering with the DNR (Jared Urban) at the Bluff Creek Site.  Here our a few pictures

As we were “getting after it”, Dave Hoffman, DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources Specialist, who is currently working to secure a grant via the North American Wetland Conservation Act to continue the restoration efforts in the Scuppernong River Habitat Area begun by Ron Kurowski, paid us a visit.  What a coincidence!  With the departure of DNR veteran Tim Peters, Dave is stepping up to fill the gap in coordinating the DNR efforts to execute the master plan for the Scuppernong River watershed.  We toured the site with Dave and captured a short interview with him, which you can listen to here Dave Hoffman Interview 20121004.

After our visit with Dave, we resumed our efforts to prepare the Sand Prairie at the Indian Campground site for mowing.  DNR Trail Boss, Don Dane, is planning to mow this area soon.  We worked in the area South of the spur trail that leads to the Indian Spring.

We still have some prep work to complete in this area and plan to “Get After It!” on Saturday.

Buckthorn and Phragmites piled with religious zeal

DNR Trail Master Don Dane made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: 150 volunteers to help us clean up the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.  We would only have them for a couple hours so Lindsay and I prepared the work sites.

On July 13th Lindsay finished cutting the burnt stalks of Willow and Aspen along the trail across from the Observation deck and then finished cutting almost all of the Phragmites.

On July 14th Lindsay and I marked the locations for the volunteers to pile the phragmites and buckthorn.  Here are some before and during pictures… we will add the “after” pictures soon.  Approximately 100 volunteers from a religious community in Northern Illinois (I’ll get the specifics) did some righteous piling for us with a generous spirit.  Thanks!

Here are a couple of pictures of the brush piles the group made.  They did a fine job and we will burn these up as soon as we get some snow cover.

Another Spring Opened Up

The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail is full of treasures waiting to be discovered.  Yesterday I continued cutting the Phragmites on the West side of the River just North of the second bridge ( Phragmites Invades the Springs ) and sure enough, there is a beautiful little spring there under this mat of cress and phragmites.

A couple pictures before I continued cutting the phragmites.

Below, after cutting and cleaning out the spring…  This bubbler is just beyond the boardwalk that the Wisconsin Conservation Corps put in back in the 1930s so this spot was recognized long back as one of the scenic attractions of the Springs.

Below is the channel flowing out of the spring shown above toward the River.  I was not able to finish clearing the channel all the way to River.  We will need a shovel to finish excavating it as it has become filled with silt over the years.

On July 9th Lindsay finished opening the channel to the River.

He found another little spring shown on the left below.

Thanks Lindsay!

I finished cutting the Phragmites in this area.

Below are a few more pictures of the area around the second bridge (counting from the very first spring at the head of the valley).

Looking out from the bridge over the River that is just up the trail from the Marl Pits.

The little Oaks growing in the understory are being attacked by Leaf Minor.  We are keeping an eye on this to see if it is affecting any of the mature trees.

Phragmites Invades the Springs

The headwaters of the Scuppernong River are the series of springs that line the hillsides along the main valley/channel where the river begins to flow.  Back in the early 1900’s entrepreneurs dammed the river and created a trout farm.  This significantly disrupted the normal course of the river and flooded the little plain through which the river flowed.  After the man-made dam was removed, beavers moved in and created one of their own, which helped keep the area flooded.  This provided a perfect environment for Phragmites, a large perennial grass, to become established.

A few years back (I’ll have to get the exact date) the DNR removed the beaver, drained the valley, and executed a major project to restore the Scuppernong River to it’s original banks.  But by this time, the many feeder springs coming off the hillsides had become choked with water cress and much of their flow was diverted into the expanding fields of Phragmites that line the river valley.  The root system of the Phragmites is amazing with hollow tubes 1/2″ in diameter drawing water from the springs and river into it’s system.  It creates a mono-culture effectively choking out all competitors, except cattails, which are also and issue at the Springs.

We have begun attacking the Phragmites using two strategies.  We are going to try a small test plot where we grab handfuls of mature plants and cut them off a foot or two from the ground and then daub the fresh cut ends with eco-imazapyr.  Alternately we are brush cutting the Phragmites now and plan to spray the new regrowth with eco-imazapyr sometime in September.  Like the water cress that built up over many years to form virtual dams in the river, the Phragmites stands are comprised of many years growth.  The reeds are very robust and can remain standing for years.  Thus the first pass through these areas with the brush cutters will be tough.  The grass is over 16′ tall and very thick.  Below are some pictures of our brush cutting efforts.  We hope that the combination of clearing the springs and river of water cress, which has lowered the water table in the valley by 6-8″, cutting and poisoning the Phragmites and, nature’s contribution of a hot, dry summer, will put a serious hurt on this invasive plant.

Back in the depression years, the Wisconsin Conservation Corps built a trail system with boardwalks leading to all the major spring locations along the river.  We have cleared many of these paths.  There are at least 2-3 springs at the end of this boardwalk shown above which have become completely overgrown with Phragmites and water cress.  The river is 40 yards to the right and none of the outflow of these springs is making it there, it all feeds this huge patch of Phragmites.  The spring below is right off the end of the boardwalk shown above.   We plan to open up these springs and dig or clear a channel for them to flow directly into the river.

Below are shots after the second pass through this area with the brush cutter.  You can see the clearing around the observation deck in the distance.

Below are some shots taken around the observation deck that overlooks a huge and beautiful set of springs.  The former shop manager at the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest headquarters referred to this spot as “the Little Yellowstone”.  The shot below is taken from the trail above at the Indian Campground.

There are 4-5 major patches of Phragmites in the valley and we intend to get them all cut in the next few weeks, except for our test patch, which we will poison by hand later in the season.

The Springs!

Welcome to the home of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.  In partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association, we began in May 2011 the process of restoring the natural area around the trail.  This includes cutting, piling, poisoning and burning buckthorn, honeysuckle and various other invasive species to more fully respect the beauty of this land.  We are also pulling water cress from the Scuppernong River to restore it to a cold, fast flowing stream and also to unclog all of the feeder springs so their waters will flow directly into the river instead of getting soaked up in the banks.

The Springs are the headwaters for the Scuppernong River and, per Ron Kurowski, the 40 year DNR veteran naturalist who spearheaded the Scuppernong River Habitat Restoration Area project, “It’s a World Class Site!”.