I’ve been on a 16 year crusade, and now, finally, The Buckthorn Manis coming home. I never did find the holy grail amongst the buckthorn, and while I was gone, my home was invaded by mold. Pati suspected it long ago, but I had a tin ear — perhaps caused by the whining of the chainsaw — and I did not recognize the impact this could be having on our health, especially Pati’s lungs. I was under the spell of invasive species; I had become an Invader Crusader.
We also picked up a top-of-the-line dehumidifier and plan to do a prescribed burn in the basement next spring (I’ve heard that mold cannot tolerate fire.)
So many things have changed since I left. Why, I just heard there is a new “secret” trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership and I’m eager to find out more about it. And I’ve heard talk that something called U.N. Agenda 21 could be influencing the transfer of public lands to private ownership.
Yes, yes, it looks like it’s time to stop all this crusading and spend some time taking care of business at home and in my local community; there’s more to life than buckthorn and garlic mustard.
Pati celebrated with me and we toured the Olbrich Botanical Gardens after the event. She is always up for adventure and jumped at my suggestion to take a short drive west to spend the rest of the day at the Pleasant Valley Conservancy SNA. Kathie and Tom Brock have created something very special.
I’ll be working on the house for at least another month and enjoying some of Pati’s home cook’in, or rather, bak’in.
I’ve been asked to make a short presentation about my experience as a volunteer and volunteer opportunities at the upcoming Oak Savanna Alliance workshop.
I’m a little worried that The Buckthorn Man will show up and start ranting like he is prone to do. I asked him recently what his problem with volunteering was since he does so much of it, and that really set him off (don’t worry, none of this will make it into my presentation on May 16.) The Buckthorn Man talks fast and loud when he gets excited, but I think I got the gist of it, which I will relate here now.
The Trivium: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric, are the tools a rational mind applies to make sense — common sense — conscience (to know together) out of the world we live in. You need a conscience to volunteer. You’ve got to see the need!
I’ve been cutting buckthorn on State owned land for 20 years because I see the need. According to the Wisconsin Realtors Association: “Wisconsin consists of approximately 34.8 million acres of land. Over 5.7 million acres of this land, or 16.5 percent, is publicly owned and used for parks, forests, trails and natural resource protection.” The lands are owned by federal, state and county governments, none of which apply the resources necessary to be good stewards.
Yes, there are caring individuals in all levels of government (especially the Wisconsin DNR), who see the needs, but they are constrained by a lack of funds to providing only a veneer of stewardship i.e., just enough to maintain good public relations and earn money to help offset the maintenance costs. I’m not a fan of government, so I’m not suggesting we plead with them: I’m an anarchist (yes to rules, no to rulers). Government is mind control. It takes away rights we have and assumes rights no one has; taxes, prohibition, licenses and malum prohibitum laws are evidences of that.
Right here, right now, we have to deal with the cold, hard facts that, of the money government currently steals from us, the vast majority is going to fight wars of aggression, build an all powerful security state and line the pockets of the titans of finance who are really running the show. We are rapidly headed towards a One World Government, a New World Order, make no mistake about it.
This is why the VolunteersMarty Balin sang about must start a revolution. We must say NO! and reject the whole concept of authority — that some folks have a right to rule, so long as some other folks say they do — and create a society of voluntary association. There never was a time when the politicians who styled themselves “The United States of America” were accountable to “we the people”. Read Gustavus Myers’ History of the Great American Fortunes, and see how this country was born in infamy. What, besides threats and coercion, binds you or I to the U.S. Constitution and grants jurisdiction i.e., control, to these bureaucrats?
It comes down to this: my problem with volunteering on publicly owned land is that it tends to make it look like the current system is succeeding. As a society, formed into bodies corporate and politic (governments), can we continue giving short shrift to being good stewards of the land in favor of exploitation and continued degradation while relying on expanding the army of volunteers to make everyone feel good about it? It ain’t RIGHT!
Remember, “You are the Crown of Creation, and you’ve got no place to go.”
Well, thanks Buckthorn Man, that was interesting, but I wouldn’t dare bring any of that up next Saturday at the Oak Savanna Alliance workshop. Personally, I volunteer to help restore the quality and diversity of “the commons” as a way to preserve my sanity in a world gone mad. Making a positive difference, no matter how small, means everything to me.
The view at the base of the bluff where we began working
It was a great day!
I’ve been super busy cleaning the house from top to bottom and preparing for my adventure in legal land, which is still ongoing, and I haven’t gotten out to The Springs nearly as much as I’d like to. But, I did find time to join Pat Witkowski and her team of “Monday Mudders” on a beautiful late afternoon working on the Ice Age Trail just east of The Springs. There is a short section of trail that was rerouted a couple years ago and Pat was not happy with the results, so she is moving the trail up the slope a little to improve the drainage.
Part of the team worked on a stewardship zone, just a bit up the trail, that Dave Cheever has had his eyes on. There is a cluster of 10 or so massive, native white pines, that stand out conspicuously from the surrounding red pine plantation, once you know what you are looking at, and Dave thought it would be a great idea to clear the buckthorn from around their bases. Right on!
I hope to join Pat and the “Monday Mudders” again soon!
Last week I finally got back to work again at The Springs and spent a morning pulling weeds in the area around the Scuppernong Springs. This patch of garlic mustard is history!
Last year Ben Johnson and I weeded the lupine patches on the west slope of the sand prairie and I returned to get any spotted knapweed that we missed. There is going to be a stunning outburst of lupine this year!
Some curious friends stopped to see what I was up to and show off the beautiful morels that they found in the river valley on the east side of the sand prairie. I went looking myself but came up empty.
The spring flowers are in full bloom!
Last Saturday I was planning to join Zach, Ginny and Jared for a State Natural Areas workday at Bluff Creek West, but I’m faced with fields of flowering garlic mustard at The Springs. Instead, I spent the day brush cutting garlic mustard. Now you may scoff at the idea of mowing garlic mustard but I am seeing great results in some areas. It depends on how much seed is dormant in the ground and how thoroughly you can prevent new seed from maturing. This was an unusually busy spring for me and I’m way behind on the garlic mustard, but I see that this approach, as opposed to foliar spraying poison, is going to work in the long run.
Late in the afternoon, I donned my chest waders and pulled watercress from the river. I’m not trying to get it all out, I just want to keep a channel open.
It was past 6:00pm when I finally called it quits.
Pati and I met Dr. Jim Meeker, and his wife Joan Elias, when their neighbors, Greg Legault and Janette Christie (Legault), introduced us on the memorably challenging, private, cross country ski trails they had woven across their adjoining properties in Gurnee, Wisconsin. We began renting Greg’s cozy cabin back in the early 90’s and I remember how starstruck Pati was when we met Jim, who already had a reputation for the manoomin, aka wild-rice, research he had done in the Bad River’s Kakagon Sloughs.
Jim and Joan befriended us and we stayed in touch over the years. Pati and I were truly saddened when we heard that Jim had “walked on” (see page 10 in this issue of Mazina’igan, or expand the article shown below.)
I felt lucky and blessed to be in Gurnee on March 21 for the Memorial Service and Celebration of Jim’s Life (Pati had a business commitment in South Africa.) Here are a couple of testimonials:
Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission is grateful for Dr. Meeker’s many contributions as a former staff member, scientist, teacher and mentor, but mostly as a very gentle, approachable human-being, filled with kindness and concern for all living creatures, but especially those plant-beings!
A professor of botany and natural resources, Jim shared his passion for the outdoors with students in the classroom, field and laboratory. Jim fostered an inter-disciplinary approach to solving problems and used an experiential pedagogy before those approaches were being promoted within higher education.
Jim loved to share what he learned from nature: “It’s time to go for a walk!”
One of Jim and Joan’s favorite places in the neighborhood: Potato Falls.
That is the upper falls above cascading over multiple tiers, and below we see the lower falls.
I got a real treat when I met a team of kayakers who had just run the upper falls!
Check out Jonathan Sisley’s run down the upper falls, which begins around 1:00 into this video (thanks for sharing this Jonathan!)
Back at The Springs, there was buckthorn to cut and pile. Andy Buchta stacked all the brush I laid down near the marl factory.
I continued clearing the areas on both sides of the trail a couple hundred yards from the parking lot on Hwy ZZ, in what used to be, The Buckthorn Alley.
Tuesday I focused on the left side of the trail…
…and cut many a buckthorn, though it’s hard to tell (below, same three views after.)
On Thursday I continued cutting on both the right and left sides of the trail (below, before cutting, looking right, then left.)
Below, the same three views after a 6 tanks of gas in the chain saw.
Ben Johnson joined me after work to help rake out and rehabilitate the burn rings/scars from the last brush pile burning season. The skunk cabbage is emerging.
Believe it or not I was back at it on Saturday. I’m trying to cut as much buckthorn as I can while it’s still dormant. Andy is following close behind piling the brush. Thanks Andy!
Ben has been helping Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent KMSF – Southern Unit, work on a plan to make the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail handicap accessible from the parking lot to the Hotel Spring and we had a date to review project. The removal of the bridge by the Hotel Spring has opened up some new perspectives on how to route the trail. Anne, and her boss Paul Sandgren, scoped out the situation and they are seriously considering building the new bridge over the river at the old sawmill site at signpost #12. The new trail would follow the berm that formed the lower pond.
This would be a beautiful spot to cross the river, with the added bonus that the east bank of the old bridge site, which has some very unique springs and flora, would be allowed to return to a natural state. The DNR Water Regulations and Zoning engineers will have a say in the matter for sure.
While Ben moved boardwalks and cleared a trail along the berm, I continued cutting buckthorn on the left side of the trail, where I left off last time.
That is how it looked before I got started. Andy joined me and piled tons of buckthorn while I cut.
I can’t wait to see how these wetlands respond in the absence of the buckthorn cover!
Ben and I had an excellent adventure exploring the northeast corner of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve and then we took a tour.
Prime real estate is available for ducks as well and on April 2, Brian Glenzinski, former DNR Wildlife Biologist now working with Ducks Unlimited, will be joining me to tour The Spings. You might recall that Brian is the artist who carved The Acorn given out by the Oak Savanna Alliance for their Land Steward of the Year award. We plan to list with Brian and he was very positive about building some new “upscale” duck homes in the neighborhood.
By the way, don’t miss the Oak Savanna Alliance workshop on May 16th. Contact Eric Tarman-Ramcheck (TR Natural Enterprises, LLC) for details and be sure to let him know who you think deserves The Acorn this time.
For sanity’s sake though, I’m going to recollect the events of the past few weeks in chronological order.
After weeks of cramming to prepare my defense against the band of thieves and robbers known as government, for my “day in court”, I needed a day in the woods with my chainsaw to settle my nerves. I returned to the marl factory on March 12th to attack the last stand of buckthorn on the wedge of land between the Tibby Line railroad tracks (signpost #2) and Marl Pit Bridge (signpost #4). Below, the area as seen from signpost #4.
Now, imagine you just stepped forward to the treeline shown above and looked right, straight ahead and left.
We carved a hole in the middle of this buckthorn thicket and now was the time to finish the perimeter. I had a fine day cutting and stopped early to help my friend Scott, and his buddy Mr. Schnuddles, collect some firewood.
The view from signpost #4.
I love to take a walk around The Springs at the end of a hard day’s work!
Hmmmm, why is that monster parked in the DNR lot above the Hotel Springs?
The bubbler at the Emerald Springs was especially active.
Ben, dude, we need to build a bridge here man!
On Saturday, March 14th I joined Zach Kastern, Ginny Coburn, Jared Urban, and a great crew of SNA volunteers clearing buckthorn from the transition zone between the calcareous fen and the oak uplands at Bluff Creek West. The area we worked is at the base of the forested ridge shown in the upper right hand corner of the Bluff Creek Prescribed Burn plan shown below.
Zach and Jared introduced the agenda for the day…
… and we got after it!
We made tremendous progress thanks to volunteers like this team from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Ecology Club.
I got a chance to talk to Zach Kastern about the project.
I spent the afternoon at The Springs finishing the last patch of buckthorn near the marl factory that I described above.
Ben, dude, we gotta fix this boardwalk!
Sunset at the Sand Prairie.
On St. Patrick’s day I found evidence that leprecons had visited the springs the night before!
I had NO IDEA they could operate heavy equipment!
Abe Wittenwyler, heavy equipment operator with the DNR, wasn’t looking for a pot of gold under the Hotel Spring bridge; he had come to excavate the riverbed to address the hydrology issues that Ben Heussner identified as a result of the elevation survey the DNR conducted last year. I called Ben for an update, left a message, and got to work cutting buckthorn in the wetlands just down the trail — to the left — from the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ. Here is how it looked before I got started.
When I broke for lunch, I got Ben’s message and headed over to the Hotel Springs to meet him. We walked along the river and reviewed the results of our efforts last year while Ben waited for Michelle Hase, DNR Water Regulations and Zoning Engineer, to review the project.
Ben Heussner, Steve Gospodarek and Abe Wittenwyler.
Michelle recommended they distribute the “spoils” excavated from the river slightly differently than Ben had in mind. They regraded the slope on the east side of the river, sowed a crop of annual grass, and then covered the area with straw. Ben was genuinely proud of the bridge he built there back in 1992 and he’s looking forward to building the replacement this summer. Me? I’m going to watch the river make a head cut.
I returned to my work site and cut buckthorn, like a mischievious leprecon, for the rest of the day.
And later visited my favorite haunts.
Yesterday I returned to the area and continued to open up dramatic views into, and out of, the very interior of the Scuppernong River Nature Preserve. I completed clearing the area shown below to totally open the views into the interior wetlands.
Then I moved much closer to the parking lot to take on this wall of buckthorn.
It was a flawless day and I cut down a hell of a lot of buckthorn. Views into the interior wetlands are now revealed.
And, looking back towards the parking lot, that wall of buckthorn is not so formidable anymore.
I’m going to cut as much buckthorn as I can before the garlic mustard and other weeds start to emerge.
I got my first call of the season from DNR Burn Boss, Don Dane. Let’s get it on!
See you at The Springs!
p.s. I did not prevail against the agents of the state in court on Friday the 13th. It ain’t over yet!
John and Sue Hrobar have been coming to The Springs for a long time. They have a feel, and a feeling, for this “world class site”. They watch closely as nature tries to heal the anthropogenic wounds inflicted at the headwaters of the Scuppernong River and amateur naturalists, like The Buckthorn Man, have their way. It wasn’t long after I returned to work at The Springs in May of 2011, (I had worked there for approximately 6 months back in 2004, cutting buckthorn on the hillside between the river and highway 67) that I first met John and Sue on one of their frequent visits.
Sue takes most of the pictures and John does most of the talking and, together, they began to teach me about the flora and fauna — the biota — of The Springs.
John and Sue with Trail Boss, Don Dane.
I started this blog back in June 2012 and asked Sue if I could post some of her pictures. Well, sorry it took me so long Sue… here is a sampling of what you gave me over two years ago: The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, 2012, through the eyes of The Keepers of The Springs (take your time browsing this collection, and don’t forget you can click any picture to expand it to full size.)
The bend in the trail along the northeast perimeter of the loop.
Buckthorn still lined the riverbank near the old hotel site.
Sue getting ready for a polar bear plunge.
John near the Hatching House Springs.
Unfortunately, we rarely see trout like this at the Emerald Spring since Lindsay and I pulled out the watercress and disturbed their habitats in the spring of 2012. The restoration of the headwaters of the Scuppernong River to it’s pre-settlement condition is a work in progress.
John at the Scuppernong Spring.
The south end of the sand prairie.
You can see the buckthorn thicket on the far side of the Indian Springs outflow channel.
Lindsay Knudsvig, John Mesching and I burned 185 brush piles down on the flat below the Indian Campground.
It was a mild winter.
Smoke drifts from brush pile fires on the south end of the loop trail.
The flats below the Indian Campground. Heh, where’s the snow?
The view towards the sand prairie from the marl pit trail (note the buckthorn thicket)
The marl pit trail is a great place to see flowers!
That’s it for the year 2012 in review, courtesy of Sue and John Hrobar. Here are a couple of bonus pics that Sue took in September, 2013, of a watersnake capturing a grass pickerel. I wonder what happened next?
I would love to share your photos of The Springs here, so contact me if you have some good ones.
I don’t fish. My rights under natural law do not extend to harming any sentient creature, except in the case of self defense. I’m still troubled by the memory of the beautiful adult river otter I ran over with my truck and trailer, while passing a slowdriver on the way to Lake Owen this past summer. I was the unconscious one.
I know, I’m in the minority, and you might wonder why I would introduce an article about the great work the Southeast Wisconsin Trout Unlimited organization has been doing for almost 50 years by reflecting on the nature of fishing. I’m just being honest. I love fish, especially brook trout, and recognize that the Scuppernong River is potentially an ideal place for “brookies” to live long and happy lives; that is why I am putting my energy into rehabilitating the headwaters of the Scuppernong River at The Springs.
The art of fly fishing is a classic solitary pursuit.
But fishermen/women have long recognized that they need to work together to effectively conserve, protect and restore our fisheries; hence the formation of organizations like Trout Unlimited.
TU’s guiding principles are:
From the beginning, TU was guided by the principle that if we “take care of the fish, then the fishing will take care of itself.” And that principle was grounded in science. “One of our most important objectives is to develop programs and recommendations based on the very best information and thinking available,” said TU’s first president, Dr. Casey E. Westell Jr. “In all matters of trout management, we want to know that we are substantially correct, both morally and biologically.”
The Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of TU (SEWTU) was formed in the late 1960s and, after working with them this past Saturday on the Scuppernong River, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment expressed on their website:
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better bunch of individuals than those who comprise the rank and file of SEWTU. Friendly faces, kind words, and good fishing stories — some are even occasionally true — welcome all comers.
Since 2006, SEWTU has done many projects in the Scuppernong River Watershed, mostly on Paradise Springs Creek and the headwaters of the Scuppernong River. For example, on a cold winter day in 2008 they installed bio-logs just upstream from the Emerald Springs overlook deck and closed off the marl pit canal from the river. They did two projects on the river in 2013, installing bio-logs in the stretch between the old barn site and gaging station bridge (scroll down in these posts to view the work they did in December 2013.)
I really regretted not being on-site for the 2013 SEWTU Scuppernong River workdays. My excuse is the reference in their email notifications to the Scuppernong Creek (you may notice this on their website(s) as well), that confused me. Thanks to Ben Heussner for giving me a heads up this time. It was a pleasure to work with SEWTU members on December 6th installing bio-logs just upstream from the gaging station bridge. It was a very successful workday that completed the channel remediation efforts from the old barn site downstream to the gaging station bridge (with one caveat that we’ll get to below when we interview Larry Wirth.)
The day started when Pati and I met the Wisconsin DNR Fisheries Technicians, Joshua Krall and Ryen Kleiser, at the DNR parking area above the Hotel Spring.
We got some drinking water at the Hotel Spring and then watched Josh delivering the first load of bio-logs to the site.
We then headed over to the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ to meet-up with the SEWTU work crew.
Here is a survey of the work area before we got started.
After reviewing the plan with Josh, I turned and got these pictures.
The workday progressed flawlessly as more SEWTU volunteers streamed in.
We soon had all of the bio-logs in place and focused on filling in brush behind them.
We accomplished an amazing amount of work before noon!
Back at the parking lot, Ray, Chris and the other chefs laid out the traditional SEWTU brat fry.
James Flagg above, talking with Mike Kuhr and with his son, Jim, below (sorry, I didn’t get in a little closer for this shot!)
During the morning Pati struck up a conversation with Larry Wirth, a long-time SEWTU member, about his role in the DNR’s decision to drain THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG (scroll down in the post linked above for some great, vintage shots of the ponds taken by Pete Nielsen). I had to talk to Larry.
At the end of the interview, Larry expressed his concern and uncertainty about the suitability of coconut hull bio-logs to macro invertebrate life, which is essential for good trout habitat. We talked to Josh Krall about the “sterility” of bio-log channels. Josh explained that channel remediation was the first, and necessary, step in the restoration and that we could/should follow up and introduce organic material on the inside of the bio-logs to provide food and habitat for macro invertebrates like caddisfly. Larry asked if there had been any studies done regarding the transition of bio-logs to a more natural stream bank and their suitability to supporting macro invertebrates.
The two sites with biologs were not as productive as other sites and there did not appear to be other shoreline features associated with macroinvertebrate abundance or diversity.
The bio-logs upstream of the Emerald Spring were installed by SEWTU in 2008, and we can refer to them to gauge their transition to natural riverbank and the presence of macro invertebrates in their vicinity. I plan to investigate this further next spring. In general, I think it would be a good idea to line the insides of the bio-logs with some brush, logs or rocks to provide habitat for macro invertebrates. Perhaps we can do another workday with SEWTU in 2015 to focus on this next important step.
As if working with SEWTU wasn’t exciting enough, Chris Mann and Austin Avellone, from the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, joined me for a very productive workday on Wednesday, December 3, at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA. I began clearing the buckthorn from the tamarack grove there on Monday, December 1. I was very happy to see that Andy Buchta had been busy piling the brush that Lindsay and I cut back in October. Since then, Andy has finished piling all the brush we cut there.
Here is how the tamarack grove looked on Monday morning.
I had a fine day cutting, but it was too dark by the time I quit to take any “after” photos.
Wednesday morning was absolutely beautiful. You can see below what I accomplished on Monday and what lay ahead for the day.
Chris worked the chainsaw and Austin swung the brush cutter and we got after it!
Last winter both Andy Buchta and I got horrible, blistering rashes (which I spread to Pati!), after working with the brush we cut in the buckthorn alley. I was suspicious about this tree (the one in front below) and stopped Chris to ask what it was.
He explained that it was poison sumac and advised against cutting or even touching it. That reminded me of the time that DNR Trail Boss, Don Dane, made a point of taking Lindsay and I over to an area near the boat doc at Ottawa Lake to emphatically show us what poison sumac looked like, and warn us to steer clear of it. Well, you tried Don, and it took a nasty bout with poison sumac last year to teach me a lesson. I cut a couple of poison sumacs on the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA, but no more.
Chris and Austin at work.
There is a very nice trail along the east shore of Ottawa Lake that passes beneath the campgrounds and the walk-in sites #335 and #334 and continues to the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA. The views from this trail are going to get prettier as we continue clearing the buckthorn from the trail. My dream is to eventually create a trail around the west side of the fen to connect to the boat landing on the southwest side of Ottawa Lake. I think that would be awesome!
I met Pete Nielsen, the “Master of Nagawaukee”, famous for the Pete Nielsen Laser Relays, at The Springsback in July of 2013. When he told me that he grew up in the old stone house a mile or so south on Hwy 67, I practically begged him to share some of his scuppernong stories and pictures with us here. I’m guessing he earned the nickname “laser” for his speed running track and cross country, but as the days passed, and I didn’t hear from him, I wondered if he forgot about it. So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I got his email tonight. But first, and I don’t mean to keep you waiting…, a couple of updates.
The Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited is having a workday at the Scuppernong River this Saturday, December 6th. We’ll need plenty of help making brush bundles to use to fill in behind the bio-logs, so please come and join us if you can.
Pati and I spent the week of Thanksgiving visiting our friend, Chris Belleau, in Providence, Rhode Island. The first snowstorm of the year was “major” for us, coinciding with the departure of our plane, and we missed our connection in Detroit. Upon our arrival in Providence, the next day, we immediately drove to New York City for a little adventure and caught this sunset over the Hudson River.
Pati cleverly negotiated both free airline flights and a free night at the Doubletree Hotel in the Big Apple using accumulated Delta and Hilton points. After a hair-raising drive through Times Square, we finally arrived safe, and barely sane.
We visited “ground zero”, the Empire State Building and the Museum of Natural History before heading north to our ultimate destination in Providence. Rumor on the street is that this mammoth used to roam the shores of glacial lake scuppernong.
Chris has been creating works of art for almost 40 years, focusing on glass for the last 30 or so. It was my first visit to his studio, and the first time I got to see him in action: breathing life into a ball of molten glass and turning it into a beautiful fish.
Stretching, blowing and shaping…
Chris and Grant fuse the eyes, tail and fins to the body.
The soft, hot, glass can be squeezed, stretched and twisted.
Better make sure this fish can stand on it’s own.
Parting the lips.
Chris’ able assistant, Grant, creating a White Christmas tree.
It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad to be back home at The Springs.
Sorry for the delay… when Pete’s email arrived and I saw his pictures, I couldn’t wait to post them here. This one made it to the cover of Robert Duerwachter’s wonderful history of the Scuppernong Springs: THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG.
I’ll let Pete do the talking now:
I grew up about one mile south of the trout ponds on highway 67 beginning in 1950. We moved there when I was a first grader. The house we moved to was built in 1855 with limestone quarried on site and gave rise to a structure with walls 18 inches thick. To this day it stands as a landmark as you enter the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The huge marsh which we could see to our north and west encompassed the hiking trails and Leans’ Lake (now Ottawa Lake) on the far end. It was the site of an occasional peat bog fire but usually a black hole for human habitation giving a backdrop to the rare but colorful Northern Light display and a privacy to be envied.
When I was a seventh grader I was given a Brownie camera for my birthday. My friends and I went snooping based on a story about an abandoned house behind the hotel. It was located about 75 meters north of the famed “concrete wall” from which it was totally obscured by brush and trees. We couldn’t see it until we were about 40m away. It was locked and all the windows were intact but being a poured concrete basement the north wall had partially caved in. We slid down into standing water, walked across some boards in the dim light and entered the house scaling the only stringer and pushed up through the trap door. The rest is in pictures of some furniture, a mounted deer head, a display case of birds and a picture of a beautiful young woman whose coy smile always causes me to ask who is was.
We exited the house in reverse manner leaving everything untouched. We then trekked through the woods to the hotel where we were greeted by Laurel Markham and Mrs. Keltsch and treated to milk and cookies. You couldn’t ask for a better summer afternoon as a childhood memory.
(Editor’s note: I think the “concrete wall” Pete mentioned above is the remnant of the marl factory that still stands, and the foundation of the house he described is: “about 75 meters north”, just off the cut-off trail.)
Back to Pete’s narrative:
The other set of pictures is witness to the famous trout ponds which were formed by man-made dams. These pictures were taken about 1991, showing the existing hiking trail around what was then the large southern pond. One can see the comparison after drainage and a year or two of growth of the reeds.
These pictures are priceless! And this one is sooo good, I have to post it again.
Pete, thanks for taking the time and making the effort to digitize these gems you captured with your “old brownie”, and for sharing them, and your stories, with us!
Generation after generation of people lived and loved along the banks of the Scuppernong River. They never imagined saw mills, cheese factories, trout farms or marl pits; instead, they imagined that the spring waters, diverse prairies and oak savannahs would continue to support them, their children, and their children’s children for generations to come.
When Chester W. Smith arrived in 1847 he imagined the power he could create harnessing the force of the river and he dammed it to make the Buttermilk Mill. His cultural background emphasized man’s mastery over the natural world; it was his oyster!
Talbot Dousman imagined a more sophisticated application of the water in 1874, and he bisected the Scuppernong River with embankments and flumes transforming the headwaters into a trout farm.
The marl works left scabs and a deep scar on the land, wounding and abusing the river during the years it was operated along its banks.
In the early 1990’s DNR Naturalist, Ron Kurowski, and others, imagined the Scuppernong River the way it was before European settlement, and they began reversing the anthropogenic impact via the Scuppernong River Habitat Area restoration project. What does it mean to imagine the river minus the reckless impacts of those who preceded us? I think Dr. Megan A. Styles, Ben Johnson‘s professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, expressed it quite eloquently in a recent email to him:
You’ve hit on a really important central theoretical tenet in restoration ecology — very rarely is the landscape “restored” to a precolonial state; it is actually constructed (notice there’s no “re-” here) anew in a manner that reflects (1) contemporary environmental values and (2) the ways that we “imagine” a truly wild and functional ecosystem should look like. I use the word “imagine” here not to suggest that it is not based in science (it certainly is!), but to remind us that there is a creative process afoot here as well. What we consider a desirable habitat will change over time in concert with changing values and new scientific discoveries.
Ben Heussner and the Wisconsin DNR Fisheries team imagine what a natural and healthy trout habitat should look like and they — one spring at a time, one bend at a time, one tributary at a time — have been reversing the anthropogenic effects on the Scuppernong River watershed for the last 20 years. Recently they performed an elevation study of the Scuppernong Springs to get the data they needed to objectively support what was visually apparent.
On a recent visit to The Springs, Ben interpreted the results of the elevation survey and explained their plans for the headwaters:
From the Hotel Spring bridge (site 3 below) we walked upstream along the river bank discussing how the river bed would change as a result of the projected head-cut. Heussner concluded that the scope of the plan, in addition to the work at the “perch” at the Hotel Spring bridge shown above at data point 1078, should include reducing the humps left after the removal of the embankments where the two bridges lead to the Hillside and Hidden Springs (sites 1 and 2 below), and the hump at the embankment where the mill pond was formed (site 4 below). He is working now on the permitting process and targeting Spring, 2015, to implement the plan.
Then we walked downstream from the Hotel Spring bridge and inspected the results of the back filling we did last spring to compliment the bio-logs the DNR installed late last year (with help from Trout Unlimited), and imagined what it will look like when these areas fill in with vegetation. The river is really ripping through this stretch now, creating a sandy, stony bottom and carving deep pools and cut banks; great trout habitat! Ben is hoping that, with one more workday this December, they can finish the stream bank remediation effort all the way to the gaging station bridge.
Meanwhile, this year, after a long hiatus, the DNR has begun stocking trout again in the Scuppernong River watershed:
McKeawn Springs, 37 Brook Trout yearlings
Ottawa Lake, 1,485 Rainbow Trout yearlings
Paradise Spring Creek, 300 Brook Trout yearlings
Paradise Spring Pond, 200 Brook Trout yearlings
Scuppernong River at Hwy N, 148 Brook Trout yearlings
South Branch Scuppernong River, 74 Brook Trout yearlings.
We are constructing a new reality at the headwaters of the Scuppernong River that reflects: “contemporary environmental values”, and what “a truly wild and functional ecosystem should look like.”
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Last Thursday I resumed my efforts to prep the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve for the next prescribed burn by cutting buckthorn sprouts and seedlings with my brush cutter in the area around the old hotel site. The new bench that Ben and Karen Johnson built is getting a lot of use!
I noticed that the black locust removal effort has resumed in earnest. This is dramatically changing the look of the northeast corner of the property.
I also addressed an issue that DNR trail boss, Don Dane, pointed out a while back, and which Dan Carter reiterated on his recent visit, and that is the steep little short-cut trail that was getting “burned in” from the Hotel Spring bridge up to the Sand Prairie. Here are before…
… and after images.
Ben Johnson joined me after work and we harvested some red oak logs that we planned to use to raise a boardwalk at the east end of the Buckthorn Alley.
We cut up the downed tree on the left shown above and moved the logs over to the boardwalk with a hand dolly.
On Friday I strapped on the brush cutter and did some “mowing” along the cut-off trail. Although it looks like a carpet of buckthorn, there was a lot of wild strawberry and geranium actively growing at ground level and I was glad I wasn’t spraying herbicide.
Later, I checked out the results of the latest hand-to-hand combat with the black locust. I’ll go out on a limb and say this is the handiwork of Steve Tabat and his crew, although I have not seen them personally in action.