A family
(a family I happen to know)
signed up for last Saturday’s
“A Sense of Place” Workshop.
So we spent the day together
learning about watersheds,
and exploring one in particular—
Oklahoma City’s Deep Fork Watershed—
to begin to understand
that everywhere on the planet
is nature,
and that one way
to get a sense of place
is to get to know the watershed
that contributes to the stream
that flows through a place
and eventually leads
to some ocean.

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DSCN7587At the Head Waters of Deep Fork Creek


After learning how
streams become polluted,
we headed out to Warr Acres,
to Ann Arbor Street, to see
the head waters of Deep Fork Creek
and Lake Eufaula.

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DSCN7594

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We spent the afternoon
visiting habitat along Deep Fork Creek
at three sites around the city.
All four members of the family
have great interest, curiosity,
a sense of adventure
and already know a good deal
about the natural world. So
it was a pleasure,
and gift,
to simply
explore, observe,
wander and wonder
together.
Parents who spend time
in nature with their children
are gifting all life
on the planet.

DSCN7596The Sewell Family

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Beaver Dam on Kirby Place
with wetland above it

Went down to sit by the beaver dam on the Kirby Place.
We’ve been having rains regularly of late
and so the creek waters rush and vanish,
as they do on the prairie.
They usually have at least some water in them,
in places,
then flood
and often go dry.
Over the years, the conservation people
have built a series of flood-control dams and lakes
to try to maintain a more steady flow of water
through the watershed
and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.
But the human constructions don’t seem to work as well
as the beavers’ constructions.
This beaver community
has been maintaining their home here
for twenty years.

Though water is rushing down the creek at one end of the dam,
it is still a slow process,
which means that a most amazing and healthy thing
is happening above the beaver dam:
there is a broad wetland,
which doesn’t go dry,
and the creek above it
is still out of its banks.
Farther upstream,
the creek is already back to normal,
or below normal.
Though rushing through one end of the beaver dam,
the water here is only slowly making its way down the creek
below the beaver dam.
In the meantime,
the wetland provides habitat for life
and helps recharge the water table.

In modern times, beavers have been trapped and killed
to prevent them from damming the creeks.
They normally make a series of dams –
building another upstream when the community gets large enough.
And that causes flooding of farmers’ crop land.
Ironically,
the beavers here can’t go immediately upstream
because there is a flood-control dam about a quarter of a mile upstream.
This beaver community’s dam is situated
where it doesn’t interfere with cropland
and so it has been left alone.

Flooded Doe Creek, just above the beaver dam

Coming here
is like entering a sacred place.
It is a natural wonder.
The sense of the healthy life here
is palpable.
It must have been like this all across the Great Plains
long ago.

Exploring a Tributary of Doe Creek

Exploring a Tributary of Doe Creek

We are learning about our ecoregion and this week had the great pleasure of exploring our streams with Jean Lemmon, from Blue Thumb, a water pollution education program of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s Water Quality Division. We explored along Doe Creek and one of its tributaries. Doe Creek runs through the land we live on and steward. We also went to Red Rock Creek, which is the largest creek in our watershed. It also runs through land we steward.

Friends were visiting from Tulsa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where it’s spring break. So we had the good fortune to experience teenage girls experiencing stream life as well. It was a very good day: great to be in good company, there was no wind and it was warm and sunny. And then there were the discoveries…

Looking for Life Under Rocks

Looking for Life Under Rocks

Exploring creeks is going to become part of our life now. We are learning to monitor monthly the water quality. But this gives us the opportunity to explore more deeply and learn about the ecosystem in the creeks. Yesterday we discovered exposed bedrock in a lovely portion of Doe Creek, right there in the pasture. Jean showed us how to see what lives under water-covered rocks. We saw Mayflies and Cadid larvae. Ladybugs were sunning themselves and taking a dip in Red Rock Creek. These are good signs of healthy streams. (If the insects have legs, which the Mayflies do, it indicates a healthier stream. Legless insects can tolerate less healthy streams.)

Jean explaining algae growth on pond beavers have created on Doe Creek

Jean explaining algae growth on pond beavers have created on Doe Creek

There’s more to learn, more to see. We are grateful for the opportunity to get to know more of our neighbors.

Paula and Ann Resting on Bedrock at Doe Creek

Paula and Ann Resting on Bedrock at Doe Creek

Blue Thumb

Blue Thumb

Last weekend, I went to the Blue Thumb training sessions in Norman and learned about watersheds and aquifers and how we affect others by the way we use water. Instructors discussed many types of pollutants – silt from construction sites, chemicals from lawns and farms, trash, paint – that end up in our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans.

At Elm Creek Saturday morning, we checked for insects on the rocks and in the stream and seined for fish. We monitored the water temperature and clarity, looking for foam, algae, iron precipitates, oily film, odors and other alterations. We took water samples back to the classroom to run chemical tests for nitrites, nitrates, phosphorous, ammonia, chloride and oxygen saturation. I never took chemistry, so this was all a new experience for me.

The Blue Thumb website states:

People who spend time in nature learn to love nature, and from this love comes willingness to protect our air, land, water, and wildlife. Our children and our grandchildren deserve the chance to swim and fish in clean lakes and rivers.

Now that I have been through the training, I will monitor a creek on our farm monthly. I look forward to learning about the health of our creek.

— photo from Blue Thumb website