Round and round the river goes between these huge outcrops. There are deep pools that form near these rock formations and are chalk full of fish. The river seems low for this time a year. I think the lack of snow in the upper watershed is really showing. Hopefully it wont be too bad in the late summer when the fish need cool pools the most.
I love this spot – a beautiful yet dangerous perch. I was fortunate enough to return last month to plant some trees in a near-by logging unit. Of course being near this area, I had to take a quick hike to this spot to look down on the Mad River. As I took these pictures though, I could hear a horrible cry echoing up from the canyon. Im pretty sure it was a cow, who had either wandered down too far and gotten stuck on a cliff – or had slipped to the bottom and some how survived. I could not see where it was, but it was down at the bottom for sure, and tragically that spelled certain doom for the poor animal. After seeing this area from below during summer steelhead surveys, I can tell you there is no way to get up, without swimming down the river to a better spot – and that is all but impossible in the winter.
Terrain like this reminds us of the stark realities of life and death. As humans we somehow find beauty in this chaos. This is what pushes us to hike to inhospitable locations, climb mountains and cliffs, and visit harsh environments. I certainly had empathy for the suffering animal, but also could acknowledge the boon to other creatures that would inevitably benefit from its demise.
Our coastal hills can be extremely rugged. The lower Eel especially within the sandstone bluff formations. Away from the cliffs on the beach… are more cliffs. You just cant see them because they are covered in a think jungle of trees and brush. The mountains behind Ferndale and Centerville have some of the most rugged forests in the county.
One interesting feature that I encounter in the lower Eel River areas are extremely steep ridges that are surprisingly narrow. Here above Ferndale a ridge gradually rises; a sheer sandstone bluff to the south and a steep hillside to the north. The ridge is 3-5 feet wide, which is actually somewhat nerve-wracking, being that the bluff is at least 200 feet vertical. And the other side is not much better. The ridge also had a unique, windblown micro environment. These nooks and crannies are where bio-diversity is going to be highest is a forest. And sure enough, manzanita in a spruce forest!
One of the neat things about working as a forester is passing through the hard to get to places. Not just off the path, but on rock faces, landslides, stream canyons, etc. Topography and geology can create a impressive diversity of habitats within a forest. This chaotic assemblage of micro sites is one of Humboldt Counties trademarks.
Old growth live oak stands like this one are not uncommon in our region, at least where access is difficult. These trees can cling to these rock outcrops for centuries. These places tend to be very harsh. Poor soils and exposure to high winds can stunt tree growth and beat a tree down. They can persist, but will never grow very large. Occasionally they are sheltered from such effects and you can find huge live oaks that almost defy imagination.
Here is another one. This tree is just ridiculous. There were a few more like it nearby, but this one had the perfect crown. Its like a plasma globe of branches reaching out for the power of the sun. Nooks and Crannies!
Water’s up, but for how long? These creeks are flashy by nature and will rise and fall with the rain. The million dollar question right now is what these streams will look like in September. Here is what the Mad at Arcata looks like right now:
You might notice the variation in flow – notably the 3000 cfs increase in the past 12 hours. Impressive. And that is nothing compared to what the Eel is doing: Its off the charts! Yes that is a 45,000 cfs increase in flow over a 12 hour period. Fortunately it does not tend to drop off as fast, however you can see how over the month, especially for the Mad River, the rivers are still way below where they normally are for this time of year.