Spring has Sprung!

Spring came early this year along Hurricane Creek.
Some of you may remember that I had a pretty significant surgery to repair my Achilles tendon back in November. Before that I was in some pretty serious pain so I didn't get out in the canoe much. Thanks to Dr. Norman Waldrop at Andrews Sports Medicine and the fine folks at ATI physical Therapy in Tuscaloosa I have recovered and can now patrol the creek without pain!
Thanks to Vic, Diamond, Jennifer, and Mike for pushing my limits and helping me walk upright, without PAIN!
 So now I'm Back to work and glad of it.
Photo, courtesy of Angie LaNell

I normally see the Wild Azaleas about now and Mountain Laurel up into May. I was surprised to see the Azaleas were almost gone except some of the higher elevations. 

These were taken in my yard, about 70 feet above the creek. The ones in the creek bottom were already brown and flagging.

My Native Alabamens (Rhododendron alabamense) was still in bloom but beginning to shed its flowers. Normally I do not see them even begin to bloom until late April and early May.

Rhododendron alabamens

It is possibly the most fragrant native azalea of them all. It has a lemony smell that fills my entire yard. Spring certainly snuck up on me this year.

Spirit Dancers, 2009
A dear friend had been wanting to paddle to the mouth of the creek for some time now so we decided to get in the creek before daylight and check it out. I was a bit disappointed because it was a bit more windy than I like for photos. When it's still there's a mist that rises above the water like Spirit Dancers.The wind blew all of the fog away. The photo above was taken a few years ago on just such a morning.

My friend Angie LaNell and I decided to go anyway. I'm sure glad we did. We kept our distance as prescribed by using 2 boats and keeping a space between us but Boy Howdy, what a morning. The first thing that hit me was the amount of bank erosion and the number of huge boulders that had flipped or moved significantly in the recent flood waters.

This section of the bank moved significantly washing boulders out like this one. About 100 feet long and that big boulder that has turned upside down is the size of two pickup trucks. Sitting on the bank during the highest flood, I could hear boulders in the creek banking into each other. Now I can see why it was so audible.

All in all it was a pleasant paddle trip with just enough water. The Mountain Laurel was really starting to pop in the lower section near the river. This doesn't normally happen for a few more weeks. I'll be going back one day this week to catch the full bloom. I expect it to be in about a week.

Mountain Laurel.

I love these. They have several shades of red, pink and white. The pink seem to be the first out this year.

Along the way we passed the Marshall Falls. This was originally a pond built by Jack Marshal years ago to create a pond for fish. Now I knew Jack and found him to be quite a character but an altogether honest character. He told me this story himself. Jack and Elvis Presley were friends, That was well known. Elvis stayed at Jacks place on the creek at times when he was touring nearby. Elvis was there while this spillway was being built and actually lent a hand in stacking some of the rocks. There's no way I can research it for proof but as I said, Jack was an honest character. Elvis and Jack are prominently mentioned in this Tuscaloosa News article.  "Holt native, renowned musician and businessman dies at 88"

Every rock formation you pass is a separate living Eco-systen with mosses, Lichens, wild flowers and assorted flora you can't see without getting out in nature.

Taking time to get out in the woods and waterways is the best therapy for the  soul. Taking pictures is great. Remember this. A canoe across the water leaves no trail. Keep your food wrappers and other trash with you and take it to the can when you get out.

As you get closer to the river, you pass the ruins of the old GM&O Railroad bridges. The first one is built in the 1800s of hand-milled stone using a technique first thought to have been used by early Egyptians.

Up close you can see the drill marks where they would drill small holes then insert wood pegs. I was told they used Cherry because it swelled better when wet and was harder than most. After inserting the pegs, they would keep them wet until they swelled up and cracked the stone. Then using a wide masons chisel the boulder was cleaved. This process was repeated until they had a usable sized, fairly square stone for construction.

The larger holes that seem randomly drilled are where the huge tongs were inserted to lift and place the stones.

I'm not sure what this mark is. It's square and has some sort of symbol carved in the center. I wonder if it was the master Masons signing mark? Very interesting. I'd sure like to learn more about it.

Just downstream from this one is the newer bridge that was built in the 1900s to replace the stone pier bridge. It was built with concrete and riveted steel.

That's the Black Warrior River you see in the distance.

Arriving at the mouth of the creek was sort of an anticlimax. It was gorgeous but it was also the end of the trip. 
Photo Courtesy of Angie LaNell

Time for a quick cup of coffee and head back to the takeout. One cool feature about the mouth of the creek is little known to many. Due to the proximity to the Holt Hydro-generating dam there is a bit of a reversal of the current in the creek. Whenever they turn on the generators and let water out of the pool above, it creates a back-surge of water that can run for 1 to 15 minutes sometimes. If you catch it when it starts, you can go upstream to the landing without paddling at times.
It's almost like a tidal stream.
The Friends of Hurricane Creek is a tax-deductible 501 (c) 3 organization dedicated to the overall health and well being of Hurricane Creek and all of it's inhabitants. Founded in 1993 as the Friends of Hurricane Creek, our sole mission has been to stop the flow of major pollution sources and begin the process of recovery. The creek suffers from decades of abuse from coal mining, over development, poor building code enforcement, and overuse of herbicide by Southern Company.

Many of the contributing sources have left the watershed for various reasons stemming from our enforcement and the decline of  the coal industry.
To join FoHC, use the "Join" button here and on the right on this page page.

In 2003 we became the 121st Waterkeeper licensed program in the US. Our Creekkeeper is John L. Wathen who was one of the founding members and longest standing member. Under the watchful eye of the Hurricane Creekkeeper we have successfully turned what was once described as a stream that was on the brink of destruction to a stream in dramatic recovery.

Your Hurricane Creekkeeper

Hurricane Creek is a wealth of photogenic overlooks and wonderful flora and fauna that displays spectacular colors almost year round. Here's some shots from Fall, 2019

There's something mystical about being in a creek or river when the sun comes up. I like to get there just before sunrise and wait for that golden hour of soft light that comes just before full sunshine washes the colors out. The eye of the camera can bring out colors you might not see with the naked eye. I'll never forget my first photo trip to the creek with my mentor, Beth Young. 

Beth, in her element... Water

She said be ready at 06:30. I woke up to hear her blowing the horn outside my window so I threw on some pants and ran out to go shoot without even a cup of coffee. Fortunately Beth had pity on me AND a big thermos of hot coffee. I kept thinking, what the heck am I doing? About 5 minutes on the water in that light and I was absolutely sold on being there and have made it a regular part of my scenic photo work. Believe me, it's worth it!

William Green, Seth Farmer, Montana Maniscalco, Mack Mccollum

Fall 2019 is here and shaping up to be a pretty one. With the recent drought, I was skeptical about how much color we would see. It may not last long so get your cameras out, charge up the batteries, format the cards and get out there and capture it.

I had the honor to host the crew with Center for Public Television making content for APR this year for a documentary film about the creek. Interviews will air on APR with a video segment posted to their social media site. I'll keep you posted on the release date.

Early in the mornings when the temps change overnight creates a light fog which rises from the surface and dances upward like spirits. I call them Fog Dancers.

 Enjoy the photos included here but also, go out and get your own and share. I'll be going out several times while the colors are right. Every Fall is different. Every year, there's some special place like Hurricane Creek which is waiting on you to show its true glory.

Lots of folks want to know where we are. Here's an interactive map to our creek side club property

Below are some scenes from our cleanup last year. Don't let this years photo be taken

without YOU!


What insects tell us about Hurricane Creek

With the assistance of a special viewer, you can see a magnified version of benthic macroinvertebrates found at Hurricane Creek. 
Can you tell the critter from the pebbles?

At this year's Friends of Hurricane Creek Annual Cleanup, children conducted a stream survey along Hurricane Creek Park for local benthic macroinvertebrates. They learned how to identify microorganisms and read data about the stream's health by the presence or absence of specific species.

Young and old alike explored the secret 
underwater life of Hurricane Creek. 

Explore our website for more information on how to join Friends of Hurricane Creek or support your Hurricane Creekkeeper. For more information about events, sightings, and daily life at Hurricane Creek, join our Facebook Group or "Like" or Facebook Page. FOHC is a nonprofit, and our Creekkeeper's work cannot continue without your support. Thank you.

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