Craving Sea Levelness
In Texas, United States
Size:  (not chosen)
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Imagine yourself living your life as a single tiny droplet of water. You are a droplet living on the surface of the Earth.
As a tiny water droplet living on the surface, what is it that you want out of life? Money? No. Love? No. Fame? No. More than anything in the whole world, you, a little speck of water, want to reach sea level. It's the magic place.
So you spend your entire life trying to get there. But you must face many obstacles and forces. A lot of your fellow water droplets live the easy life, taking, more or less, a fast and direct route straight to sea level. But that is not always the case. Some droplets get sidetracked.
You could get sucked up into a thirsty camel's mouth. You could become entrapped by the dreaded humans in a plastic Ozarka prison cell. If you are really unlucky, you could become frozen in a vast glacier, gridlocked and unable for eons to reach that sweet sea level. If you are luckier, you could be evaporated up into the glorious sky, where you will spend time soaring like an eagle. Flying around in the sky is a lot of fun, and many droplets want to experience that. However, your true meaning in life, your primal urge, is to reach the nirvana of sea level.
Yes, there are many obstacles. But stay positive and keep your wet little chin up, because all water droplets eventually make it there.
You can stop pretending now. You are not really a water droplet. You are an earthcacher.
Now go get your waders!
Huh? You don't own any waders? C'mon, you're kidding! Okay, don't worry about it. Some old shoes should work just fine.
In this adventure, you are going to get up close and personal with a natural dam. You could also call it a natural weir. The natural bed-rock that outcrops to form this natural dam is believed to be Kiamichi limestone.
You are going experience the river by becoming part of the river itself, and getting your feet wet (and probably your other parts), which really is the only way to experience a river, don't you think?
Welcome to the river!
This adventure will take you into the Trinity River in Fort Worth. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you are going to be able to complete this earthcache without getting wet. You are going to get wet, at least your feet, and probably somewhat dirty.
If you go into this one with a smile on your face, you are sure to have a lot of fun.
If the water level is too high, or the water temperature is too cold, then you are out of luck for that time being. You just need to make sure that you plan this one and make yourself aware of water levels and temps. Believe us, for the vast majority of any year, this river is low enough and warm enough for you to accomplish the tasks that we have in line for you.
You can visit websites managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to obtain real-time river water levels. Click here to access the USGS site (select station number 08047500). Click here to access the NOAA site.
You will need to take tools along with you to complete the tasks. You will need a tape measure. You will also need a straight rod or board, which you will place on the top surface of the dam and extend out past the edge of the dam to use as a reference to make a distance measurement. We recommend a 2x4 board with a length of at least five feet. Be advised that both items will get wet. A third item you will need is a camera. You will probably be able to keep that dry.
I am fortunate to be able to ride my bicycle alongside the Trinity River on a regular basis. Every time I ride, I look at the formations along the river, both natural and man-made, and I think about the dynamics of the river and how it all works. Over time and throughout the seasons, I have seen the river in a wide range of states and conditions. I have seen it very swollen, approaching the top of those levees. I have seen portions of it almost completely dry. I have seen it in the rain and in the oppressive heat. I have seen it in the darkness and in the moonlight, and at dawn and at dusk. I believe I have seen it in just about any state it could possibly achieve. I have smelled both good and bad smells, and have seen good and bad sights. I have seen many types of creatures in or near the river. I have crossed the river many times, and have been in it also.
From a geological perspective, the a river is one of the most dynamic and energetic forces in nature. A river is constantly changing, bringing life and sometimes peril. It can bring relief one day, and stress the next. One thing is constant however – rivers are constantly renewing and changing.
The Trinity River is best classified as a youthful river, as opposed to a mature river or an old river. A youthful river is a river that has a comparatively steep gradient that has very few tributaries and flows relatively quickly, and with channels that erode deeper rather than wider. In contrast, a mature river, such as the Mississippi, or an old river, such as the Nile, have lower gradients and flow more slowly. These larger rivers have lower erosive energy, and erode wider rather than deeper, and in some cases are characterized by huge flood plains. Isn't it interesting how age references, such as "young" and "old", are used for the terminology for classifying rivers? Although geological subjects, stone etc., is dated and referenced by age, the terms "young" and "old" are typically associated with living things. And certainly, rivers are full of life and they support life. In a way, rivers themselves are alive.
Just as a river is one of the most dynamic and changing forces in nature, dams are some of the most effective and impacting structures/formations that exist. Think about everything that dams do. Being very simple in basic concept and form, they adapt to fulfill many functions.
Dams come in both natural and man-made forms. Mankind has created dams from everything possible, from dirt and rock to concrete and steel. Think of the solutions and impacts that man-made dams have brought: flood control, flow control, ship passage, expansion of natural habitat, recreational area development, real estate development, hydroelectric power, mechanical power, water supply, industrial development, economic development. There are many more benefits (and like anything else, a few drawbacks). These are just the ones that come immediately to mind.
Natural dams are also formed in multiple ways, even temporarily by the clustering of natural debris in channels during heavy rainfall and flooding, clogging water flow. However, more permanent natural dams are primarily in the form of beaver dams or eroded stone formations. The primary benefits that natural dams provide are habitat and river flow control. They create pools (or lakes or ponds), which regulates the passage of water down the river, keeping water, and life, in the river path during times of lessened flow.
The area of the Trinity River that you will visit for this earthcache is an excellent example of this method. The stretch of the river that lies between the Hulen Street bridge and the Bryant Irvin bridge contains a series of both natural and man-made dams, which create a series of deeper pools, connected together by sections of river channel. With the high levees, the area provides great views of all of the sections, and you can observe easily how water is moved and retained down a gradient river system. This stretch of the river contains two natural dams, two additional areas of particularly interesting natural river formation, and two man-made dams. There are more dams and formations beyond this section of the river in both directions, both upstream and downstream.
The posted coordinates take you to the most prominent and well-defined natural dam in the area. Here is where you are going to get wet and take the photo and make the measurements. Your best bet for access is to park somewhere on or near Riverglen Drive, which lies just west of Hulen Street, south of the river. Recommended parking coordinates are N32 42.739 W097 23.288.
Caution! Caution! Caution!
The river can kill you. So, prior to attempting this earthcache, for your safety and well-being, please ensure that you understand the following potential hazards.
1) If you have any doubt about being able to deal with the current or temperature, do not attempt this cache.
2) The rock surfaces can be very slippery - watch your step and stay upright.
3) This is an urban river area and it contains organisms that can make you sick - do not drink the water, and sometime soon after you leave the river, take a shower or a bath, and if you have to stop somewhere and eat first, at least wash your hands.
4) This earthcache is great for kids, but if you are the parents of small children, you should be aware by now that they have little brains and can be pretty stoopid, and so you need to keep a constant eye on them if you plan on bringing them along.
Requirement #1 - The Photo: A photo is required of course. Go to N32 42.866 W097 23.272, which will place you on top of an excellent natural dam right smack dab in the middle of the Trinity River. With your find log, you need to post a photo of yourself standing in the middle of the river. You can be standing on top of the natural dam, or in the water just below it. Either way, your photo must show, without any doubt, that you went into the river. A full body shot is preferable. Click here to see a good example of the type of picture we want to see.
Requirement #2: Take your 2x4 board and place it so that it lays on top of the relatively flat part of the dam, with the end of the board extending out past the end of the dam, past the edge where the water flows off the dam. Stick your tape measure down into the river below, measuring the height from the top of the dam (bottom of the 2x4) to the bottom where the dam meets the river bottom. We recommend that you take this measurement closer to the north bank and not attempt it near the very center of the dam or toward the south bank because the water is significantly deeper there. You need to email us the height, in inches, that you measure. Click here and here to see images that demonstrate what we are asking you to do. What did you just do? What you did was take a single data point for measuring the drop of the river. Remember the water droplet story? Here, that water droplet gains that much distance (the distance you measured) closer to sea level. Remember, the river here is made up of a series of natural and man-made dams. If you were to measure the drop of all of the dams and vertical features within a section of the river and add them all up, you would get a pretty good estimate of the total drop of the river for that section. Here on this river, it is a pretty significant drop.
Requirement #3: You have to visit a man-made dam as well, because it really illustrates how impacts are made from both man and natural sources. It shows how man and nature frequently work together to benefit the environment, or sometimes hurt it. It also illustrates the similarities and differences between the natural and man-made formations. So, you will need to travel upriver to N32 42.305 W097 23.713. There, you will find two man-made dams, located close together, functioning similarly to the natural dam that you just visited. Notice how far the drop is here. Notice how the man-made dam regulates the water flow like the natural dam, and notice the area behind the dam, where deeper water is retained, creating an environment that supports various forms of life. Here, at this location, on the northwestern bank, you will find two large green signs. So that we know that you visited this spot, you need to email us the last word that appears on either one of those two signs. Either word will do.
Logs not accompanied by email within a reasonable amount of time will be deleted per earthcache rules. We don't like doing that. So please be careful to get done what you need to get done.
Remember Your Three Requirements: Picture, Measurement, and Word!
The following waypoints and descriptions are not additional requirements for earning a find log for this earthcache. However, they are interesting locations, and if you have the time and desire to learn more about the river, we recommend you visit these locations.
Shelves And Birds - N32 42.758 W097 23.347: Just upriver from the natural dam, you will find additional rock formations, where the channel has eroded the rock differently. Click here here to see a general image of this area. At this location, you can see a lot of variation in river depth, and gain an understanding of how the river channels cuts through the rock. You can see a "shelf" of rock outcropping that runs along lengthwise with the river, instead of "across" it, like the dam downstream. The shallow spots, combined with some deeper water, create an environment that is very attractive to animals. There is frequently a high level of bird activity, including ducks and smaller birds that like to eat some type of insect or organism that can be found in these rocky shallows. Click here to see some very prominent cuts that flowing water has made in the rock.
Fossils - N32 41.836 W097 25.276: Click here to check out the large fossil that anything95 and I found in the river! It is an ammonite. We found it at the location of this earthcache. But if you go upriver a ways to the coordinates listed here, you will find good river exposures of lower Cretaceous beds of Edwards limestone, full of fossil snails, clams, and oysters.
Wildlife - N32 42.360 W097 23.653: With an interesting combination of shallow water, deeper water, exposed river bed, and plant life, this area is an outstanding hub of wildlife activity. We see all kinds of birds here. Ducks, egrets, crane-looking birds, gulls, vultures, hawks, black birds, and just all kinds of birds that we don't claim to know the name of. Lots of insects are here. I have even seen skunks and coyotes here. This area attracts wildlife like a magnet. I think I even saw a penguin there last night. Okay, it probably wasn't a penguin, but whatever it was, it was upright and puffed out like a penguin, and it looked cold. And it was chilly out there. Maybe it escaped from the zoo. Anyway, this area is a great place to visit.
Rapids - N32 42.366 W097 24.492: Here you will see some more very nice natural rock outcroppings, which create water rapids that are very nice to see and hear. Depending on the current water level, you may or may not be able to walk out on these features.
Spearing, Darwin 1991 Roadside Geology of Texas. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company
The Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), http://www.trwd.com (thanks to TRWD land manager Rick Carroll).
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Last Updated: on 1/27/2017 6:06:36 PM (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada) (2:06 AM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum