Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Brazos Bend State Park - 2011 Drought

Brazos Bend State Park is close enough for a day trip, one that I try to enjoy as often as I can.  I visited a few weeks ago just to see how the park was handling the drought.  Shocked and saddened don't even begin to explain my initial reactions when I walked around Creekfield Lake (the paved path leading to the observatory) - it was reduced to a puddle.  There were alligator tracks leading to it - clearly the alligators were still around, but very few birds (and fewer species) were still fishing, wading in the remaining stagnant water.  The marsh side of Creekfield Lake wasn't in any better shape - those beautiful cattails, drying up, burned brown by the hot sun with nothing but cracked dirt trails around them.  Even the cypress trees are showing their stress in their brown leaves.  I was fortunate to be able to chat with a park volunteer who told me the small pump they have to bring water into Creekfield Lake just isn't enough to keep up, so they were no longer even trying - whatever happens, happens.  I can't help but wonder about the bullfrogs that you hear at dusk talking to each other.  The volunteer also said he expects it to take a few years for the bird and insect populations to recover -- birds won't come when there isn't water.  Here's a few shots of how Creekfield Lake looked on that day.

alligator tracks lead to the puddle that once was Creekfield Lake

A few remaining herons wade in the shallow water

marsh side of Creekfield lake - cattails burned & dried by hot sun

I also visited the 40 acre lake area - since there is more water here, there are also a LOT of alligators in close proximity to each other.  That day everyone seemed to be behaving themselves & the gators were easily visible in the shallow water.  My sister commented that the lake looked like an abandoned swamp.  On the west side of lake (with the sloughs), duckweed has covered the surface entirely, giving everything a deceptive healthy green color.  There were several gators here as well, but well hidden in the muck.  A few moorhens were fussing and a very few herons were fishing.  The lake level is down here as well since the park decided to no longer use the pump to maintain the water level.  The sloughs were dry and cracked.  It was easy to see where the gators were coming/going to the water - their tracks/slides easily visible in the preserved mud.

duckweed covers portions of the 40 acre lake

alligators are still there
sloughs along 40 acre lake are dried up, vegetation burned by heat/sun

alligator tracks/slides through what was the slough to 40 acre lake

It is very tempting to go off the paths & walk around in the dried up areas, but there are more reasons not too - alligators (there are over 500 of them in this park), habitat destruction (the drought won't last forever), bullfrogs and others than are hidden from view can easily be stepped on not to mention the snakes - although not always seen - be assured they are still there as well. Besides walking off the designated paths is a big break in the park rules.

Our area is forecasted to have some break in the current weather pattern in the coming days, so I plan to go back to look around and see what is still there as well as observe any changes in the fauna that I hear/see - do they really believe the weather is going to change? 

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