Saturday, April 7, 2012

Catching Eddys

There is a section of Brandywine River just upstream of Thompsons bridge that has some large boulders scattered across it. The river is a few feet deep here, just deep enough to swim but not so deep that the bottom is out of the reach of an outstretched arm. The boulders don’t really form rapids, but the water quickens as it deflects around the rock, and a good eddy develops behind each.

A freshwater mussel, Eastern elliptio, is wedged between a branch and bedrock. It’s alive, I think. While elliptios aren’t endangered, they give me hope each time I see one in a river. They are the forgotten filters, and have been shown to purify billions of gallons of water a day in the Delaware River. The number of young Elliptio mussles entering the population in some eastern rivers is low, so they may be in trouble in the next decades. I enjoy them while they are here. Caddis larvae tubes are lined up parallel to the current, and the shelter one of the larger rocks provided the ideal place for a sculpin to lay its eggs. Hundreds of the wispy blobs cover the protected downstream side.

I admire the ecology formed by subtle changes in water velocity, but mostly I play in the current. I use my body and the current to get where I want to go. Lean to the right into the current to fly right, cross the eddy line and get gently carried upstream in tranquil water behind a rock that is such a contrast to the torrent just inches away. I lean to the left and peel out into the current, fly downstream a little and catch the next eddy to explore its biology. Each one is different.

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