Another Flood – and Historic Crests

About 2 inches of rain fell in the Detroit area on Saturday, January 11, 2020, and the Rouge River again flooded in Eliza Howell Park. On 9:45 on the morning of January 12, when I walked toward the footbridge, I saw acres and acres of flooded woodland. This was the only the third time, in my many visits, that I saw water flowing over the bridge.

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As those familiar with the park know, the water level varies a lot, but the footbridge is usually many feet above the water level. Here is a picture from November of 2019.

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Unable to cross the footbridge, I left and re-entered the park from the end of Lyndon Street on the east side of the park. Before long, as soon as I left the higher ground, I again came to water as far as I could see.

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The flood stage for the Rouge River in Detroit is 15 feet. I have not yet seen an official report on the height of the crest on this flood, but it was probably over 17 feet. That would mean that it is among the top 12 highest in the many years that the National Weather Service has been keeping records. Below is a list of the highest historical crests (those over 17 feet, according to NWS. It is noteworthy that, including this one, three of the 12 are in the last 2 years.

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Floods have consequences and it will be interesting to see any significant impact on the habitat and on the plants and animals that live near the river. As soon as the water receded sufficiently, I took a walk in the woods. The leaves, branches, and other material on the forest floor had been swept along until they were caught by logs, tree trunks/limbs, and shrubs.

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Beaver have recently arrived in Eliza Howell and their residence is, in all probability, in a burrow dug into the bank of the river. Such burrows start under water and angle up to a dry “nest” where the beaver rest during the day and where they have their kits. What impact is there when the water is feet over the bank, and over the resting area, for a day or two? I will be looking for indications of their continuing presence.

Nature is quite adaptable and, in my post-flood walk, I was noting how birds, including Black-capped Chickadees, were attracted to the new concentrations of potential food brought together by the water. Chickadees were finding many smaller seeds among the nuts in piles like this.

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There are new “mudflats” where the water moved the leaves and, in the mud, track evidence that mammals are active. These tracks look like the prints of Coyote (left), Raccoon, and Deer.

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Nature is adaptable, but having three floods cresting at over 17 feet in 2 years is not normal. I hope I don’t witness another one anytime soon.

 

A Sunny Morning in Late October

The early morning sun was shining and there was a combination of dew and frost on the ground when I arrived at Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park on October 28, 2019. Here are a few images from the next three hours.

Bittersweet on Oak Tree

Bittersweet vines grow high on some trees in the park, most noticeable when the leaves of the vine turn yellow.

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Dew Drop on Sumac

In the blow up, one can clearly see the reflections.

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Three Hundred Year Old Bur Oak Tree

I stopped by a massive Bur Oak that has been estimated to be over 300 years old.

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Rouge River from Footbridge

I often take a picture from this spot, looking upstream. The look of the river changes with the season, the sunlight/clouds, and the water level.

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A Walk in the Woods

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Sugar Maple

Several Sugar Maple trees, seen from the park road, have inspired park visitors to pull out their cameras.

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A Favorite Cottonwood

There are some trees, friends, that I stop by to visit to see how they are doing. This Cottonwood tree is one.

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In my records, this is Walk # 1351. Another good one.

 

Seasonal Changes: The Same View over 12 Months

One way of noting the seasonal changes in Eliza Howell Park is to compare pictures of the same landscape taken at different times of the year. The 12 photos here, one from early in each month in 2018, were all taken from the footbridge over the Main branch of the Rouge River, facing upstream (north).

I think they speak for themselves, no commentary needed.

January 5, 2018

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February 5, 2018

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March 9, 2018

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April 4, 2018

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May 5, 2018

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June 5, 2018

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July 4, 2018

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August 4, 2018

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September 4, 2018

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October 3, 2018

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November 3, 23018

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December 4, 2018

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The Flood of 2018

On February 18, 2018, Eliza Howell Park still had the snow-and-ice look that has been typical this winter. This is the view upstream from the footbridge on that day.

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Then the heavy rains came and the snow melted. When I returned to the park on February 21, the Rouge River was at the highest flood level that I have ever seen. This is the very first time, in my thousand visits to the footbridge, that the water was actually over the bridge.

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Normally the bridge is perhaps 8 – 10 feet above water level, as can perhaps be seen in the next picture (taken December 1, 2017).

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It was not at all surprising that the river this week flooded the bottomland that gets covered whenever the river overflows the banks. What was unusual was the depth of the water there, greater than the typical depth of the river within the banks.

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In addition, most of the large wooded area from the footbridge to the southern end of the park at Schoolcraft was under water (the next picture). The entire area of the park flooded was the most extensive that I have witnessed.

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After a heavy rain, the Rouge River rises quickly in the park and reaches its peak within a day or less. It recedes quickly as well. The next day, February 22, it was much lower, though still over the river bank. This picture was taken about 23 hours after the one above showing the water flowing over the footbridge.

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It will be interesting to see how the Flood of 2018 has affected the park – the flow of the river (and the downed trees in it), the vernal pools, the spring woodland flowers that bloom in April, and the walking paths through the woods. We will see.