Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More Lost Channels, an Unplanned Visit to the Monongahela

Today I was driving across town and decided to take a short detour to see a few more historic stream channels I had located on the map mentioned in this post and this one

The area is mostly urbanized, as was the case in Squirrel Hill, but I found a few fragments of urban nature, and some neat neighborhoods.  Click below to see more.

The lowest portion of Four Mile Run probably passed approximately where this tunnel under the railroad is now located.

Bridge near Bottom of Four Mile Run

It then passed into this area which now appears to be an industrial brownfield:
Brownfields near Monongahela River
This portion of the historic channel is within the area that is being investigated as a potential stream daylighting area.  This lower secton, however, would be much more difficult to daylight than the upper stretch, and if it does happen it may be after the upper section of the north branch is already restored.  No matter which plan is followed, a lot of the water from the greater watershed can not be part of this stream any time soon, since much of it drains into the combined stormwater-sewage system.

Junction Hollow is the small neighborhood that occupies the gully system that much of Four Mile Run and some of its tributaries once inhabited
Junction Hollow Neighborhood.

 If you look on a map it will seem that two major roads go right through Junction Hollow but in fact, they jump right over it, so the area is a bit isolated.

While I passed along a hillside on a side road, I met this Pittsburgh resident with a few friends:


They slipped away without saying anything.


This photo includes an area of the eastern fork of Four Mile Run that still contains some vegetation, and even appears to be on park land.  Most of the water that once was in the creek passes underground in the sewer line.

However, this dried mud makes me think that SOME water from adjacent hillsides does still flow in the old creek channel, and that erosion is happening here as well.  This appears to be a neglected corner of the park infested with invasive plants and not accessible to the residents of Junction Hollow.  Full daylighting of the streem would again be impossible here due to its being routed into the sewer, but it seems like it could be a potential site for a 'mini'daylight' that would remove invasive plants, restore a little wetland or creek where water from nearby hillsides or the highway is being channeled, reduce erosion, slow runoff, and provide public access to the park from this mostly isolated community.  Downstream from this point the old creek path is filled in with homes and not a candidate for daylighting (though of course this is a great place to build rain gardens!)

Then I popped up to Greenfield where I found evidence of another historic channel. 


Like the ones in Squirrel Hill, this one is completely urbanized and doesn't show much promise for large-scale daylighting.  However, I did find some water in one remnant channel...

Ok... so it isn't exactly a natural area.  It still looked really inviting due to the current heat wave... but I didn't stop in, since I didn't have my bathing suit.


Much of the eastern branch of Four Mile Run is taken up by a variety of major roads including Penn Lincoln Parkway...


While trying to bypass some road construction I accidentally found myself here:

Before I knew it, I was on the south side of the Monongahela River with a bit of traffic heading back north.  So I decided to explore a bit before I headed home.  I found a parking lot that overlooked the river, and happened to catch this HUGE barge passing by.


Perhaps it was traveling upriver to pick up a load of coal.  Note also that the hillside behind it supports a whole lot of forested land.  Granted, it is full of invasive species but it certainly still provides wildlife habitat, erosion control, and stormwater retention functions, as well as being quite scenic.  This is right in the city!

Most of the area was taken up with "big-box" stores, extensive impervious parking lots, and generic looking landscaping.  However, I did stop into a Fudruckers to get food because I was feeling hungry and not in the mood to drive back across town quite yet.  To my pleasant surprise, this restaraunt actually had a patio and outdoor seating area facing the river.


Despite the 90 degree weather, I decided to sit in this patio area and watch boats go by on the river.  I also was visited by a small groundhog.  I was happy to see that this local business is using the river as an asset rather than hiding it as an 'eyesore' (which it certainly isn't in this stretch!)  Fudruckers also had bison burgers...


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  2. Awesome blog, man. I love how you speak about the issue of conservation with an air of fascination and such and aren't doing it with a pretentious smugness.

    It's a real rarity. Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks! I'm glad you like the blog! I don't like pretentiousness and smugness and think it's a lot more fun just to share information. I ended up talking about this stuff with three people today just while traveling, it's good to get other visitors and residents' thoughts on these issues.

  4. also Mitch I visited your website and noticed you make some neat art. If you feel inspired to make any art relating to Pittsburgh or water, let me know and I'll put it up on this blog...

  5. Naturalist Charlie, this is a great blog! Thanks to hearing about your unplanned trip to the Mon and seeing your photos, I discovered that I lived in the 4 Mile Run watershed for the many years we lived in Squirrel Hill and that we're still in the 4 Mile Run watershed where we live now -- in Greenfield. Who would have guessed! Thanks for helping us get grounded!! Kathy

  6. Glad to hear it! Hopefully you learn something else about your watershed too, if you check back in later :) There is a lot of interesting natural and human history in that Greenfield area.