Monday, May 16, 2011

Middlebury River Flood Pictures

Yesterday, after 24 hours of steady rain, I went to check out the Middlebury River.  The water had risen quite a bit... a branch of the river I had waded across the day before, to access a gravel bar island, was now about two feet deep and moving FAST.  Note the log in the background, a foot or two above the water on a large gravel bar.

Middlebury River

Today there was quite a bit more rain - totaling 3.2 inches at my home in East Middlebury for the last two days, probably significantly more in the mountains.  This afternoon, the river was raging!  It had risen beyond the 'bankful' stage and was starting to flood through the trees.  The log mentioned above had water splashing OVER it, and was starting to wiggle.  I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow it wasn't there anymore.

Middlebury River

(more pictures below)




Here are two more pictures from the same place.  Yesterday, the river was high, and there wasn't going to be any pleasant wading to the gravel bar island like the day before:

Middlebury River

Here's a picture from today.  It's not from the same place, because that point is now under a foot or two of raging water.  It's almost the same view though, and you can see another smaller log, which was also about to wash away:

Middlebury River

I learned at a talk today that gravel bars like this little island support unique vegetation communities.  They don't have large trees because they are disturbed by flooding, usually in association with ice jams, but sometimes during heavy rainstorms like this one.

Middlebury River


I had waded out to the island on Saturday to check for summer swimming or fishing holes.  There weren't many promising ones, but this flood is definitely restructuring the river channel (I could hear boulders rolling!) so perhaps after the water drops again there will be some deeper pools... or perhaps the channel will shift completely.  These rivers are very dynamic and shift course often within their flood plain.



I went to the little bridge at Grist Mill Road, where the river is a bit steeper and even faster moving than at the gravel bar.  Here, the sound of the river was deafening.  The cobbles being rolled by the river made a sound almost like a jet plane.  Larger boulders would occasionally move also, with a loud, surprisingly piercing 'CLINK!' sound.  Small logs and chunks of wood were also floating by.

Middlebury River at Grist Mill

Thankfully, the flood wall (on the right, below) that protects many of East Middlebury's homes did not appear to be in any threat of eroding away.  The flood wall was built with ice flow/ ice jam floods in mind - terrifying floods that hurl multi-ton chunks of ice against anything near the water, and can clog and shift the course of the river in seconds.  Even this very high water is nothing compared to an ice jam flood.

Middlebury River at Grist Mill

Here's a video...




I'm supposed to drive up the canyon to Ripton tomorrow morning.  I wonder if the road will still be there.

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