We spent a lot of time on the Poudre River this summer. Now that school has started up again, I've gone through my photos and pulled out some of the ones of our times at the river both before and after "the ashing." Though the High Park Fire happened throughout June, the first ashing didn't happen until the first week of July when we finally got a bit of rain.
This frog hung out the whole time we were at the river one day. You can see how clear the water still was at this point. The next time I came back, the spot where this frog had been sitting was nothing but black muck.
We'd bike to the river with these floaties in tow. There were occasional dicey moments when the floaties would catch the wind and fly up into our faces or try to yank us off of our bikes. But the risk was well worth it. We'd arrive at the river, stake a claim along the "beach" (which is really just a dryer section of river rock), and then head upstream with our floaties. I usually got into the water by the Whitcomb bridge. (I don't know if that's what it's called, but if you look at a map of the city, the bridge is about where Whitcomb would hit the river if it kept going straight north. In old maps of the city, it looks like they expected Whitcomb to one day do exactly that.)
The kids liked to go further up river. I think they walked to about where Shields is. Depending on how much water there was and how fast it was flowing, it could sometimes take a pretty long time to walk all the way up and then float back down. I generally ended up watching our stuff at that point. And I'd read a book or take photos of stuff.
There's a lot of folks who use the river as their summer hang out spot. I saw several kids I knew through one or the other of the kids' schools. And we ran in to an old house mate and his wife one day (and their two dogs that we had never met). The river draws a diverse crowd. I saw people from the age of about 2, up to folks probably in their 50s or 60s. A lot of the families that swim about at the beaches are hispanic, and a lot of the folks that float downriver are white, often college aged. There was an Asian family one day. (Just one. Hey, this is Fort Collins.) And I didn't see any Arabs or Africans. But still, I'd say hanging at the river is probably one of the most diverse places to be in the city (besides in the schools. But that's a whole 'nother story.)
These folks were swimming near the Hickory Spur bridge. There used to be a really nice rope swing / jumping in spot on the east side of the bridge. But the branch it was attached to came down in one of the weird early snowfalls last autumn. So it was removed. Someone tied a new rope on to a tree on the west side of this bridge, but the water really isn't deep enough there to be jumping in. Finally someone added a rope to the tree near the "beach" where we like to hang out. It gets somewhere around 6 - 10 feet deep right there, so it's perfect for flinging yourself off on a rope into the river.
One day when I was waiting for the kids to float back down the river, I took a zillion photos of these little fish. They were probably 2 to 3 inches long and where hanging out near my feet. It didn't look like they were eating anything. They just seemed to like the area.
This is how the river looked after the ashing. Anna found a burnt hunk of wood several inches across at one point. The ashes in the water didn't seem to affect the kids. The flakes just floated around them as they swam. But it seems to me like the ashes would change the ph of the water and affect the little fishies that I'd seen in previous visits. (I never saw the little fishies after that, so I don't know what became of them. I didn't see little floaty bodies either. So maybe they just moved on?)
We went to water world a couple of weeks before school started. We got there when it opened and left when they closed and were exhausted on our way home. My daughters were sitting in the back of the car chatting and one said to the other, "Water World is a lot of fun, but I like the river better. It's just as fun and not as much work. [Hauling those incredibly heavy water world inner tubes around.]"
As I was walking along the Poudre River last week, I spotted this doe on the other side of the water. I've always assumed that deer use the river as a corridor to get down out of the mountains and out to... well, wherever deer like to go when they're sick of hanging out in the mountains. But I've never actually seen a deer along the river. So I was thrilled when I spotted this gal. She appeared to be all alone.
I was on the north side of the river, so she's closer to Martinez Park than I was. I think that's the fence around Bender on the right side of the photo.
It was only a few days later, as I was walking along Frey street (a dirt road in Old Town!), that I saw another doe hanging out in an alley. I snapped a photo and the black cat must have heard because it walked out and sat down in the alley to be included in the photos too.
On Tuesday, I took a walk along the river. We had some wonderful rain this past weekend, which was sorely needed. But it came down in such intense bursts that it lead to flooding in some areas. It also washed a lot of the ashes and soot down out of the mountains and into the river. The Poudre was completely blackened with the stuff when I visited Tuesday morning. In the first two photos you can see the black goo that was left along the sides of the river where the water had deposited it.
These next two photos compare how the water usually looks to how it looked when it was full of High Park Fire runoff. In the first photo you might be able to make out a peace symbol under the water. I don't know how that was painted onto the rocks under the water, but I'd guess it was done when the river was very low at some point. I took the peace symbol photo about a month ago. The second photo was taken on Tuesday from the exact same bridge in the exact same spot.
I've never made lye, but I hear you simply soak wood ashes in water for a few days. Lye is alkali. I wonder what the affect of such a ph imbalance has on the fish, snakes, frogs and other wildlife that live in the Poudre river. :-\
I was walking to Brave New Wheel to pick up my son's bike, which had gotten a flat yesterday, when I happened upon a bird by the Mulberry Pool.
I thought he was there for a drink of water, so I snapped a few pictures and then moved on. But when I walked behind a tree branch, I looked back to see that he was really there for a little dip . (I guess he didn't feel comfortable letting it all hang out until he thought I was out of sight.) So I snapped some more photos of him throwing the water over himself. He looked fairly impressive when he was just standing there, but he was an adorable goof when he started shaking his tail feathers to spread the water around.
I looked him up when I got home. I think he's a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. And it looks like the Mulberry Pool isn't just for place people to take a dip. This little fella was having a marvelous time in the water.