The upper Meramec River is an easy walk down the gravel road. It is a popular destination for people out running the roads. On quiet mornings I enjoy exploring river banks for the many wildflowers growing there.
Before we moved here a bridge went across the river passing an old cemetery and leading off somewhere. The center of the bridge collapsed and was never repaired. The remains have washed away over the years.
When the river floods, the flood plain is washed clean. The channel shifts from one side to the other. Pools form and disappear.
Trees wash out. The water carries fallen trees down the river, piles them on the bank and later washes them on down the river.
When the logs are piled high, it’s hard to walk down along the banks. When the logs are mostly gone, the walking is easy.
Exploring river banks is a way to find many wildflowers not very common elsewhere. And the open ground makes it easy to spot them.
When rain has been scarce, it’s possible to walk across the river. The far bank is much different from the one I usually walk. Crossing the river takes care as the current is strong.
The river is too high to cross so far this year. I’m hoping the cows often on the pastures on the far side won’t eat the giant cane down to nubbins before I can get across.
Once I found an American basswood tree while exploring river banks looking for a way across. It is washing out now so its upper branches are head high. I’m hoping to see it bloom one last time so I can complete the picture set for the tree.
This will be a great place to walk for another few months. Then exploring river banks will have to wait until the stinging nettle gets blasted by frost.
There are native wildflowers and there are immigrant wildflowers. Most of the immigrant wildflowers have made themselves at home and show their status mostly by blooming and leafing out earlier than the native wildflowers.
Among the naturalized wildflowers blooming now are the daffodils, dead nettle and little corn speedwell. All of these are easy to find around my yard. The bright yellow of the daffodils is cheering on dark overcast and wet days.
Blue corn speedwell hints of the blue summer skies coming in a few months. Its early flowers are small as is the plant. The plant never gets much bigger, but the flowers double in size in a few weeks.
Dead nettle resembles stinging nettle without the bite. It’s furry, triangular leaves hang down around the purple tubular flowers sticking out. Bees, both native and Italian love it and appreciate its abundant nectar after winter’s lack of fodder.
The early native wildflowers must be hunted down. These are the harbinger of spring or salt and pepper plants. It likes wet soil like that down along the river.
The river is a half mile walk down the gravel road. With all the rain lately the river is up and it has changed its banks. The first time I walked down to look for these plants, the path along the bank was almost clear of logs, branches and other debris. Nothing, not even the bitter cress, was blooming.
After another round of flooding, the river undercut trees along the bank so they have fallen into the river. Other trees have washed up on the bank. The area where I find harbinger of spring had been scoured and landmarks were gone.
These are small plants and easy to miss. I did finally find a few and they were in full bloom. The parade of wildflowers , both the immigrant and the native wildflowers has begun.
Spring is attempting to invade the
Ozarks. Walking along an Ozark creek is relaxing. Unlike in poems, my Ozark
creek does not babble, not all the time.
During the height of the growing season walking along an Ozark creek is a difficult feat. Vegetation is thick and tall. Vines tie it together. Now only the bushes and trees are still there. They can impede progress a little.
Walking along the creek I could see
its many character changes. Some places are placid moving sheets of water.
Other places race down sluices. Fallen logs and rocks can narrow the channel.
Part of the channel is deep. Most of it is shallow.
Each character change brings a different sound.
Placid areas are quiet. The sheet of
water flows quickly by almost silently. It has a soft slipping sound. Rocks
sticking up create tiny gurgles. In warm weather the minnows will jump creating
plops. The wind ripples the surface into tiny moving eddies.
These quiet areas often end in gravel sluices. Water races down creating a rushing sound almost like highway traffic. If the gravel is large, the creek babbles as it races down the slope.
Stretches of fast moving water with
large rocks scattered around gurgles. Smaller rocks cause high, soft gurgles.
Large rocks cause deep gurgles.
Some places have obstructions. Water leaps over and into a deeper place beyond. The water there foams over the water arriving. There is a deep sound like water making a whirlpool in an emptying bathtub with a rushing sound over it.
Walking along my Ozark creek is not
boring. The creek is talking all the time. The conversation shifts as I walk
These conversations are as varied as the creek bed the water is flowing down on its mad rush to the river a half mile away.