Little Westham Creek: Riffle Reflections Part I

When thinking about where I wanted to choose as my reflection spot for the next few months I remembered an area on the edge of campus that I’ve wanted to revisit since the end of last semester. As part of the ecology class I took last semester we had to complete an independent research project, and mine focused on the water quality of the Westhampton Lake and its immediate tributaries. More specifically, I was comparing the levels of nutrients and fecal coliform bacteria in the water found before, in, and after the lake. My results shed a less than favorable light upon the quality of water on our campus, but for me the most surprising find was the beautiful area around the creek that leads into our lake. Up until our most recent class meeting I did not know the actual name of this wonderful site, but now with the help of TLB I know that it is called Little Westham Creek.

The first thing that struck me about this creek was just how scenic it was, and still is. Its banks are lined with bamboo, and the jagged rocks that populate the upper portion create lovely running riffles that seem almost too picturesque, as if someone had placed them that way on purpose. Now, when I say “upper portion” what I really mean is the area I thought was the highest point at first glance. When I continued to walk up the stream I found yet another waterfall-like section that was just as eye-catching as the first. In-between these two sections I noticed how incredibly flat the land became and how the water slowed down to just the slightest trickle at places. In several spots it seemed as though that the water barely got through and over to the next fall. I found this puzzling as we have not really had a shortage of rain recently, and I wondered if there are times when the water really does not make it from one section to the other, or if it always finds its way.

Speaking of things that were not in short supply, I also found the creek littered with everything from beer cans to tennis balls to an empty water spray tank. However, I could hardly take this as a surprise as just about 50 feet off the creeks shore are privately owned homes. Along with the litter, I noticed what looked to be a garden near the bank of the creek, which would explain the water spray tank that I later found out is used for gardening. Still, I did not want to jump to any conclusions about the human impact on this creek, as it did seem for the most part to be decently well maintained. In fact, on my way out I noticed a sign that read, “Community Stream Project: To improve water quality and help reduce erosion, the buffer of trees, shrubs and groundcover along this stream was planted in partnership by:…”, which was followed by a list of sponsors. This brought me back to the bamboo that I first noticed lining the banks of the creek. I had wondered if bamboo was native to the area (I did not think so), and was now considering if bamboo happened to be the tree of choice to reduce erosion. As it was getting dark and I continued walking along the stream I felt the chill of winter and looked around to see many of the trees bare. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “If this is what the creek looks like now, I wonder what it looks like in full bloom!”

In fact, it seemed as though the further I trekked up the stream and the more I saw, the more questions I had and the fewer answers. However, fortunately now as my reflection spot I now have more than enough reason to revisit this stream and see if I cannot find a few of those answers, and perhaps a little more vegetation!


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