Tag Archives: ponds

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Moving Right Along

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.

With the short week due to the New Year on Tuesday, it’s only been three days since I was at the Blackberry Creek dam removal construction site. Since I was off work all week I could hear the equipment busily moving around every day on the other side of the Fox River.

I approached the site from the west side this time wanting to get a different view of all the work. This is the side where the old bridge abutment has to be completely removed and a new one put in its place. I don’t expect this side to go as fast as the east side, but they are moving right along.

On the dam side, that’s where all the work is being done. It was cool to see that they have dug a hole down to the base of the dam and have even removed some of the backside of the dam. It’s a 175 year old dam and from the back side, it’s age shows.

It wouldn’t take much to take out what’s left of the dam once they get all the silt, sand and stone removed. It’s not that wide of a dam.

Just upstream of the dam you can see limestone ledges along the shore. Here the creek makes an almost 90 degree turn. Based on old maps I’ve seen, this is what the creek has always done, even dating back 175 years. I still think it’s going to wind up looking a lot like Waubonsie Creek just up stream of the Route 25 bridge and be limestone all the way down to the original creek bed.

When I got to the downstream coffer dam, a guy was there checking on the generator and pump that was keeping the water from pooling up behind the coffer dam. We stood on the coffer dam for awhile and talked about the project.

I forgot to ask him his name, but he’s one of the workers on the project. The construction company is apparently local and he doesn’t live that far away. He’s pretty proud of what’s going on and mentioned a couple of times that he’s looking forward to bringing his kids to see it and tell them he helped do all this work.

I can understand that.

He described how everything was going to look as things went along. He showed me where a couple of the man made riffles would be and described how they would look and function. At the info meeting on the dam back in March of 2012, I had asked if the riffles could be put off for a year to see what the creek does and whether or not they would even be necessary. It was mentioned that might be possible. He liked that idea and said he was going to bring it up again to his boss. We also talked about the limestone outcroppings further down. I told him to go look at Waubonsie Creek. He thinks the limestone will go down to the creek bed too.

In three days, they’ve removed quite a bit of the sediment. The original creek bed has a pretty steep gradient up to the old dam and in the length that was removed, they had already dug through a good six feet of the sediment. In one spot I swore I saw a limestone ledge that dropped a good foot.

It makes sense that there would be limestone ledges here. On the other side of the river, I’ve walked up the ravine near my house. Those limestone ledges are there, so why not here. It’s almost the same vertical distance to the river.

The shores are going to be lined with rock in order to prevent erosion. I’m sure initially it will look like hell, but eventually nature will rule and it shouldn’t look so drastic. That has worked on other creeks.

With the bucket in the background, you really start to get a feel for the scope of this project.

Off in the background is the upstream coffer dam which is sitting directly on the creek bed. The slope of the original creek bed is pretty impressive. Will be interesting to see how the water behaves once they let it start flowing through.

The construction guy asked a lot of questions about fish migrations up creeks. I filled him in on how all the other creeks in the area behave and what the smallmouth bass fishing was like. You could see his eyes light up. I mentioned that if the dam is all gone by April, the fish will all start moving upstream immediately for the spring spawning run. He said the only thing that would stop them from being done is whether or not the bridge will be done. It all depends on the bridge.

One thing he mentioned, finding a school of six inch long goldfish.

I guess they outgrew their fish tank. He thinks they were dumped in the pond that’s now being used as a pass through for the creek. They seem to like to hang out in one particular spot.

I never have caught a goldfish out of the Fox River or one of it’s creeks.

They’re just carp, could be interesting.

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update
Better Late than Never

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.

One of my goals for 2012 was to put up weekly updates on the removal of the 175 year old Blackberry Creek dam.

It started out okay and I did put up a few posts, but on August 3, 2012 I gave up. There was nothing to report, the project, which was slated to be completed by the end of the year, had come to a screeching halt.

The hold up was the bridge that is collapsing. The part that is collapsing is attached to part of the dam. The work to fix the bridge and remove the dam has to be done all at once. No problem there really, but in order to start working on the bridge, some wires had to be moved. That seemed to take forever.

For the past month I’ve been hearing heavy equipment moving around on the other side of the Fox River, where the dam is. Curiosity finally got the better of me and over the long New Years weekend I went to see what was going on.

The dam removal geeks out there might want to download this pdf of the construction plans first. It’s moving along as planned now, finally.

The following shots were taken a couple of days apart, one gray day and one crystal clear. They’ve definitely moved in some big machines.

One of the new bridge abutments is just about done.

I actually behaved myself and didn’t walk across the bridge to see how the other side was progressing. Unusual for me. On my next trip there I’ll have to approach it from the other side so I can get a better view of this.

With the work going on, I even stayed out from under the bridge, just in case.

The side that is collapsing has really deteriorated the last few months.

Further upstream is more work being done.

A coffer dam was put in place on the creek.

A bypass channel was dug that drains the creek into a park pond.

Further down is the other coffer dam.

And the channel that releases water out the other side of the pond and back into the creek.

What will be interesting is what happens when they finish the work and put the pond back to normal. The creek doesn’t have much of a smallmouth bass population, but it does have largemouth and a variety of sun fishes. Might be some new species living in the pond when they’re done.

Between the two coffer dams the creek has all but dried up and dredging should start soon. The dam is almost 10 feet tall and even though the creek bed has a fairly steep gradient, there’s still a lot of sediment that has collected over the last 175 years.

The construction plans are calling it silt, but I know silt, I’ve been stuck in it on the Fox and just about all of the creeks that feed the Fox. This is not silt. Besides, I’ve walked on it. It’s pretty densely compacted sand and gravel, picture that up to 10 feet thick.

For those that are curious and live around here, you can already go see how this is probably going to look when they’re done. Years ago a dam on Waubonsie Creek in Oswego collapsed.

The construction plans for Blackberry Creek calls for the building of three sets of riffles along the newly exposed creek bed. The same thing was done on Waubonsie Creek. I initially hated them. They were just knee dams made of big rocks. For someone that likes to wade down creeks, it created a pretty dangerous hazard. Over the years though the water has been winning. Yearly high water events have been moving the rocks around and the man made riffles are looking less and less like a knee dam every year.

It will be interesting to see if the Blackberry Creek dam removal gets done by spring. Blackberry Creek already gets a pretty good run of spawning fish that time of year, even if they could only go upstream a quarter of a mile because of the dam. There are a lot of parks and forest preserves upstream that I’ve checked out over the years, but I’ve always failed to fish the creek. I have no real interest in catching largemouth bass from a creek. I’ll wait till the smallies move in and take over.

Which I’m sure they will do.

Strolling and Fishing

I guess it could be considered a hike since it’s over a half mile of walking through this. And this is the easy part.

For now, I have it all to myself. That will change in a few years, but till then I plan on taking advantage of my good fortune. This place is pretty well off the beaten path, not much around it either, so there’s a chance even years from now no one will come here. Few like to hike in, an absolute must here. I know other places like this, but they don’t have ponds.

Four ponds to be exact. Three of them I found out, with some pretty healthy fish.

I couldn’t figure out why the fish were reflecting bright orange. Every picture of a fish I took had that orange. I’d turn them away from the sun, more orange. The sun wasn’t doing that. It wasn’t till I looked at the close up of the bass, the reflection off it’s eye that I remembered I was wearing a bright orange hunting vest, given to me by this guy as I was heading out to the ponds, just in case.

This day was a perfect sunset day. Surprisingly not much color, but no wind, wisps of clouds and bright blue. A flock of about 30 doves hung out around the pond all afternoon. Restless, as they roosted for no more than 10 seconds, then would explode out of the tree and circle the pond. Again and again, but never when I snapped off a shot.

End of the day was quickly approaching, I was heading out. Not sure what it would be like hiking out of here in the dark, didn’t care to find out. One pond, never fished, because there is virtually no shore access and what could be seen of the pond seemed small, shallow and weed choked. I was able to bush whack my way in at two spots. The weeds are all gone, the pond is much bigger than I thought and much deeper. After two others, the last fish of the day.

Just one more fish, but the next cast saw the lure snapped off on a submerged log.

It was time to go. It was getting a bit dark.

That last pond was haunting me all the way back to the car. Still is. Next year, all grown over again, how the hell was I going to do this? Small canoe? Too long of a hike. Float tube? The idea seems sound, but the logic of floating around in a little tube disturbs me. Cut more paths in? No, I like the impenetrable shore…

Think, think, think.

Was Nice out there Today

My wife and I don’t sit still well. Our usual routine at the end of a day is to go for a walk at either the nearby forest preserve or Silver Springs State Park, five miles from our house. This past summer was so repressively hot that our usual walks were minimal. We tried a few times, but came back so soaking wet from sweat that we called off our daily hikes.

When the heat finally broke come September, my wife had much needed rotator cuff surgery. This left her in a sling for a month and beyond uncomfortable. The sling is now off, but her left arm hangs by her side like it’s dead. The discomfort hasn’t abated much and every day I hear… just cut my arm off at the shoulder.

I also hear every day how she’s going insane, climbing the walls. She still does more than I think she should, but I’ve been through enough surgeries with her to know that she’ll always push a little harder than normal. We both figure, what the hell. In the seven years I’ve known her she’s died on me twice and come close twice more. So she pushes herself a little hard, what’s it going to do? Kill her?

Sure doesn’t seem that way.

Today it was nice out there. Near 80 degrees, so unusual for this time of year. I had the day off and she’s been pacing, like usual.

“Let’s go for a walk, I’ll be alright, I’ll wear my sling.”

I don’t argue anymore.

First thing we noticed when we got out of the car at Silver Springs was the smell. Decomposing earth, leaves, the smell of… dirt, moist dirt. There was a good wind coming from the south, directly across the lake. I knew it wasn’t the lake. It’s spring fed and it’s shores are pretty much devoid of trees. But on it’s south side are two long shallow ponds. One whole side of each is nothing but trees. This had to be the origins of the smell. It wafted over us on the wind. Strong, pungent, refreshing in a way though it is the smell of rotting things.

The ponds on the south shore were the source. The usual clear ponds had that tannin stain to them. Leaves thick on the bottom, more floating on top and not a ripple on the water from the wind. The high bluff on the opposite shore allowed no wind. An odd perfume of decaying matter was thick in the still air. I couldn’t get enough.

Toward the end of our walk I get asked, “are you warm?”

No, but I reach over and touch her face. Cool, clammy, wet and her eyes have a slight look of concern. That’s never a good look.

“I have to sit down, this is too much. I don’t feel good.”

Not words I like to hear and again that look in her eyes. She pushed herself too far, I knew that would happen, but I have to let her.

Apparently I have a look. One of concern, an overwhelming sadness. I’m unaware of it. She says I only show it to a few people and only a few people can bring that look to my face.

She looks at me.

“I’m not going to die on you.”

It’s not like you haven’t tried now, have you.

My Bones Hurt

The other day while out running and gunning down the river, hitting spots to see if fish were around…

I slid down an eight foot tall near vertical, in my eyes, embankment.

Half way down my foot gets jammed up on a rock, my other foot doesn’t. An inelegant landing on the river bank and I hear myself say out loud…

I’m getting too old for this shit.

This morning I was out at sunrise. Barely 30 degrees. Feels raw, damp.

I’ve never been checked, but I know my joints are riddled with arthritis of some sort. I know my back is screwed up, that’s been checked.

I can feel it in my bones, literally. This change in weather. When I stretch and bend and move I can make virtually all of my bones snap and pop. I can do this when I’m not even trying, this time of year.

I get the weirdest looks from those close enough to hear this performance.

I’ve been out since sunrise, out fishing, out screwing around in the yard. Building nonsense things, cutting grass. The weather man says it’s 47 degrees out and I think that is the high for the day.

It’s now 3:30 PM, I just came in a few minutes ago. I can feel the flush rush of heat to my head, cheap high. My back feels like someone beat on me with a baseball bat. I stretch, everything pops from the base of my skull down to my fingertips.

It feels good.

I’m tired, but too late for a nap. I’ll be up all night.

I am getting too old for this shit.