There’s a river at the bottom of my yard. It flows from right to left. You can just see it through the trees.
The river in this part of the valley is channeled, dikes keeping the water from spreading out, and drop-structures controlling the flow. From here, south to the lake, is a natural floodplain. You can still see the old oxbows, remnants of the meandering river that used to run here. Without the channel, all the bottom land would be under water this year.
The flood control installed here a hundred years ago has served its purpose well. It has prevented periodic flooding and made farming a reasonable occupation. That comes at a cost, of course. The channel provides no good habitat for the salmon that use this river. And the land doesn’t get the periodic fertilization that comes with flooding. I can’t see us reinstating flooding, but we have begun some habitat restoration. The restoration project finished phase two last year: reconnecting a portion of the original river channel. This area now provides excellent rearing habitat for young fish, including steelhead trout.
This year I’m especially glad that we have flood control. As I hope you can see from the photos, the river is very high. I don’t recall seeing it this high before. If anyone knows better, I hope you’ll let us know in the comments.