Monday, September 28, 2015

The eroding side of the river

I spent the latter part of my childhood in Terrace, not far from a sharp bend in the Skeena River. At that bend stood a dairy, with a big farm house and plenty of pastureland for the cattle to graze.

The river was a source of endless fascination for us children. After each spring flood, we hurried down to see what new configuration of sandbars the rising waters had formed.

We often followed a trail along the bank that led to the boundary of Frank Brothers Dairy.

Over time, the pastureland shrank as the river claimed more land with each flood year. Many years later, upon strolling down to the river, I was shocked to see how much land was gone and how close the old farmhouse now stood to the bank.

Standing beside me on a footbridge by the North Saskatchewan in August, my daughter looked up at the house in the picture and commented, "That house is going to go within the next few years."

I doubted her prediction until she explained the river's flow. Because the current flows faster there, the outside elbow of a bend is the eroding side of the river. When we turned to the the inside of the bend, it was obvious how the slower current there had piled up sand and silt in the shallows. 

Looking back at the attractive home on the brow of the hill, she pointed out how the wooden posts that held up the porch had already been braced after falling downward due to erosion. At last I understood the reason for the steady loss of the Frank pastures to the Skeena, in my old hometown.

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