Daily Archives: November 26, 2012

Tales From The Ranch: Brazos overview

Lookout Point over the Brazos River

One of the essential activities on visiting the ranch, summer or winter, involves standing on the overhang called Lookout Point and viewing the Brazos River. Many of the Czarina’s family race on ATVs down the ranch roads to Lookout Point, take a quick photo from the point, and rush back to beat the record time. Me, I could stand to be out here for hours, because this spot is one of the few spots in the area where you can really appreciate how big Texas can be. You can’t see Fort Worth from here, but you can come awfully close.

Brazos River at low point

As mentioned previously, the drought of 2011 wasn’t necessarily repeated in 2012, but this autumn is unnaturally dry compared to previous years. Usually, by Thanksgiving weekend, we’ve had at least two hard, thorough gullywasher storms within the previous week to bring up water levels through the area. This year, though, we haven’t had any appreciable precipitation since the middle of October. What sprinklings we’ve seen have evaporated away, and the south winds dry out ground and skin even faster. The Brazos River generally doesn’t go dry, but most of the smaller bodies of water in the area are threatening to do so.

Bend in the Brazos River

By way of example, this bend shows both the scars of the great floods of 1990, where all of that sandy area was under about three meters of water or more, and the current deficit. By now, that little promontory should be an island, even if the water surrounding it is ankle-high. Right now, the river is so low that you don’t need a boat to cross. In spots, you could use a ladder.

Pillar at Lookout Point

Right now may be dry, but the occasional violent storms that pass through the area leave their mark. 350 million years ago, this pillar of limestone mud was the bottom of a shallow sea, full of crinoids and other ocean life. Last summer, it had had a capstone of the same formation that makes up Lookout Point atop it, protecting the mud from rainfall. Sometime in the last few months, that capstone slid off in a storm, and the rest of the pillar will fall over the next year or so. As the seasons progress, the mud underneath Lookout Point weathers away as well, and it will ultimately collapse and fall into the river valley. It could happen tomorrow and it could happen in a thousand years, but the fractures on the Point show that it’s going to happen, sooner or later. I may enjoy loitering around the Point, but I’m not planning to sit there that long.

Tales From The Ranch: The Fall Visit

Moon over Opuntia

The heat broke back in October, so the Czarina and I did for Thanksgiving weekend what most people do: we spent it with family. The difference is that we spent it with her family out at their ranch in West Texas. She got her fill of wide open vistas, and I had the chance to explore natural history at a time when most of the local flora was out of the way. Not all of it, of course: the resident agaves, cactus, salt cedar, and mesquite were just as common as usual, but the various grasses and small herbs were either dead or gone, giving clarity to previously overgrown areas. Combine that with a nearly full moon rising just before dark and both Jupiter and Aldebaran rising in the evening, and this was a perfect time to come out for a visit.

Nearly full moon

And a moment of transitory beauty

Autumn color in North Texas

Admittedly, it’s due to both that sudden freeze we had two weeks ago and our current unnaturally dry autumn, but anyone want to tell me again about how North Texas doesn’t get fall color? (As noted before, this is definitely due to our current lack of precipitation, because I’ve passed these trees for years on my way to the Day Job, and never once seen a smidgen of color from them before. I’m glad for the moment of beauty, but I’ll also be very, VERY glad when we start getting rain again. It’s getting to be a bit too much like 1952, meteorologically speaking, to suit me.)


Cat Monday