Welcome to the Red Creek area of the City Farm. It is between 1000-2000 acres bisected by Red Creek with at least 2 miles of Concho River frontage. In my mind, a very sensitive area considering the significant watershed features. Here we see the soil as it has been laying exposed since the last cotton harvest back 4 or 5 months ago.
The mesquite trees you see here down hill from the road are actually lining Red Creek. Here, the cotton field goes right up to the creek. In many of these photos you will notice the contrast of the pecan trees towering over the brush line.
Another view of Red Creek. Mesquite vs Pecans with a barren landscape looming in the background right at the tree line.
On marginal lands such as these, especially when adjacent to waterways, we need grass protecting the soil year round.
Here's why: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHUPKPqbcLI&feature=player_embedded#at=29
Here you see the cotton field sloping down toward the Concho River at the tree line. Cotton gets sprayed with chemicals by a crop duster several times a year.
This is a closer look at the tree line from the previous photo... You can see the dead pecan trees just above the mesquite that has invaded.
Dead pecan tree amid the mesquite, cactus, and weeds.
What you see here is not grass but last year's weeds. The green coming up on the ground is new weed growth.
This is a close up of the ground cover in the riparian area. No grass. These kasha weeds will grow shoulder high. It's better than no ground cover, but they grow so dense that it is impossible for anything with an extensive root system to grow, leaving the soil bare after they die off in the fall.
Still no grass... and we are about 30 feet from the river bank.
dead and dying pecans amid mesquites and last years weeds
More of the same. This pecan tree is just a few feet from the Concho river bank.
You can just barely make out the river on the right just past the dense brush.
There is nothing desirable in this landscape except for a few winter bunch grasses here and there. This should be pecan bottom land.
Not enough water for this pecan with all the factors at play dehydrating the soil. Weeds, cactus, mesquite, no grass for miles to absorb the rainfall or hold down soil.
Every now and then there is a pecan holding on ... evidence that the natural habitat can be restored.
Here, a dense stand of cactus and mesquite lines the Concho river. It's as though it has been forgotten there is even a river here.
Try to imagine what this riverside scene looked like before it was overgrazed and abandoned...
This is the river bank. As you can see, the cactus roots do not hold the soil in too well...
...here we can see that right on the water's edge there is a steep bank, protected only by bare soil, weed litter, and cactus.
This is looking up from the location of the previous photo. In the background you can see the traces of a huge gorge where water shedding from the cotton field above has sent an enormous amount of soil into the river channel.
A more sloping bank. Remember to try to visualize this in a repaired state...
This is the upland view of the same area. With grass here, water and soil would stay in place and there would be no need for agricultural chemicals that compromise the integrity of our water supply. The grassland would function like a sponge, soaking up water. Instead of water flashing off the land and ripping soil out of the river banks, spring lines would regenerate, slowly releasing clean water into the river, and supporting the pecan habitat that belongs here.
Another eroded gully overgrown with cactus. It is hard to capture the scale of this damage in a picture. But this gorge could easily be repaired in a year with little expense.
The same gorge with the river in the background on the right.
This gorge from water movement out of the upland area is about 15 feet deep. This could be filled with the debris from clearing the brush and cactus. Then the steep edges could be collapsed to fill over to reestablish ground cover.
Those are the roots of dead trees in the wash. Can be repaired by filling with brush and covering with soil by collapsing the steep sides and creating a more gradual slope that animals can travel across.
We need to take better care of the river that is the source of our community's water supply.
The damage in the river corridor is inextricably connected to the activity in this upland area...
This should not look much different than the Concho that runs through Christoval.
Clear that mesquite and cactus and we will free up more water to flow in the river to Ivie and that pecan tree will survive and reproduce. We have less surface water if the mesquite and cactus get to it first.
The roots of a mesquite have been exposed as the soil has eroded.
More root systems exposed. In the top center of this photo a t-post is suspended above another gorge.
The fence that was put up to keep animals off the river may have caused more damage than the livestock ever did.
How can we look at this portrait of a river and not realize there is something wrong?
The river is just to the left of the road
This is a pretty significant water feature cutting through the middle of this 1200 acre cotton field.
salt cedar on Red Creek
We need more than a road to buffer this watershed feature.
A few pecans remain on Red Creek. To restore the rolling prairie and keep it in preserve would be a gift to future generations.
There are some highly eroded areas on Red Creek as well, shedding water and silt from the cotton field just before the creek empties into the Concho. Here someone tried to fill in the gorge and slow down the water with concrete rubble.
The water of Red Creek as it seeps out from under an earthen dam looks gray or black and has a methane odor.
Despite the dam, Red Creek continues it's journey to the Concho.
Red Creek meets the Concho.
This erosion is above the confluence of Red Creek and the Concho River.
The Concho river, the arterial line of our community, the source of San Angelo's water supply, and the entire reason that settlement ever occurred here, is in peril. Restoration of the Red Creek area of the City Farm to grassland habitat would help protect our water supply and inspire agricultural stewardship in the Concho Valley. Learn about how deserts are created by human activity and how we can reverse the damage: http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html
PART II: This is Red Creek October 2011. The NE side of town received 4 inches of rain and 1200 acres of "disastered" cotton fields on the City Farm were just plowed under a few days before.
The water in Red Creek is raging, we have to shout over the roar of the water that could be heard from a mile away... In this part of the channel the water is about 30 ft deep.
Water can be seen still flowing directly off the field into Red Creek more than 24 hours after the rain event.
In the back ground, beyond the creeks edge, lies hundreds of acres of plowed fields... Where's the riparian sponge? http://www.blm.gov/or/programs/nrst/files/Riparian%20Notes%205%20Riparian%20Sponge.pdf
A close up of a cow paddie shows how mesquite seed gets spread around by live stock to germinate and invade overgrazed and exposed soils.
In the background here can be seen where a sheet of soil 8 inches deep flushed into this waterway in a matter of hours.
It's hard to look at that much bare soil this close to the edge of this tributary of the Concho River and not wince.
Rivers of mud are still draining into Red Creek long after the rains have passed.
This part of the field is eroded and still standing in water. If only the vegetation and water harvesting features were there to slow and filter this run off, clean water would be filtering into the river, and into the alluvial aquifer.
We should be looking to harvest water, hold it in the landscape so it can be gradually and steadily released through spring lines, rather than shedding it all at once, if we want to save our river.
A thirty foot deep torrent of mud and debris, plowed fields on city land on both sides.
Rains are going to be flashier in the dry times ahead. We will get several inches all at once and then nothing for months. This soil near the river needs to be protected with perennial cover to preserve our local water resources.
This is part of the cotton field underwater in the foreground, with water flowing through Red Creek beyond the grass strip.
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” --- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949
One redeeming feature here, this road forms an earthen dam which slows and disperses the deluge... but a blow out of this dam could be really devastating down stream!
Here's what we have going on right next door. We are still working on establishing grass in this field where wheat was just harvested for the last time this spring (2012)... The grass on the river side of the fence was planted about 5 years ago and is knee to waist high. The bison came from the herd that had to be auctioned from San Angelo State Park this summer - that legacy has not been entirely diminished, but continues and grows now in another corner of the Concho Valley.
We chose bison for their ability to harmonize and adapt to this landscape... and because they belong in this environment and can help heal this sensitive riparian land.
This labor of love has serendipitously developed in step with our growing concern for the integrity of Concho River. We are the Concho River Bison Cooperative and would love to expand this work to the adjoining lands seen in this photo journal. We hope that the city will see the value of having stewards in the watershed.