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October 24, 2022: Autumn High Water

Within the past week, Hirundo has been exposed to a few days of steady rainfall which has left Pushaw Stream looking and functioning a little differently. Those of you who have recently visited the trails adjacent to Pushaw Stream may have noticed that its banks are no longer where they once were and have extruded into the forest and in some places covers the trails. This is due to an increased discharge of the stream, which is the amount of water that travels down a stream at any given time. As a result of this, the stream was doing something quite unusual the other day. Its current was flowing in the opposite direction west of Dead Stream. This was due to a greater discharge from Dead Stream than that of the dam at Pushaw Lake, which has caused an increase in water level and some minor flooding.


High waters of Pushaw Stream | Wabanaki Trail


These rainfalls and runoff are nothing unusual for the stream but the increased flows are partially due to a seasonal change. Most of the trees along Pushaw Stream have lost their leaves by now and have ceased photosynthesis and the need for transpiration. Because of this, more water remains in the soil keeping it saturated leaving no place for all this rainfall to go.


Flooded silver maple (Acer saccharinum) forest | Gate 3 Boat Launch


Areas which flood like this are often found along low gradient rivers where the soil is a fine sand or silt which has moderate drainage capacity. Certain plant communities which thrive in these sites utilize the silty soil which is deposited during flooding events. A common tree species found in this kind of environment is the silver maple. Silver maples that dominate an environment such as this create a unique forest type known as a silver maple floodplain forest.

Signs of beaver activity on branches that were formally out of reach | Pushaw Stream


These temporary environments offer many species new opportunities to find food, shelter, and breeding grounds. The expansion of the stream allows many aquatic species to roam outside of their regular habitat and find new untouched resources. The image above shows that beavers have access to wood sources that were not so easily accessible. They can also navigate timbers through these new passageways to their huts and dams. Additional information about silver maple floodplain forest and more can be read along the interpretive Trail of the Senses at Gate 1.



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