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Confirmed spring / One rock dams

 
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
15
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This is a dry wash near my Utah home, that has supported a grove of cottonwoood trees.  In the back of my mind my entire life I had a hunch that there was water near the surface.  After a decent winter my assumptions proved true... the water broke the surface.  Though, I can't take credit, I have built quite a few one rock dams in the wash (most below where the spring showed up) and I took some pictures today.
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The spring
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The Grove plus some rock dams
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A brush dam near the spring
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Micro dams below the grove
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The squashed headcutt above the grove
 
gardener
Posts: 2687
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
489
cattle chicken bee sheep
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Congrats.  I have a similar thing and it's exciting.
 
Tom Digerness
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
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Maybe a little late but here are some pictures after the thaw of 2018, the winter wasn't wet enough for the spring to flow. All of the pictures are as I walked up to them, which definitely shows the need for constant maintenance of the rock dams (or the futility of playing in the wash)
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Lowest of the pictures I took
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Next dam up
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Ram shackle brush dam at the bottom of the grove
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Same dam, different angle
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Dam at the top of the grove
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Next dam up
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Next dam up
 
pollinator
Posts: 3112
Location: Toronto, Ontario
380
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
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I notice all the silt accumulation upstream of each dam. You are obviously exerting control over some aspects of hydrology-driven change.

Do you have a larger plan for the land-form? As in, are you going to increase the height of the dams as they silt up, creating terraced steps down what appears to be a large gully-like formation?

-CK
 
Tom Digerness
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
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I don't have any pictures, but over the summer there was a flash event in the wash. It relocated a lot of the rocks which were higher than the sediment catchment, but I didn't lose sediment, so I consider it a win.   The dams needed major repair.  However, I found out a perfect sediment dumping spot, by where the rocks were deposited, and I had plenty of building material for a new dam.
 
Tom Digerness
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
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I don't really have any plans other than catching sediment, and getting myself and the dogs out of the house.  Over the years I have noticed the cottonwood are spreading both below and above the grove.  It is in open range, so there are a lot of cow trails that I also play with outside of the wash.  Always finding areas I can make the water follow contour, with minimal work.
 
Tom Digerness
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
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With only round rocks available, I can only build one layer at a time.  A good pebble game is crucial.
 
Tom Digerness
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
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Here is an overview of the area.  If you follow the drainage that I am standing in, you can see the tips of the cottonwood grove (not yet leafed out).  As you can see, cottonwood growing in a "dry" wash, in the middle of a sagebrush steppe is quite spectacular.
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steward
Posts: 4618
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
441
hugelkultur forest garden fungi books bee greening the desert
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Tom, do you think that adding a few willow or small trees to each sediment area would help?
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 3112
Location: Toronto, Ontario
380
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
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Echoing Miles, I was wondering if there were any deeply taprooted trees, shrubs, or herbaceous plants that could be added around your sediment basins that could spread their area of influence.

I know that here in Ontario, Sugar Maple performs hydraulic lift, effectively bringing excess water up the soil strata for the use of other plants. If you could get something that works similarly, that could be used to build on the cottonwood copses.

-CK
 
Tom Digerness
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
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Absolutely, roots won't roll away.  Eventually, I want to spread some big tooth maple and choke cherry seeds around the outskirts of the grove.  I don't think they need as much water. The cottonwoods already dominate the areas with water near the surface.  I have only seen the spring break the surface that once.  There are a few rose bushes and currents that have been volunteered by birds.
 
I miss the old days when I would think up a sinister scheme for world domination and you would show a little emotional support. So just look at this tiny ad:
dry stack step
https://permies.com/t/125100/dry-stack-step
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