Monday, August 23, 2010

A Few Odd Observations while Heading Home

As a scientist I often develop theories as to why the land looks the way it does. On a recent trip I made a few observations that had me a bit mystified. The first was a camp ground in an out of the way place in eastern Washington called Deadman Gulch in northern Garfield County. The camp ground was packed with trailers. I was completely baffled as to why the camp ground was full. There is little reason to be out in this area in the summer unless your working and even the places along the Snake River I had passed earlier in the day were devoid of people. About ten minutes later along the ridge above the Pataha Valley I observed scattered construction sites with lots of equipment and I realized that the campground was full of workers campers that had come to the area to set up sites for wind turbines. The wind farm is slated to produce 348 megawatts and the power will be owned by Puget Sound Energy. So those of you that buy Green Energy from Puget Sound Energy helped make a remote campground operator in Deadman Gulch very happy.

Construction Management site for Lower Snake Wind Farm

The second mystery was a concrete paved county road. Most roads in the area I was driving are unpaved; hence, it was bit of surprise when I turned onto Lower Monumental Road in Walla Walla County and found myself driving on concrete road.

My initial guess was that it was some sort of experimental road. Then I thought that maybe it was paved with concrete when Lower Monumental Dam was built. But when I reached a fork in the road and I turned onto the Lower Monumental Road I left the concrete pavement which continued on Sheffler Road. Sheffler Road accesses the Snake River at a Port of Walla Walla facility for grain shipment. The road gets a lot of heavy truck traffic and concrete will hold up better.

My third mystery was while looking for access roads up to the Saddle Mountains in central Washington I came across this canal that has done a great job of gathering tumbleweeds. The canal connects to an active canal that directs irrigation water to the Wahluke Slope. I am not sure if the canal is used anymore, but it has been used to periodically send water onto the Wahluke Wildlife Refuge managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife to enhance bird habitat for hunting. The time of year that it wouold most likely be used would be in fall prior to the arrival of over wintering birds. The area is now part of the Hanford Reach National Wilderness Area.


Sam Crawford said...

Is there an attempt to clean out the canal prior to use, or do the tumbleweeds just get washed down to the Wildlife Refuge (hard to imagine)?

Dan McShane said...

Tumble weed accumulations are common in the canals. The tumble weeds blow in during the winter. Typically they are burned in the early spring prior to the water entering the system as they have a tendency to act as a filter and plug the canal. My guess is that the canal is no longer used at all now that the area has been designated a wilderness area.