13 December 2015

49/52 - Wild Trout Lake

This past week, Trout Lake showed its wild side.

Last weekend, we got a couple inches of snow to coat the ground. But then it got a little warmer, and the falling snow turned to rain. A lot of rain. For the next several days, it poured continually. This is a bad combination. The rain quickly melted much of the snowpack that had developed on the mountains, and the combined deluge overflowed all of the local waterways. The worst came together on Tuesday night into Wednesday, when water flowed across the main road in Trout Lake, closing the school and rendering several places unreachable. Friends of ours woke up Wednesday morning to find themselves surrounded by water: their driveway and ground floor garage were already flooded, and the water was only a few inches from entering their slightly elevated first floor. They moved what they could to the second floor and were evacuated later that day by Search and Rescue.

This USGS White Salmon River discharge chart speaks for itself.

Near the peak of the flow on Wednesday, we walked down to the river. The water was as high as I think we've ever seen it, to the point where we had a hard time recognizing where we were along the river.

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Somewhere underneath all of that water is our sandy beach and several waterfalls, including Sidewinder/Kettle Falls. With this much water, it's easy to see why all of the waterways in town overflowed.

By Friday, the rain had largely abated, allowing much of the water to recede. We took advantage of a break to take another walk to the river on Sunday.

By Sunday, the river was back to a normal high level for this time of year. The difference between Wednesday and Sunday was striking. For reference, here is the water level at a bridge near the southernmost river section of our property.

Wednesday at peak flow / Sunday at normal "high"

Corinne and Anders stood at Wednesday's waterline, which was easily identifiable by the clean line of Ponderosa pine needles that were swept up.

Here is Anders standing next to a cluster of severed roots that were swept up by the currents and pressed into a ball against this tree.

Despite having the river as one of its property boundaries, we are very thankful that our property is not in a floodplain. It is incredible to see such a dramatic change in such a short period of time, and we are able to be an observer of the high waters without worrying!

Trout Lake exerted its wildness in other ways this week as well. We've had a covey of quail (yes, I looked it up) around the house. They wander around the driveway until they notice us, then fly up into the trees.

When we first moved to Trout Lake, we saw turkey tracks all over the property. But we hadn't seen any in a long time until this past week.

Now we have a confirmed sighting of 13 turkeys! The rafter (group of turkeys - yes, I looked that up, too) has been wandering all around our place for several days now.

But the most unexpected exhibit was one that happened too quickly for a photo opportunity. On Thursday morning, I noticed some movement out our Great Room window and discovered a herd of Elk booking single-file through our yard into our forest! We've had elk come through our property before, but this is only the second time that we've witnessed it.

Mother Nature abounds!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders