Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

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Rand
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Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by Rand » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:09 pm

Darby Creek is a small river/creek that rises in the rolling to moderately hilly terrain around Bellefontaine, roughly 40 miles NW of columbus. It flows southeast, and then parallels the Columbus Metropolitan Area's West side, before flowing another 20 miles southwest to join the Scioto River at Circleville. It is part of the Wild & Scenic river system and is known for its diversity of native mussels. As such, the Columbus Area Metropark has made a concerted effort to acquire land ahead of the encroaching wave of suburban development, dramatically expanding the parkland in the watershed. They've both expanded the area of Battelle-Darby, but also created a whole new park to the north, Praire Oaks. As the river flows south it transitions from flowing at roughly the same level as the surrounding, heavily farmed flatlands, to an incised stream, meandering inside a narrow floodplain that is bounded by steep ravines. It's mainly these ravines, and narrow, easily flooded riverside floodplains that the park has acquired. Most of the forest in the ravines are either very young, with a few old field trees here and there, or more mature forest that has been heavily logged of its best trees. The old floodplains are either rapidly reverting to riparian forests dominated by cottonwood, sycamore, and silver maple, or are maintained as opened fields by periodic mowing. In the southern reaches, an abandoned levy system can still be found inside the regenerating forest, divoted here and there by narrow breaches.

In the northern section, they've acquired large amounts of upland farmland from the Galbraith estate and restored it to either wet prairies or wetland forest. They currently have ~9 bison fenced in the prairie areas around the visitor center.
BDC-parkmap@2x.gif
In the Indian Ridge Area there is an old river channel, that has silted in and hosts a ribbon of vigorous cottonwoods. It's noticable on foot, but stands out more strongly on LIDAR:
oxbow.JPG
The depression of the old river channel isn't very noticeable, but when the creek floods, water will still flow down it, washing in fresh silt and woody debris, and noticeably washing gravel off the trail system that transects it. I surveyed within the 'hot spot' in the center of the Lidar image. Most of the trees look to be under a century old, with the exception of the 13' 2" tree. It's much bigger than any other tree around it, and it's wide, comparatively low-branching crown makes me think it grew up when the whole area was still farmed/pastured. It's easy to imagine the hundred of cottonwoods all around it as being its progeny.
12' 9" x 127.0' Cottonwood
12' 9" x 127.0' Cottonwood
7' 8" x 118.0' Sycamore
7' 8" x 118.0' Sycamore
10' 1.0" x 118' Cottonwood
10' 1.0" x 118' Cottonwood
darby-2.png

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dbhguru
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Re: Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by dbhguru » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:04 pm

Rand,

The 118-foot cottonwood is a beauty. Like the sycamore too.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by Larry Tucei » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:32 am

Randy- Nice report. I really enjoy your postings very detailed. Love the imagery of Lidar. Larry

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun May 03, 2015 7:55 pm

Rand,

Really nice introduction to the site. It definitely sounds worth documenting.

Jess

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Rand
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Re: Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by Rand » Thu May 07, 2015 9:41 pm

Squeaking in a few last measuring trips before leaf-out, I investigated the riparian areas along the lower Darby Creek. This report will be in two pieces, as the two different areas looked very different when hiked through. The two areas explored are marked with blue dashes and (1) & (2) on the map below:
BDC-parkmap-PHA.jpg
The whole area between the road and the river is low, frequently flooded ground. As you can see from the LIDAR below, most of the area is old agricultural fields in various stages of reverting to forest. The older forest near the river is very irregular ground marked by old riverbeds and islands, transected by active guts where the river overflows into the former agricultural area. An old, breached levee system can be traced along the edge of the mature forest. The river flows from left to right in the image below:
Darby-south bend floodplain.JPG
The left hand high spot on the LIDAR data is a very old channel that has been reduced to a muddy trough through the woods, with towering cottonwoods and sycamores scattered along the former banks, which at this point are only 2'-3' tall. The understory is populated by pawpaw, spicebush, & honeysuckle. The next layer is some of the most heinous boxelder you've ever seen. A foot or so in diameter and perhaps 30' tall, each and every one was bent, leaning, crooked, low branched, and/or half dead in many cases. Sycamores were more common than the cottonwoods and reached larger sizes in this area.
12' 1.0" x 136.0' Sycamore
12' 1.0" x 136.0' Sycamore
Also evident is a fair amount of beaver damage. Apparently the river has all the water they want, because they don't bother building dams. They just sorta cruise up and down the river, ravaging the streamside cottonwoods. Like so:
~ 4.5' dbh x ~114' cottonwood not long for this world
~ 4.5' dbh x ~114' cottonwood not long for this world
Moving downstream the forest became shorter and more diverse. With trees such as ash (almost all dead), silver maple, black walnut and hackberry becoming more common, with bitternut hickory and sugar maple also making appearances Surprisingly I found a small patch of young Kentucky coffeetrees, all growing in one place, as if they are the progeny of some long vanished parent tree. Also scattered in this area of some much older bur and chinquapin oaks.

After crossing a deep gut, roughly were the forest is pinched down by the old field, I picked up a much younger channel, that still had a small amount of water in it:
_MG_8887.jpg
_MG_8877.jpg
The next hotspot on the LIDAR was a small grove of older sycamores with this large, double-trunked specimen:
~ 16' x 111' sycamore (10' 9" of largest trunk)
~ 16' x 111' sycamore (10' 9" of largest trunk)
Moving further downstream the large trees disappeared and the rest was young, and fairly unremarkable cottonwood and sycamore streamside forest, 1-2' dbh.

The measurements on the day:
Big Darby-south bend.png
Last edited by Rand on Thu May 07, 2015 11:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Rand
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Re: Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by Rand » Thu May 07, 2015 11:19 pm

The west side of the creek (The #2 in the dashed area) hosts yet another abandoned parallel river channel. If you walk the river today there are long bifurcated channels with islands in between. I suspect these abandoned channels start as islands, before one side or the other is abandoned by the river. In contrast to the south bend area, the overstory was almost completely dominated by very old looking cottonwoods. There were a few sycamores but not many. Also there were almost no understory trees. In several other areas along the floodplain you find very dense stand of almost pure cottonwood, perhaps ~1' dbh and +110'. These groves look like the end point of these groves after the trees begin to die of old age, and the grove density thins out dramatically. This is what it looks like on LIDAR:
darby-PHA-west.JPG
This is what the tallest grove looks like from across a field:
_8970-8971_merged.JPG
The tallest trees in the grove grew on the former riverbank. I measured 132' shooting straight up. The leaves and flattened crown structure made it difficult to get good measurements any other way, so these trees may be slightly taller than this.
Looking Down the Old Channel, +130' trees on the right
Looking Down the Old Channel, +130' trees on the right
Look up at the +130' cottonwoods
Look up at the +130' cottonwoods
130' Cottonwood base with some interesting buttressing:
_MG_8939.jpg
_MG_8941.jpg
The most massive cottonwood of the day, located in the northern grove: 13' 11.5" x 123.5' tall. The broken limb does look like the former leader, so the tree might have been a bit taller just a few years ago.
13' 11.5" x 123.5' Cottonwood
13' 11.5" x 123.5' Cottonwood
Further downstream from the cottonwood groves, there was an enormous open grown sycamore growing besides a small tributary. With a cbh>16', it is amongst the largest sycamores I've ever seen. The leafing out undergrowth made it difficult to get accurate measurements, but I did measure three limbs to 58', 46', 42' long, so the average crown spread is in the 90' range.
16' 6.5" x 113' Sycamore
16' 6.5" x 113' Sycamore
The measurements on the day:
Darby-west.png

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Rand
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Re: Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by Rand » Thu May 07, 2015 11:33 pm

Lastly there is an old cemetery, up on a hill along the east side of the river, a short distance off the road. Best I can tell, it was started in the civil war era (very eroded stones were almost illegible) with burials up through the 1920's. It had some of the largest eastern red cedars I've seen:
_MG_8978.jpg
Darby Cemetary.png
Lastly, a few glamour shots of the river:
_MG_8974.jpg
_MG_8977.jpg
_MG_8931.jpg

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sradivoy
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Re: Battelle Darby Creek Metropark: An Old Oxbow

Post by sradivoy » Sat May 16, 2015 11:27 am

No one writes reports as well as you do. Grade: A+

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