1:30 down, 1:45 back up. Sunny, temps 45-55. Departed 11:30a, back out at 4:15p.
Despite knowing the trail was open, the trailhead parking area was still barricaded closed. I assume this will be removed soon. There were no signs indicating closure, and there were two other vehicles which had parked there anyway.
With the recently re-opened Fossil Springs Trail, I decided I wanted to get an early view of what things look like now that the dam has been removed.
It was a perfect day for this hike, with temps in the mid 40s up top, with a pleasantly cool breeze. We were surprised to find a couple of inches of snow
on the shaded parts of the upper portion of the trail, which resulted in some slippery footing. Upon getting down to the valley, we heard water running in the creek, something which I've never encountered before. Apparently, this winter's snowfall has resulted in some good runoff
from up on the rim, and the creek was flowing quite nicely even above the springs.
The springs and initial swimming hole were just the way I remember them, except things looked a lot more barren
without the typical summer canopy of Sycamore trees and grasses making everything green and lush.
While continuing downstream toward the dam site, the lack of foliage opened up some views
of the stream below that made it obvious big changes
were around the corner. I was not prepared to see the amount of erosion
and downed trees and other debris that existed. It was typical of a stream after a good flood, except this was a flood that had not occurred upstream! There was no such scarring or erosion near the springs or first swimming hole, just downstream beginning several hundred yards above the dam site.
Upon arriving at the dam site
, I was surprised how much of the concrete
structure was still in place. It wasn't until I got back home and compared photos that I realized how much had been removed. But there is still a 20-25 foot concrete structure that creates an impressive manmade waterfall.
Unfortunately, the drop of the water level upstream of the dam has exposed much of the streambed and resulted in unsupported banks which has let the flow fell trees and erode the soft sediment which had probably built up behind the dam for nearly a century. Because of this, it appears that much of the rock and sediment that had once rested behind the dam, has now washed over it, and filled in
most of what was a deep swimming hole below the dam. There are a couple of areas below the dam that I would consider "pots" as far as swimming goes, but there's nowhere to jump, dive, or even swim anymore. Time will tell how this area evolves. It will be interesting to see.
In the time since the flume was decommissioned and the dam was removed, much of the flow of the creek was diverted around the side of the dam and ran down the hillside
under an old rope swing. This hillside is now dry, and covered with a crusted travertine from the year or two of flow here. I don't know how this hillside will recover. It will be interesting to see.
The flume is gone, and only dirt
remains along with some erosion-stopping-straw barriers. These will be removed at some point, but I don't know if native vegetation will be planted in its place or if they will leave it for time to heal.
All in all, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed with the results, both upstream and just below the dam. I am very interested to see how the area changes and recovers. I'm hoping that the area upstream of the dam turns into a relatively wide and flat lush valley. I guess we'll see!
I did a little photoshop work that shows the current
look from below the dam along with a superimposed "before
" photo and one that combines
the two. It helps visualize the changes.