The Allegheny River

The weather during my trip to the Allegheny was excellent, providing highs of only 80 degrees, fog and mist in the morning, and wonderful cumulus clouds during the afternoon.

Most of the river in the Allegheny National Forest area in Pennsylvania is part of the reservoir created by the Kinzua Dam. Both the river below the dam and the reservoir provide grand recreational areas. For instance, just below the dam there is a small boat launch where I happened upon a woman putting a kayak on the water and paddling downstream, seen in the above photograph.

Further downstream I caught the river early one morning as the fog rolled through. Using a long exposure, I captured a silky effect created as the river flowed.

Fog
Allegheny River

The dam created a large lake, straddling New York and Pennsylvania. Here’s where you’ll find most of the powerboats. However, come winter when the reservoir freezes over, no snowmobiles or ice boats are allowed.

Allegheny reservoir
Allegheny Reservoir

I also captured the lower reservoir early one morning before the fog burned off.

From Dunkle Corners boat launch

I spent substantial time scoping out the best shots. While returning from Jake’s Rocks I found a long view of the Kinzua Bridge. Setting up my tripod, I took the following shot.

From the road to Jake’s Rocks

The water and the forest provide people with escape and relaxation. We would not likely have these areas today if it were not for the federal and state governments early in the twentieth century putting lands off-limits to development and making them available to the public.

You can see the full collection of photographs from this trip at my online gallery, including film shots. If you have spent time in the Allegheny National Forest I would like to hear about your experience!

Floral Foray on the North Country Trail

I spent a few hours hiking the North Country Trail as it passed through the Allegheny National Forest to show some of the area’s plants. During that foray, I noticed many relatively thinly forested areas where ferns

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

were growing, not thinking too much about them. Later, while reading one of the Forest Service brochures, there was a discussion about ferns. The ferns are the result of an over population of deer. Deer eat just about any kind of plant, including seedling trees. However, they do not like ferns. Old trees die over time and with few seedling trees to replace those, ferns begin to proliferate. Ferns then

Tigger: North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

shade the ground, thus blocking the growth of other plants, including seedling trees. To offset this negative process, the Forest Service has installed fencing in critical areas to keep deer out, as well as managing the deer population with hunting. You can see one of these thinly forested areas in my impressionist photo of the forest, above.

Although my purpose on this day was to photograph plants, I made a rare

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

fauna sighting–Tigger  (that’s T-I-double grr; I didn’t put him there,

honest). I utilized slices of sunlight coming through the canopy, along with fill-in flash to darken backgrounds and light only the plants so they would better stand out.

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

 

 

 

 

 

You might wonder why I included a dead stump. I had discussed in an earlier post how dead trees and other plants

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

return carbon from the atmosphere to the earth and so are an important part of the ecological cycle. Sometimes deadwood also produces some interesting photos. Here, I liked the way the light bounced off this one.

Even though every map and brochure produced by the National Park and Forest

Services mention specific steps to protect the

Human Trace: North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

environment, including “pack in and pack out”, I still found traces of humanity, as shown in the photo on the left.

 

My final post of the Allegheny will show a number of waterscapes.

 

Allegheny Petroleum

Long before producing hydro-electric power, the Allegheny was one of our original producers of petroleum.  The Bradford oil field was founded in 1875. By  1881 it was the world leader in oil supply, producing over 90% of U. S. oil (26 million barrels per year); oil production

The first well

continues to this day (750,000 barrels per year, compared with 24 billion barrels worldwide). As I hiked along the North Country National Trail, I came upon an oil well. At first, I thought it was an abandoned relic until I noticed a modern electrical panel and motor. You could smell crude oil around the area. As I continued hiking I came across yet another, also with the smell of crude.

The second well

Today, a large refinery sits on Route 6 in Warren with large tankers coming and going. Given that the river wraps around two sides of the refinery, and busy Route 6 on the third side, the only vantage point for a photograph was at the west end. Unfortunately, with employees coming and going, and the security related to refineries, I felt pretty uncomfortable taking photos (I’ve previously been approached by security people photographing other facilities). The Kinzua Dam was an exception since it accommodated visitors and photos outside its gates.

Even if we had known early on how burning fossil fuels would change the planet, given that evolution has wired us to pursue short-term benefits for survival, and our transition to an industrialized economy enabling a higher standard of living for some, I suspect that we would have continued down this road, just as we have done over the past 40 years.

Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, New York: Random House, 1980, p. 103)

I will show some photos of the flora I encountered along the North Country trail in my next post.

 

The Transformation of the Allegheny

I traveled to the Allegheny National Forest, in northwestern Pennsylvania, in early August where I photographed over a four-day period. The weather

Kinzua Dam

was kind, providing highs of 80 degrees or under and lots of cumulus clouds to add pizzaz to the daytime skies.

The Kinzua Dam  and the Kinzua Bridge have remade the Allegheny region with positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, the dam provides flood control all the way to Pittsburgh along with clean and green

Kinzua Bridge

hydro-electric power. A secondary benefit is that the huge reservoir provides a wonderful source of recreation.

Unfortunately, the dam has come at the expense of New York’s Seneca Nation that lost much of its fertile agricultural land and displaced 600 native families. This is a major reason hostilities continue among the Seneca, the federal, and state government to this day, notably over compensation for the New York Thruway traversing the reservation, and cigarette and gambling tax payments to New York State.

So while the dam and bridge benefit far more people than they hurt, whites benefit at the expense of the original native American residents.

I will present a brief history of petroleum production in the Allegheny in my next post.

Trump As the “Destroyer of Worlds”

On reflection of the first detonation of an atomic bomb at New Mexico in 1945, the then head of the Los Alamos Lab, J. Robert Oppenheimer, remarked that this event brought a passage from Hindu scripture to mind, "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." Today, In an interview regarding North Korea, Trump remarked that if North Korea continues missile launches it will see fire and fury from the United States. Such rhetoric can only escalate a volatile situation putting people across national borders at risk.

As if this doesn't pose enough risk to humanity there is his failure to address climate change, in fact, promoting policies that will speed it up. A draft Federal climate change report made available by the Internet Archive and reported by the New York Times is awaiting approval by the Administration. The report presents detailed data showing that the average U.S. temperature has risen rapidly since 1980 and recent decades have been the warmest in the past 1500 years.

The most vulnerable and first to die as a result of climate change will be the poor in undeveloped nations. Eventually, all will suffer as global populations plummet.

This is not an issue of liberal versus conservative, it is an issue of the survival or non-survival of our children and subsequent generations.

Great Lakes Flooding

After a spring of unusually heavy rain throughout the Northeast, many lakes and streams have risen to flood level. This is particularly

Durand-Eastman Beach; Sept. 16, 2015

problematic along the southern shore of Lake Ontario when there is a strong North or Northeast wind. Although I could not get to the exact same position, due to flooding, the photos show Durand-Eastman Beach is essentially gone for most of this season. This flooding event is politically controversial because it pits U.S. Lake Ontario and Canadian Montreal residents, and conservationists against each other. As reported in Rochester’s City Newspaper, Lake Ontario’s level was 33.1 inches above its long-term average on May 17, according to the IJC. However, in Montreal Harbor the water was 55.5 inches above average, causing evacuations of several neighborhoods. Although wider opening of the Moses-Saunders Dam’s  floodgates would have lowered Lake Ontario a little faster, greater flooding would have resulted in the Montreal area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and environmental scientists say that

Durand-Eastman Beach; May 27, 2017

heavy rain is the major contributor to flooding. However, U.S. Lake Ontario residents do not accept the scientific data. Instead, they claim flooding is the result of Plan 2014. Scientists project a $20 million loss under this plan, compared with $18 million under the previous Plan 1958DD. Therefore, if Plan 1958DD was still in effect, it would only reduce shoreline damages by 5%.

The primary reason for implementing Plan 2014 was to restore the lake shore habitat. The wetlands developed over centuries, through constant shifts in the lake’s water levels. However, in the late 1950s, U.S. and Canadian public power utilities built a large hydroelectric dam (the Moses-Saunders Dam) between Lake Ontario’s eastern outlet and the St. Lawrence River to minimize fluctuations in water level. The result is that Lake Ontario cattails have taken over vital coastal wetlands, leaving important species such as muskrat and northern pike without critical habitat.

The Nature Conservancy predicts that healthier wetlands will improve fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities, along with greater economic returns. Healthier, diverse wetlands, especially healthy ones that are not overcrowded, filter nutrient pollutants – animal waste and all fertilizers – out of the water. Those pollutants encourage algae and bacteria growth in the waters near the Lake Ontario shore. Research indicates that healthier, more diverse wetlands could help reduce pollution, something that cattails are less effective at.

Even though property losses have dropped since the introduction of the dam, the IJC has to balance the need for environmental conservation with the needs of lake and river shore landowners. Unfortunately, landowners in each environmental area feel their property should be fully protected—an impossible task. When I discussed this with people I know, one said the shipping interests are the ones the governments are trying to protect, another said, you can’t believe what the government tells you. Although it is generally true that laws and regulations typically favor the moneyed interests, in this case the primary concern for governments is to balance the environment, commercial, and landowners’ needs based on what the current environmental science tells us about the shores of the Great Lakes. Ignoring this risks our grandchildren’s generation.

As I write this, the Trump Administration has not included monies for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Although it has been reported that his budget proposal is “dead on arrival”, it remains to be seen whether this initiative will continued to be funded at an adequate level.

A Veery at Oatka

This is one of the Spotted Thrushes that a friend of mine and I found at Oatka Creek Park the other day. Although categorized by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as a species of least concern since there are about 11 million Veery in North America, its

Veery, decreasing population <30% over 10 years

population has decreased something less than 30% over the past 10 years. According to Bird Life Data Zone, “The population is suspected to be in decline owing to increased predation by the Brown-headed Cowbird together with ongoing habitat destruction and degradation in its wintering range.”

Photogenic Lianas

180 degrees

Lianas are those woody vines so common to our wooded areas. As kids we used to look for them so

Looped

we could swing through the woods, much like Tarzan. Unfortunately, every once in a while a vine would either break or tear loose from its tree and down we would go. One of us ended up in a swampy mess. Such was life for boys in the rural fifties. I always felt so good coming home after time in the woods, alone, or with friends.

Nowadays I don’t swing on lianas, but I have found that some have interesting

Tangled

shapes, making them good photographic subjects. I took these photographs on Ilford Pan F 50 film. The sky was overcast, providing soft light. Since most of the exposures were  1/30 second or longer, I used a tripod.

Motif #1

I shot this circa, 1973 on Tri-X film. Motif # 1 is one of the most often painted and photographed scenes in New England. This is the

Motif # 1

original building destroyed in the blizzard of ’78 (the blizzard shut greater Boston down for a week). Although this scene harks back to a simpler time, it really wasn’t. Within a year there would be the oil shock, and along with other social and economic factors, would herald the de-industrialization of the West. The result was an increase in economic inequality that continues to this day.

“It’s All Happening At the Zoo . . . .”

My friends and I recently took our “heavy glass” to photograph at the Seneca Park Zoo. It was a bright sunny day, perfect for getting sharp pictures, even though the mid-day sun creates harsh contrast. The last time I was here was many years ago with our young nieces. How the time goes by.

Today’s zoos meet higher standards to keep their accreditation than in the past. The animals’ physical and emotional needs are better met.

Elephant’s Eye

Zoos often provide safe haven for injured and nearly extinct animals. Zoos are especially great for kids, particularly since fewer of them see animals in their natural habitats.

Still, I wonder when seeing the animals’ expressions, if they are happy being fenced in. Separated from their natural habitats, they are not free to roam, associate, and mate as evolution has shaped them. According to Wikipedia:

The welfare of zoo animals varies widely. Many zoos work to improve their animal enclosures and make it fit the animals’ needs, although constraints such as size and expense make it difficult to create ideal captive environments for many species.[41][42]

A study examining data collected over four decades found that polar bears, lions, tigers and cheetahs show evidence of stress in captivity.[43] Zoos can be internment camps for animals, but also a place of refuge. A zoo can be considered an internment camp due to the insufficient enclosures that the animals have to live in. When an elephant is placed in a pen that is flat, has no tree, no other elephants and only a few plastic toys to play with; it can lead to boredom and foot problems (Lemonic, McDowel, and Bjerklie 50).[full citation needed] Also, animals can have a shorter life span when they are in these types of enclosures. Causes can be human diseases, materials in the cages, and possible escape attempts (Bendow 382).[full citation needed] When zoos take time to think about the animal’s welfare, zoos can become a place of refuge. There are animals that are injured in the wild and are unable to survive on their own, but in the zoos they can live out the rest of their lives healthy and happy (McGaffin).[full citation needed] In recent years, some zoos have chosen to stop showing their larger animals because they are simply unable to provide an adequate enclosure for them (Lemonic, McDowell, and Bjerklie 50).

You can see more of my photos from the day’s shoot at my online gallery.