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Activity Log

Young Women's Spring Break EcoAdventure

By March 19, 2015No Comments

March 14-19, 2015:     12 River Watchers, three Program Staff, one Volunteer Extraordinaire, and a whole lot of camping gear were assembled into three River Watch vans, en route to West Texas for the 2015 Young Women’s Spring Break EcoAdventure! We convened for lunch at the LBJ Historical Park in Stonewall and then headed to our first destination of Independence Creek Preserve. Many thanks to The Nature Conservancy in Texas for hosting the first night of our trip! River Watchers identified and learned about the North Star, which they looked for during the rest of our adventure.
Independence Creek Preserve
March 15, 2015 – When we woke up Sunday morning, we were on the dry westernmost area of the Edwards formation. Living in Austin, we are familiar with this formation as one part is the source of water for one of our favorite swimming holes, Barton Springs. However, where we were was a very different segment of the Edward’s Plateau. TNC Preserve Manager, Corbin Neill, hiked with the River Watchers to the top of one of the mesas overlooking the Preserve, where we could see water in a variety of habitats. He explained the different habitats we were seeing as fit for dabbling ducks, shorebirds, and even beavers! We could see the creek in the distance, the deep waters of the spring pool, the riffle, run, pool habitats downstream of where the springs emerge, the narrow shallow cells that they intend to improve as habitat for shorebirds, and the beaver marsh. We could also see the dry looking arroyo at the base of the mesa but Corbin explained that Independence Creek has a lot of subterranean flow, so there could be some water flow right under the surface. River Watchers performed the conductivity test for the water coming up from the springs. Corbin explained the role of The Nature Conservancy and talked about his career pathway. We hiked around more to explore this unique desert oasis and then piled back in the vans for the next leg of our Adventure. After saying goodbye to the prairie dogs at the Preserve, we headed Southwest to Big Bend National Park. While we were setting up camp and making dinner, the River Watchers commented on the beauty of the golden, pink colors of the mountains as the sun set.
Big Bend campsite
March 16, 2015 – After breakfast, we packed up our camp and headed to Boquillas Canyon. The River Watchers kept asking,”where is Mexico?” We would point to the mountains in the distance, to the colorful village on the other side of the river, to the neighbors singing on the other side of the river or the canyon walls across the narrow stretch of water and say, “it’s right there.” During our hike we saw the holes in the rocks where locals from previous milenia ground corn and we were serenaded with the timeless descending call of the canyon wren. Some of the girls upon entering the canyon headed straight to play in the aeolian (wind) deposit of sand and others headed straight for the river. And even those who tired themselves running up and down the sand eventually ended up in the river. We turned over stones and saw loads of benthic macroinvertebrates that indicated good or okay quality water. We tested the water for conductivity, a measure of the level of salts or impurities dissolved in the water. Later that day, we visited the Hot Springs and tested the water both in the Hot Springs and in the Rio Grande.
Boquillos Canyon
March 17, 2015 – On Tuesday we headed to The Chisos Basin where we had interesting weather for hiking the Window Trail. This was so special for Tamara to share with her River Watchers as it was one of her best memories from her own EcoLearning Adventure to Big Bend when she was a River Watch student. And we all made the 5.6 mile hike! As we hiked back out, we begin to separate into three groups hiking at different paces. The middle group took an adventurous wrong turn at the first trail sign and discovered two mountain lions who were feeding and four deer. Before arriving in Big Bend, we talked to the River Watchers about wildlife safety and awareness and the River Watchers did such a great job upon encountering mountain lions. They tried to appear as large as possible to avoid looking like prey, they altered their route without running, and made their way back to the trail leading to the vans. The park rangers were very excited to hear the report of mountain lions from the River Watchers. From there we drove out the Western side of the Park to visit the local ghost town in the booming metropolis of Terlingua. On the way back to our campsite, we saw loads of the super tall Big Bend bluebonnets, including some albinos, pink looking bluebonnets and some that looked half dark blue and half white – so cool.
Window Trail
March 18, 2015 – On Wednesday we broke camp in Big Bend and headed to our last desert oasis of the trip, Balmorhea State Park. River Watchers swam with the pup fish and learned about the San Solomon Cienega. On the way, we saw an altercation between two bobcats in the middle of the road with one running off to one side and the other to the other side.
Balmorhea State Park
March 19, 2015 – Thursday morning we had one last swim in Balmorhea, then we packed up the vans and headed back to Austin.
We gained so much perspective on the water where we live in Central Texas by seeing this dry extremity of our state. And 2015 will go down in the EcoLearning Adventure book as the Year of the Cats!

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