Thursday, May 15, 2014

Water in the Antelope Valley

A Tour of Sprinklers, Waterfalls, Gullies, and Sewage Ponds (Part I)

To quote one of my own poems, "For a desert, there sure is a lot of water here."

Do many people recognize this view, below? It's looking southwest from Piute Ponds, the marsh on Edwards Air Force Base. This is kept full and thriving by treated outflow from the big sewage plant on Ave. D. If we think of the Antelope Valley not as flat (since it isn't), and instead more like a pool table with one leg propped up on a small phone book, we can picture why this marsh is here. Historically there was surface flow of water from the Palmdale foothills where the landfill is now, up past the Mall, down through the Valley, collecting in a natural marshland near Edwards. To keep the lake bed dry for aviation, now dykes and berms collect that runoff into the wetlands called Piute Ponds, and natural drainage is supplemented with input from treated sewage. Don't laugh: all of Apollo Park is filled this way too.


For most of us, water comes more often in a package like this backyard shot below, and given the homes many of us prefer to have, we no more live in a desert than do the people in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, or, for that matter, Des Moines. We take long showers and keep green lawns. Ours very much is a water-rich lifestyle.


I am not saying it's wrong to have a green lawn (not least of which, because this happens to be my own backyard); it's just the "desert" aspect is kept pretty far at bay, moreso than some people like to admit. We take pride in being "desert rats," yet are we really?

This motel below is named after a bigger desert even than ours. The water feature installment seems not to be going well.


God bless Sierra Highway. Without it, wouldn't you feel a bit let down? It makes all the rest of our neighborhoods seem so much nicer in comparison.

Besides pools and motels, we even have a goodly amount of wet weather, if we take the year as a whole. Pretty soon we can start looking forward to the late-summer Monsoon. Here in the AV it's not as reliable or drenching at Tucson's, but at times, we do get some picture-perfect clouds.


Don't you just love the smell of it, when summer rain first starts falling?


Winter rain tends to be colder, harder, longer, and more likely to wreck the commute to L.A. with piled up car crashes. I probably should not have taken this picture while driving.


Summer or winter, the rain causes flooding, and doesn't that always seem like an odd contradiction in the desert? For a while, this car had a "for sale" sign waggishly added.


What about this intersection? A lot of water moved through very quickly.


Ultimately our drinking water comes from snow --- more on that in the Part 2 post --- and usually once a winter the snow comes to us, direct delivery, no intermediary steps involved. Some day we will wake up on Christmas morning to this view.


Even more rare than snow is fog. Whenever we get a foggy morning, I like to find roads that go straight up into and disappear, just for the novelty of it. Some deserts, including Chile's Atacama, have fog and no rain; the neblina-based plants learn to accrue moisture right from the fog droplets.


Water is good for marketing. We do name schools and streets after desert plants, but a secret part of us still covets marshes, fells, lakes, and sinkholes.


Water lives in our folklore too. Does anybody remember the legend of Lake Una? One nickname is "bottomless pond." There would be a lovely picture of it here, except the AVC Blog believes in following all signs, even one that says "Keep Out."


Find a good lake, there is bound to be a sign. Welcome to America, land of "No Trespassing" signs. This is Holiday Lake, on the west side of the Antelope Valley, home in spring to a significant population of an endangered bird, the Tri-colored Blackbird.


You want lakes? Welcome to the Antelope Valley, Land of Lakes. Some days Lake Palmdale looks very properly green. This marks the San Andreas Fault and would have collected water naturally, where springs intersect with folds of the bedrock. Dams as far back as 1900 have added capacity. These days is a combination of a private hunt / fishing club and a water-storage site.


Alas, poor Lake Elizabeth, also on the San Adreas --- this was NOT a green day for it. You know it's bad luck when your lakes start to burn down.


As mentioned above, Apollo Park does have a lake and it is kept full from your toilet. Flush away: it all ends of at Ave D, and from there, either Piute Ponds or Apollo Park. The geese like it too.




 Do quarries count? Here's the view from Littlerock. All the groundwater fills a hole that has become the aggregate for somebody's freeway or lovely concrete driveway. To be honest, there might have been a "no trespassing" sign that I conveniently didn't read too closely.


Next, staying on that side of the Valley, see below. Littlerock Dam Lake looks a bit shoddy these days too. Drought and reservoirs don't match up. It took has endured a lot of fires. If it is possible for water to look ugly, that might be how to describe this view:


In good water years, the dam fills up so high that the water spills over the top.


 How small can a lake be before we call it a puddle? At least it catches the sunset nicely.

 
There's a secret part of Little Rock Creek I nearly don't want to share. Shot 1, "Secret Place." (Well, not secret to the taggers.)


Same place, different view. Shot 2. Call us a desert. Hah! We defy "desert." Do you like the artistic blur of falling water in this version of Secret Place Pond?


Up next? Palmdale Ditch . . . but first we need to let the Blog server catch its breath, given how many images have been uploaded into this stream. Part II of this subject will be where the water comes from and how we move it around.

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Photographs not credited to an outside source were taken by the blog curator, Charles Hood, Language Arts. He can be reached at chood@avc.edu. This blog does not represent the views of the Board of Trustees nor the District as a whole. To leave comments, you need to be logged into some kind of blogspot or gmail account, or so it seems. Sorry about that: it's just how the system is set up. Hood also can forward comments through email.

3 comments:

  1. I never knew we had so much water out here. I mean, I knew we weren't dying of thirst but never would I have thought there was that much.
    Good for you for... "conveniently not reading" the no trespassing sign at the quarry in the pursuit of journalism.

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  2. I just recently did a speech on the SixCalifornias initiative being proposed by Tim Draper. I made points on how screwed we might be out here in the 'desert' without the water that northern California provides us but after rereading this I see that we would be fine for a little while without it, long enough to create new legislature.

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  3. I ride my mountain bike down that creek to the secret spot all the time, don't forget about the haunted ponds going in that direction.

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