Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This is a picture I took a couple of weeks ago from Bethel Beach. I ventured down the left end instead of taking the usual walk to the right. There weren't any No Trespassing signs that I could see. (They follow me around wherever I go, it's extremely vexing.) There was this one thing resembling a hurdle, and being a former hurdler I cleared it, no problem. However in hindsight that probably wasn't a hurdle.


Today we're going to talk about beach erosion and trees like the ones above.

(For optimal alertness, you may wish to pour yourself another cup of coffee.)

The marshes leading down to our public beaches are full of what I'm going to call forest graveyards. In other words, there are trees standing--the remnants of big trees--but they're dead. All 3 of the county beaches contain sights like the one above, skeleton trees showing where the ground is now washed away entirely. Those not lost to the bay tower gracefully in the marshes, unable to tolerate the heavy dose of salt in the water.

To learn more about this, let's turn in our hymnals to Song Number 110 turn to that handy dandy desktop reference that every good citizen owns: the 1962 Soil Survey for Mathews County, written by the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station. Yes, the year is 1962, but it's still the same around here. All that changes is the names of our convenience stores.

(Zooms is turning into a 7-11, fyi. The original 7-11 at Ward's Corner became a Little Sue and now is a _____. I'm drawing a blank. Pass the coffee.)

From pages 38 and 39:

"...Northeasters occur much more frequently than hurricanes but are much less intense. They're often accompanied by rain (sometimes excessive), by the flooding of the lower lying areas with very highly saline tidewater, and by damaging winds. Because these storms occur much more frequently than hurricanes, the damage that results probably exceeds that caused by hurricanes and tropical storms.

Because most of Mathews County is less than 10 feet in elevation and much of it is less than 5 feet, the fluctuations of tides are important. Storm tides flood parts of the county that are at elevations of approximately 6 feet or less. The largest areas affected by storm tides is along the Chesapeake Bay. A study made in the Garden Creek area of the county by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows that on August 23, 1933, there was a high tide of 7.1 feet.

Before the Civil War, much of the lowland along the Chesapeake Bay in the vicinity of Garden Creek and Winter Harbor was protected by sand dunes and dikes. Since that time much of the dune sand has been removed, breaks in the dikes have not been repaired and tide gates have not been maintained. The encroachment of salt water in recent years is apparently causing the stands of loblolly pine to die back before they mature."

On Thursday of this week I'm venturing back down to the county beaches.

I hope they're still there.

To the one reader anyone reading from around these parts, what's an area that you remember from the past that is changed or gone due to storms and erosion? For example, I remember when Haven Beach went on forever to the left as you approach; I even remember a tree at that end of the beach. Now, it's all gone, though you can still see traces at low tide.

To the two any readers from other places, what have you lost to erosion or development or even new buildings taking the place of old ones?
(This question reminds me of that scene in Planet of the Apes where the Statue of Liberty is covered in sand. What an indelible mark that scene left on me. But I'm actually asking about things in real life, not in the Planet of the Apes. Feel free to discuss Planet of the Apes if you wish, though.)


Annie said...

Guess the fence and posts on either side of that hurdle disappeared in the last flood?

Lotsa stuff has disappeared in my lifetime...lots of bush areas, and especially the shoreline along our beaches also. Luckily most of the rest of the country is above 6ft, but I wouldn't like to be living on the beach anywhere these days. They are talking about making new rules about building along the shore, because of the rising sea levels...good idea. About time!

There's been much vegetation lost its life in the last drought, and many trees along the famous Murray river down in southern Australia also suffering from dieback. Not to mention the lack of water in said river!

Whenever you quote from that book, it makes me very nostalgic, having had a husband who worked at many agricultural experimental stations around SE Queensland. In fact we lived on one in the bush miles from anywhere (40 miles from the closest town) when we were first married. Fun driving to "town" with the new baby !!

Kate said...

Two things about climate change that pop into my mind:

1. That area of marsh on New Point beach that Ann Marie was talking about in her last post, I can remember when you could walk around it because there was still a patch of sand between it and the water.

2. When my older brother David was born in 77, it had gotten so cold that the York River had frozen over, and the doctor was hesitant to let my parents take David home because it was so cold. I don't think that kind of weather will ever happen again in our lifetime.

Oh, and for WV, I am getting some odd, odd words that I'm not sure ARE words. Exombol anyone?

Pueblo girl said...

Winding, tree-lined country lanes are becoming an endangered species here, which saddens me. There's a powerful, widely believed myth that bends and trees are dangerous. I insist that driving too fast, and driving into trees are dangerous but mine is a lone voice.

Bayman said...

Speaking of the planet of the apes, we sent youngest son to check on our beach. He reported we lost alot of sand, and there is debris about, but we still have a beach. We will have a cleanup day when we all get over the bubonic plauge.

Ann Marie said...

sniff... sorry.. sniff sniff... sorry .. I uh... I... sniff.. HONK!!!! sorry..I uh.. (lip tremble)

I don't think I can talk about this subject..... sniff...

wv... cwmeng... Oh the places I could go with that one...

Mental P Mama said...

Beautiful antique homes are succumbing to the mcmansion rage here. It shows no signs of abating either...

big hair envy said...

The whole concept of the Planet of the Apes terrifies me. So does The Land of the Lost.

Once Bayman recovers from the bubonic plague, do you think he could salvage a couple of pieces of driftwood for me?? I'll let him have extra turkey when you guys come over for Thanksgiving dinner;)

We live on a somewhat large piece of property in the middle of nowhere. Landowners all around us have seen fit, for some reason, to timber every darn thing they can reach by skidder. The upside to this is that the wildlife has sought refuge at our place. I can't tell you how much I enjoy seeing the animals in my yard and field!! You can bet that I will fight the destruction of our forests until the bitter end:/

Daryl said...

Erosion .. Planet of the Apes, Hurdling, Bubonic Plague .. guess which one I dont 'get' ...

And WV: Uptio ..

Clearly Spanglish for Uncle Timssss

Grandma J said...

It saddens me when the errosion takes our beaches.

Those tree roots remind me of my hair roots right now...overly exposed.

Linda said...

It's loss of green space in general that erks me. Beautiful meadows and farmland hacked up into tiny pieces for track houseing. And then they sit there empty and unpurchased. Um HELLO! That saying build it and they will come? Not so much.

Kate said...

I came back to catch up on comments and mention that now I "get" the WV thing. Sorry folks, I was schooled in Mathews, what do you expect! LOL I kid, I kid.

So anyway.... my WV is bleperwe. As in, what the bleperwe doin' still talkin about the storm! Turkey Day is a' comin!

foolery said...

Everything in about an 8-mile radius of us is shifting from pasture (and dairies) to orchards. There have always been olives, almonds, prunes, oranges and walnuts, but now there are a LOT of them, plus pistachios, and even blueberries and pomegranates. Is not bad, it's good, but I miss the pastures already. Thankfully my house is surrounded by them. Otherwise I couldn't see the forest for the trees.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Annie-You should post some stories about the adventures with your husband. (Or, if you don't want it on your blog, feel free to write here.) I love hearing about your life and your experiences.

Kate-You're so right about New Point. I've seen pictures where the lighthouse was connected to the mainland. There was a house next to it. Now gone. And freezing? Our creek used to freeze so hard we could walk clear across it. It's been decades since that happened. There are stories of people driving on the frozen bay. I recently heard a story about somebody driving from the Eastern Shore to Tangier, if you can imagine that. Those days are gone.

Pueblo Girl - That is indeed very sad. Reminds me of something I heard someone here recently that I'll have to share off-line. But we have similar stuff going on here.

Bayman-Big Hair Envy says to save her some driftwood, and please save the sea glass too.

AM-You are the expert on this subject. You're also the expert on fixin' fried oysters and hushpuppies, and I really want you to open that restaurant.

MPM-You have hit the nail on the head. As sad as the beach erosion is, the loss of the old houses to newer, more modern homes is too. We have so many old houses sitting in the woods being choked by vines. I'm trying to photograph as many as possible before they leave us, but it's difficult. That pesky trespassing thing and all.

BHE-They do it here too, clear-cut, that is. If you need a wildlife manager for your sanctuary, contact my mother, she's well qualified for the job and very eager to help.

Daryl-I'm going to guess hurdling, which involved a barricade that wasn't supposed to be hurdled. Maybe. Maybe not, depending on who's reading.

GJ-Right there with you on the roots.

Linda-Absolutely. We're also being paved over and homegenized slowly but surely. Strip malls, chain stores, townhomes, town centers everywhere. That's one of the many things I love about Mathews. Homogenization and pavement haven't taken over yet.

Kate-Much to my surprise, Thanksgiving is next week. What the bleperwe doing with our time that it flies by so quickly?

Foolery-You need to start a health food business. Nuts and Fruits R Us. Put me down for nuts.

Country Girl said...

First, there are more than two readers. And I am one of them. One of the more . . .

Second, I did a post with trees that looked like this! This was taken on the shoreline in Maryland. The tree is in the middle of the post. The shoreline is eroding everywhere.

Hope your beaches are still intact.

foolery said...

Cheeky, I had you down as nuts long ago. : )

Address still the same?