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Saving the DammedWhy We Need Beaver-Modified Ecosystems$
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Ellen Wohl

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190943523

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190943523.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 May 2021

December: Saving the Dammed

December: Saving the Dammed

Chapter:
December: Saving the Dammed
Source:
Saving the Dammed
Author(s):

Ellen Wohl

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190943523.003.0015

At the nadir of the year, this is how morning comes to the beaver meadow. Just as the sun rises above the eastern horizon, a flush of pale rose lights the snow newly fallen on the highest peaks. The beaver meadow remains in shadow, silent but for the creek flowing quietly between its rims of ice. The air temperature is well below freezing and frost whitens the pine needles like a dark-haired person starting to go gray. Wisps and sheets of snow flag off the summits in the steady wind. Over the course of a few minutes, the summit snow warms from pale rose to faint orange and then a rich, warm gold that also lights the rock outcrops at lower elevations. The wind reaches the beaver meadow before the sunlight, coming in abrupt blasts that shake loose the little tufts of snow remaining on the pine boughs. The wind sends the snow crystals slaloming across the ice on the creek with a dry, skittering sound like that of blowing sand. Before long, the meadow is submerged in a continual rushing sound created by wind gusting through the pines up slope, along the valley walls. The lateral moraine to the south keeps the beaver meadow in shadow until 9:30 a.m. Nothing is so slow as waiting for the warmth of sunlight on a cold winter morning. When the sunlight does reach the meadow, it brings out the colors of water, ice, grasses, and willows. Flowing portions of the creek change from gray to orange brown. The snow reflects the light in a painfully intense glare broken by the deep, long shadows that everything casts. With the sunlight comes a steady wind that blasts the crystalline snow onto my face like grit. Not much snow has fallen yet, but North St. Vrain Creek is completely frozen in places and covered with snow. The ice records the movements of water, freezing the pulses and turbulence in ice ripples and ledges, motionless swirls and bands. It seems a miracle that any water still flows in this gray and white world of ice and snow.

Keywords:   Colorado Front Range, Lily Pond, carbon, ecosystem services, elk grassland, mercury, methane

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