Every stream is different. Two months ago, we stood in Wilfred Creek with the water rushing by up to our waists, threatening to topple anyone not paying attention. Six weeks later, we stood in the exact same spot with the water meandering slowly by at a comfortable calf-level. But while Wilfred Creek went from risky to comfy in that six week period, the staff gauge at Mud Bay Creek showed practically no drop in water level at all.
This is a fascinating puzzle. Wilfred drains one of the larger areas of all the local creeks, on par with Rosewall Creek and only outdone by the Tsable and the Trent. The Wilfred drainage extends up into the snow fields which allows it to continue running strong well into summer. But little Mud Bay Creek drains only a few hundred hectares of low-lying hills. Where does it get it’s surprising staying power?
And now, we have another anomaly to add to the puzzle. Apple-Cherry Creek sneaks under the old highway with nary a sign or marker. It’s easy to miss if you don’t know where to look. We’ve only recently started to sample Apple-Cherry and we have yet to install a staff gauge. But it has been going strong since we began scouting it in late spring. It appears to be more of a Mud Bay style creek than a Wilfred style creek. It’s drainage doesn’t seem much different in size than that of Mud Bay Creek. An old driller’s report from 1964 states that several homes used this creek (back then it was simply called Cherry Creek) as their primary source of domestic water.
While these two little dynamos just keep truckin’ along, two more creeks that we have started to sample, Hindoo Creek and Spence Creek, have dried up completely. And Emily Creek, another recent addition, is down to the merest of trickles with a few shrinking pools sheltering ever more anxious fish.
Where do Mud Bay Creek and Apple-Cherry Creek get the water to keep flowing strong through this, another summer of drought? There is only one answer: springs. Springs are areas where flowing groundwater escapes from its geologic confinement. Spring fed creeks like Mud Bay Creek and Apple-Cherry Creek are valuable windows into the state of our groundwater. There are other springs that make small, less obvious, contributions to larger creeks like Wilfred and Rosewall. Two such springs flow into Wilfred Creek at the Wilfred Creek Hatchery above highway 19. We’ve recently installed staff gauges in the flow from these two anonymous little springs to better understand their contribution.
And so we continue to add all these bits of data to our ever-more-detailed map: stream flow, spring flow, drying streams, fading streams. Yes, every stream is different but they all have something to tell us.