Saturday, November 15, 2008

Water Will Have Its Way

This week's theme for PhotoHunt is ruin(ed). As I was thinking about it I realized we have lots of things around that were ruined by nature over the past years. Rain, wind, sunshine, ice, flowing water, lightning, falling limbs and trees, and the actions of various creatures tend to wreak havoc from time to time despite our best efforts to avoid the damages.

As I was going through the list I recalled a particular sight that I have always found interesting. As many of you may know we live in a partially wooded area with several small streams. In years gone by I think perhaps a good portion of the land was used as farm land, probably for growing cotton. As cotton farming diminished in the area the land was used for other crops. This particular section eventually became a dairy with perhaps half of the land in open pasture and the remaining in hardwoods.

One of the streams happened to run through wide, low section before passing through a narrow area with a very steep hill to one side and a gradual 10-12 foot upward slope for about 60 feet on the other side. Evidently at sometime someone decided to build a dam to create a shallow pond perhaps only 2-3 feet deep and probably about 2 acres in size. I have no idea when it was built, but I would think it was likely more than 50 years ago and perhaps up to 100 years ago.

In any event, I think the dam was essentially hand built as it consisted primarily of a ridge of dirt covered by layers of small rocks. It was about 60 feet long and 3-4 feet tall at the highest point as you may be able to tell in the photo below.

I've always been amazed at the amount of time and effort that must have gone into that dam. Unfortunately, the builders evidently did not consider the amount and power of the water that might come through the area in the event of a large rainfall. (The stream bed drains an area of probably over 100 acres.) I have no idea how long the dam lasted, but eventually it failed. This is a photo from the downstream side. You can see where the water broke through between the steep hill on the right and the tree on the left.

This last photo is from the upstream side. You can see the size of the rocks used in the dam and just imagine how many hours went into building it. Most of the rocks are from the size of a fist up to the size of a soccer ball at the largest. One of these days I may work out a calculation of how many thousands of rocks may have been piled there. For now I just go check it out from time to time and wonder who built it and how long it lasted.

You can find more participants in the hunt at .


  1. Wow, that looks like it took someone (or many someones?) a lot of time and effort... The last shot really brought that home. But where is the stream in all those shots?

  2. I wonder why they would have dammed up the water? Is there any evidence of house foundations nearby?

  3. Very interesting post, Baker. There certainly are a lot of rocks. It would be interesting to know more about the history of this dam. Who built it, how long did it take them and why did the build it.

  4. Brine Queen - I probably should have mentioned this, lol. That small stream is fed by a spring about a 1/4 mile away. There are several springs in the area. For years the stream would run year around. For the past 10-12 years it has stoped running in the summer. For the past two years (especially last year) we have had extremely dry weather for our region. As a result the water table has dropped and the spring does not flow from early spring until late fall. There is just a small trickle now and you couldn't see that under the leaves. There is only one spring (of the several around here) that continues to run year around. As a matter of fact the pond is spring fed and the water drops significantly during the summer with the evaporation and little or no water flowing from those springs at that time.

    Denise - We are not sure why they built the dam but it was likely to provide a water for livestock. That leads me to believe that perhaps it was built when the land was first used a dairy but I'm not sure how long ago that was. To my knowledge there were not any houses on this particular land for at least the last hundred years. There are other places nearby with the remains of older farm houses can be seen such as evidence of fireplaces. Typically older, smaller farm houses would not have had much of a foundation, but I've never seen any evidence of one close to where this dam was built.

    Kelly - My guess is that it was built maybe 60+ years ago for the livestock but it could be much older. There was also another dam built across the road from here and I feel certain it was built much later based on where it was and how it was constructed. I presume it was built in the '50's or '60's. (Actually there was no road when it was built though.) It was later removed when our neighbors built a new, much larger dam for the pond across the road.

  5. Fascinating post. All human efforts to divert or control water (aqueducts, dams, changing the course of rivers) seems so audacious esp. when they didn't have big gas-powered machines to do the work!

    Hope you're having a nice weekend.

  6. Water is such a powerful element.....I must say I have great respect for it......
    we have a natural dam that has built up in a local is causing a lot of problems at the moment.....interesting post as always

  7. Leave it to you Baker to find something so interesting that most would not even notice. Somebody must have really been motivated to haul all those rocks. I hope that for the time it was that it held the water..

    New Rambling Woods Site

  8. Hello Baker...I enjoyed your post. I do the same thing in our woods...wondering what was taking place years ago in a certain area...especially when I see something of interest. These days we do have it so much easier than way back when.


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