I waited a few days to return to the exposed fossil beds on the Kentucky side of the Falls of the Ohio State Park. My earlier trek went so well that I was determined to walk a little farther dragging my collecting bag full of water worn coal with me. I had the same idea as before, namely creating figurative images using the coal in site specific areas. Today I was determined to walk around Goose Island which is accessible by foot in the summer and early fall when the river level is diverted towards the locks and thus exposing the many layers of this ancient Devonian reef. It won’t be too much longer until the autumn rains replenishes the water along the Ohio River Valley and submerges this part of the park again until next summer.
As before, I crossed over at the Lower Tainter Gates in the eastern section of the park. I walked along the Fixed Wier Dam reaching the area where some waterfalls that flow into Whiskey Chute remain. This is where I created my first coal figure of the day. From above, the figure appears to be dancing and this is one of my favorite images from this new series.
Going around the waterfalls, I walk through ankle to knee-deep water and continue following the dam’s wall westward. Strategically placed notches at the top of this concrete wall provides a flow of water to a small wetlands area that harbors a variety of life. In this place natural waterfalls and cascades have been replaced by artificial ones. As I wade through it is a bit humbling knowing that the level of the Ohio River is at the top of this wall. I saw many water-loving birds including Belted Kingfishers, Blue-winged Teal, Caspian Terns, Double-crested Cormorants, and Great Blue Herons that favor this part of the park.
Many of these birds were here because this area also attracts fish. Numerous grass carp were eating algae in the shallows and small schools of juvenile fish were startled by the sudden appearance of my all too white legs as I walked through their space. If I stood motionless for a while, the carp would return and I could observe them more closely.
Goose Island has sandy banks. As I was wading along the southeast side of the island, I set up this figure with up raised arms in an open spot among plants that were growing in a row parallel to the water’s edge.
I left the water and walked along the edge of the island walking westward. This section has a cottonwood habitat. I came across a large cottonwood tree that had fallen off the high bank and was now bleaching in the sun. Driftwood snagged around this tree’s root mass marks how high the water can get when the river is flowing. There was a strong smell of urine around this shrinking pond and the many deer tracks proved these animals frequented this place. Hundreds of tiny toads were hopping through the grass near this waterhole! I had never seen anything like this out here before. I wished I had taken at least one image of these toads in my hand for scale. Although they were tiny, they also looked like perfectly formed adults that had been miniaturized.
Continuing my walk on Goose Island, I can see the wall of the Fixed Wier Dam and the hydroelectric plant in the distance which is situated on Shippingport Island. The plants in the foreground with their prickly, ripening seed pods are Jimsonweed. Along the sandy bank, I could see slides where beaver have dragged their tree cuttings from the nearby woods into the water. There is probably evidence of a dam nearby, but I did not see it on this trip.
This is as far as you can walk in this part of the park. Goose Island’s western edge ends at the Lower Tainter Gates. This is a popular area for fishermen who reach this spot by boat. I did see several Osprey circling the sky here. There is a small section of sand dunes on Goose Island that are shaped by wind and wave. In the above image, bird tracks crisscross the sand. I placed my final coal figure of the day here at the edge of a dune. This time the figure has been turned on its side. Plumes of sand were blowing up and away at the dune’s edge by wind. In the image below, the distance from the top of the dune to the riverbank on the right is deceiving. I estimate that this is a seven or eight foot drop and a short roll to the river.
From this area I start my hike home on the north side of Goose Island and start heading east. It has been a great day interacting with this environment. I have several other images to show before closing that were shot on this walk. Fortunately, there isn’t as much plastic junk to find on this side of the park, but of course there were a few things that caught my eye.
Here’s another squirt gun to add to the collection.
A goofy blue plastic hand rests on a fossil bearing rock . If you look closely, you can see bits of a crinoid stem by the thumb. I did take other images of fossils along my walk. Here are more crinoid pieces found near the Upper Tainter Gates. Crinoids are often described as sea lilies and were sessile marine animals that filtered and captured small animals from a flower-like calyx.
On the walk home, I kept walking by different fossil corals exposed in this ancient limestone. Corals are colonial animals and you get a sense for this in my next image.
The park prohibits collecting fossils and I begin to wonder if this heavy bag of coal that I have lugged around the island would count? Technically speaking coal is a fossil material. Although I found all my coal within the park, it did not originate here. I retrace my steps crossing the exposed fossil beds and by the time I reach my vehicle…I am one tired guy. If my luck holds, I might be able to take one more walk out here before this area becomes the bottom of the river again. If it doesn’t happen…there is always next year!