The river has given ground, but just a sliver of it. Although the waters have retreated, the Ohio River is still higher than usual. On the immediate riverbank is a new wooden obstacle course of washed away trees and huge logs. I find myself a walking stick and go exploring. I cover ground I have visited hundreds of times before and yet is made different with each episode of high water. I began this trip descending the frail cut lumber staircase whose bottom steps were recently covered by the river. I see a man and his children playing in the sand and pebbles and it looks like they are also building something. I wait for them to wander off to gather fresh materials before sneaking a closer peak.
They have taken a recently washed up piece of Styrofoam and added some other found elements to improvise a toy raft. Jutting from the foam are many spent cigarette lighters ( you can always find these). There is also the red plastic flag from a mailbox…the kind you stand up to alert the postal carrier that you have outgoing mail. I can also see a larger piece of blue plastic, perhaps a sail? To me, it also resembles a shark fin. As much as I like this family’s creativity, I am however, dismayed by the graffiti on the side of the log. This is something I’m starting to see more of on the bridge and through out the park. It makes me wistful for the days when scrawling bad words and so and so loves so and so in the sand were sufficient means of expression.
The walking stick comes in handy when you are not sure how deep the mud is in a certain area. You need to pick your path through by stepping on branches and broken planks. You can see brightly colored plastic just about everywhere you go. There are moderate to heavy waves along the river’s edge. Today I have a paper sack with me to collect the small river treasures carried by the water. This proves to be a mistake because the sack soon becomes water-logged and the bottom falls out.
I pick my way towards the railroad bridge because when the river was at its crest…this spot had the most incredible amount of wood and debris floating in the water. I wanted to see the aftermath. I came across this formation created when the water level left these logs high and dry. A very fine coating of mud and dampness unifies the scene in neutral tones of brown and gray because the greening of spring is only just beginning. I had hoped to see a bird or two, but they weren’t in this area.
It’s a cool and very overcast day and got progressively colder as the day wore on. In fact, it would blow snow on this night. Because the light was subdued, there were fewer harsh shadows and I felt that I could read the forms better. Everywhere you looked there was the jumble of logs and branches twisted and interconnected together. I recognized little from just a couple of weeks a go, with the exception of the UFO or Unidentified Floating Object which was miraculously still there.
This big circular platform first appeared here a couple of years a go. It came with another flood that swept it loose from wherever it came from, washed it over the dam, and deposited it here. My sons first thought it looked like a flying saucer, but I said it was an unidentified floating object instead. We also speculated that this could be the plug found at the bottom of the river…and when it was pulled, the river drained like a bath tub. It’s about a dozen feet across and we used to dance on it. I’m really surprised that it’s still here and didn’t move along with the river on its way to the ocean. Apparently, nobody has missed this thing since it’s been here for years. When it began spitting rain I decided to turn back the way I came and headed for the staircase.
The people who made the “Styro-raft” were gone and now was a better time to sneak a peek at their creation. I snapped a few photographs for my collection. Before leaving I could see that they had attempted to launch their colorful craft into the river…but the Ohio was not in the mood. I have had this experience before where the wind and waves on the river push back whatever you hope to have float away. It probably disappointed the kids, but in their imaginations I’m sure they can see a little of themselves riding their unidentified floating object on its journey westward towards adventure and new lands.