Some of you have been hanging around this blog long enough to recall a handful of hydrological surveys I did with Hog Creek and West Branch Hog Creek (1, 2 and 3). Today was another such adventure, but the subject was Soldier Creek; the map’s lower edge is around SE 59th, and the northern edge is Reno Avenue (4 miles). The eastern boundary is Post Road and the western is the Tinker AFB runway and Midwest Boulevard. The numbers match the sequence of the photos. Can you guess why the source of Soldier Creek is just a few hundred meters from the source of Hog Creek and the West Branch? It’s one of the highest points of elevation for quite a few miles in all directions. And while the official maps show that Soldier Creek starts on the north side of SE 59th, you could see it with your eyes that the drainage starts south of there on the Communications Annex that belongs to Tinker. And they cited their domed satellite dishes on this high promontory, of course.
Federal law forbids taking pictures of it from close to the fence (say the signs on the fence), so I turned back and looked up the road to get a more safely obscure shot (first image left above). This view places Soldier Creek on our right; we are looking upstream. The second image (below the map) is the official source of Soldier Creek. It runs like this, a dry seasonal drain, through a whole mile of deep forest and underbrush all along the west side of Berryman Road. At some point it picks up a tributary or two, but still comes across SE 44th with little or no water (image right). It comes out from under and continues northward just the same (image left), but you won’t see it like that again. Here we begin to encounter a housing edition on the west bank and a series of horse pastures on the east bank (above left). That means sprinklers and perhaps irrigation run-off. At the same time, I know that there are a couple of springs that run year-round somewhere out in this area, as well as more tributaries.
So by the time I ride just a half-mile north to catch the creek where it runs under Interstate Highway 40 (image right), it’s got water, and this spot is never dry. I got to this spot by taking the exit off Douglas Boulevard where the new branch of Saint Anthony’s Hospital was built to service the military and associated suburbs. Heh — the Air Force shut down their base hospital some years back, only to decide they needed it back. But now it will be years before they can get the contracts posted, etc. Anyway, the new asphalt goes out around the edge of the parking lot, then drops into gravel and runs almost to the next overpass. But the primary gravel improvement stops right on top of the creek for some reason.
It passes again through some private land on the north side of I-40 until it hits SE 29th. It’s quite swampy at this point (image left). To the right off-camera is a paved area that once hosted an RV sales lot. Before that, many years ago, I recall when the owner was trying hard to get dirt and gravel fill because the whole thing was one big swamp. Back further south of that was then Eastland Hills Trailer Park where my family lived after we left Alaska in 1973. The pavement and trailer pads are all still there, but the trailers are gone and the place is overgrown with native greenery, some of which spread up into the area from this swampy creek bottom. And it continues swampy out under SE 29th (image right) and across some more private land.
The next place we catch it is at Douglas Boulevard (image left). By now we have a solid year-round flow, even in the driest stretches of the year. It goes under near some commercially developed property and comes out in a low area that has seen some heavy landfill work in preparation for more development (image right); you can see some work vehicles in the background. Both sides of Douglas near the creek were vacant and pretty much in their native state for a very long time. In the past few years, development exploded. Today was not a good day to try riding that thick grass along the creek; I note in passing this was the area where I took my other new mountain bike for its baptism in mud and explored a major tributary to Soldier Creek. They merge somewhere in the background of the picture (above right). The summer grass makes it nearly impassible until late in the fall, after a frost or two.
By the time I get around the corner past all this new development, the creek is looking quite civilized. This wide spot where it comes under SE 15th (image left) often sees fishermen sitting on the grassy bank in the shade of the trees. Crossing under and out the other side drops Soldier Creek onto the John Conrad Golf Course (image right). It runs across the middle and turns back west toward the fitness trail in Barnes Regional Park. That caged rock bank reinforcement is common all over the county in places where a steep bank starts to crumble.
At some point the creek turns and merges with another small tributary and forms the boundary between the golf course and the public park. As noted in several previous posts, for the next two miles one or more fitness trails follow the banks. I tried to capture the sign so it was readable. It was placed some years ago and helps visitors grasp the reason this creek is protected from development. I would mention that the tribes return every year to the park for a pow-wow. They put up lots of tents and camp several days with booths to sell their art stuff and lots of noisy traditional music performances and dancing in costume.
Down where the creek crosses under Reno Avenue, the flow runs into a low dam to keep a pond for water fowl. While there is a mixture of ducks and cormorants, the biggest part of them are Canadian Geese. You can see signs warning that the geese are wild, federally protected and that you shouldn’t feed them. Instead, folks feed the squirrels, which are quite used to humans and almost tame. They’ll come up and take unsalted peanuts from your hand. Where the creek runs out from under Reno heading north, you can see another desperate attempt to reduce the washing out of the banks. It’s not working too well because when it rains more than a few inches at a time, the water floods and tops the banks completely, crosses the road over the bridge, and carves behind that caged rock stuff.
This completes today’s ride, partly because I discovered a slow leak in the rear tire. Only two miles from home, I headed there to make repairs and called it a day.