When I first saw this week’s photo challenge – “ephemeral” – the first thing that popped into my head was ephemeral streams. Thinking this might not be the most interesting photo subject, I played around with other ideas but just couldn’t shake this one. So consider this your environmental science lesson for the week! (smile)
Ephemeral streams are areas are also known as “dry washes” (I suppose it’s really all a matter of perspective). An ephemeral stream, by definition, is a stream that flows only in direct response to precipitation, and thus discontinues its flow during dry seasons. Such flow is usually of (duh) short duration.
Ephemeral streams can be found throughout the deserts of Arizona*. They make great hiking trails as they naturally clear vegetation and other obstacles. However, they are only great trails in the dry season – if a storm comes along these areas can be incredibly dangerous. These dry little beds can literally become mini-rivers in a matter of minutes during monsoon season. I’ve had the personal experience of trying to cross one in a large, solid truck – you start all the way over on one side of the road and once you’re across you’ve moved to the opposite shoulder of the road. Not as much fun as you might think. There are several roads that close during rainstorms to protect against just such cases of human brilliance.
If you’re wondering why my ephemeral springs look more like dry washes, I point you to the above paragraph. I just haven’t had the opportunity to photograph one in relatively safe conditions. Someday. (smile)
These streams are incredibly important to the local eco-system for a number of reasons (most of which are too technical for this post). Perhaps their greatest role is to provide a wide array of ecological functions including forage, cover, nesting, and movement corridors for wildlife. Thanks to the relatively higher moisture content in these areas, vegetation and wildlife abundance in and near them tends to be much higher than other areas. The (hopefully responsible) human recreation is just a happy side effect. (smile)
*There are 4 deserts in the United States – Great Basin, Mojave, Chihuahuan, and Sonoran. Arizona is the only state where parts of all 4 can be found, although the Sonoran Desert is the largest to be found here.
Annddd lesson over :)
Have a great weekend everyone!!