Friday, November 15, 2013

Finding Water

There are a number of ways of finding water. Some walk over the land with a forked willow limb in a practice called ‘dowsing’. Others, perhaps more scientifically, study the geology carefully…still others look at the vegetation. Some, like Craig Childs (The Secret Knowledge of Water) spend days, even months, in the field under very dangerous conditions, in order to find water. My son Kevin and I recently used history and a little of the above (but not dowsing or danger) to find water.

We were talking one day when he mentioned having read somewhere of the building of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad (1865-1959) in the northwestern part of the colorful US State of Nevada. The book or books indicated that upon reaching a certain mileage, those building the railroad bed had encountered water.  Kevin located the possible location and passed the information on to me.  I used Google Earth to follow the still existing railroad bed, sans tracks and ties, and right where it should be was a stand of green vegetation. 

In late October of 2013, along with the Nevada gathering of our family, we walked about three kilometers along the old roadbed until we came to the stand of willow I had seen on the Google Map.  At first it was difficult to tell, but after looking more carefully we saw the water!  There, at the base of what is called a ‘cut’ in the slope of the hillside, we found a shallow pool, 3-4 meters long, of very clear water.  The soil around the pool was hard-packed sand and gravel and did not take the impression of animal tracks very well. We could not tell what animals visited the site but in these very arid lands, this water is valuable to many species.  Our visit took place on the driest day of the year and yet there was water in this shallow basin. It snowed in northwestern Nevada the day after our visit to the seep.

The old railroad way is well known and is used by hikers, runners, and a number of other visitors.  I’m sure there are many who know of this permanent seep, certainly hundreds of recreationists pass it each week. Regardless, it is always exciting to ‘find’ water. I’m sure we’ll return some day.