Rivers have had such a major impact on our nation’s history. Transportation in the East, life-giving waters in the West. Are rivers now in decline? Do we abuse more than use?
The Broad winds below Freeman Ridge where my cabin sits. I sat in on a meeting of The Broad River Watershed Association, which includes residents, commercial users of the river, authority representatives among others. Their objectives involve protecting the river and its banks while promoting recreational use (an appreciative public is the first step in preservation).
We were treated to an outstanding presentation by professor Clay Ourtz about the history of the Broad – it’s early colonization and development. The opening of the river for settlement in colonial days, the migrations from Virginia of tobacco planters, the Broad's development into a commercial and cultural center. The little city Petersburg (now gone) and the flat-bottomed Petersburg boats that carried tobacco down the Savannah River.
But the railroads superseded rivers for transportation. Petersburg was bypassed and declined. And, as Professor Outz neatly explained, “Cotton killed the river.” Loss of soil fertility, erosion, siltation of the Broad.
Today those riverbanks are forested again. And timber companies own or lease many acres. We’ve come full circle, back to a forest of sorts, except perhaps for degraded soils and silt in the river.
That dynamic lecture made me wonder about the creeks and rivers of my south Texas childhood. Has anyone written a history of the Nueces River? I can’t find one.
Of course the East Texas rivers were transportation systems (as was the lower Rio Grande). But boats on the Nueces? I doubt it. Indians in canoes? Those were horse Indians. Has the Nueces been irretrievably abused? People don’t set out to kill rivers, it just happens. Dams are river killers.
How is the Nueces doing today? I think Louis L’Amour would ask – “Is the water still good to drink?”
August 17, 2015
(Happy Birthday David Crockett! August 17, 1786 – March 5, 1936).
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man” – Heraclitus.