Return of the River

A river running through my yard.
John Scalzi

A week ago we had several inches of snow on the ground, the product of a winter storm, and now, thanks to higher temperatures and rain, it’s all gone. But it has to go somewhere. Fortunately for us it didn’t go into our basement; our land is such that in times of heavy rain and/or snowmelt, a stream forms in our yard that channels the excess toward a nearby creek. I jokingly call it the Scalzi River, and today marks its first appearance of 2021, as it channels away all the excess water.

The current 10-day forecast suggests we’re unlikely to see the yard covered up again anytime soon, although March is mercurial around here, so I’ve learned never to say never. With that said, if this is mostly the end of the snow for the year, I won’t mind. One heavy snowfall a year is enough; enough to enjoy what winter can do, but not sure much winter has to be truly endured. Seems like the right amount to me.

— JS

20 Comments on “Return of the River”

  1. Here in Sterling, we have a pond that forms in our back yard similarly–except it has nowhere to go. We call it Lake C.

  2. No lake or river here. The back yard turns into a bog through most of spring though. It looks like grass, but you’ll sink a foot down, quick-grass

  3. Looks like it’s time to get the fishing gear out…

    Much of our snow has melted in recent days as well, though today is cold and cloudy so there’s not much melting going on at the moment. Still, the damp corners in our basement confirm that the thaw is underway, albeit in gradual form.

    You are so right about the mercurial nature of March (bad pun there, by the way – please accept my compliments). A few years ago, we got 8 inches of snow on April 19, which happened to be a week and a half before our daughter’s wedding day. She was mightily annoyed, though fortunately it melted by the day itself.

    Be sure to post photos of any fish you catch in that river.

  4. We have a low strip like that in our lawn and when our two sons were young they would ride their boogie boards down the hill in the rushing stream that would form. Occasionally we’d have to frantically wave them back to the house while a major lightning storm raged overhead (they didn’t care!).

  5. Dig a trench and line it with river rock, plus some foot bridges. Make a sometime creek in your yard. And an interesting visual accent.

    Culverts under the roads. Boy, that got complicated quickly.

  6. We are going back and forth as to whether we are calling ours Fox Creek or Deer Creek.. I think Deer is mundane. Plus a Fox is cuter.

  7. Our street doesn’t have enough of a grade to send water into the storm drains. I call the resulting giant puddle Lake Valencia.

  8. You weren’t tempted to call it Scalzi Creek instead of River? Because if you are feeling particularly rural you could switch to the alternative pronunciation of “crick”, just for variety.

  9. We have an occasional pond out front that we call “Lazy Plumber Pond.” When it’s not there, we call it “The lawn.” (It’s covered in snow right now, so that would make it the lawn.)

    Scalzi Creek or Arroyo Scalzi. Yes, definitely.

    Maybe put up a sign.

    So when do the tomatoes go in, again?

  10. I think Wadi Scalzi has a nice ring to it.
    One rainy summer ducks were located in a temporary pond in the park and I would urge them to go elsewhere since this pond was sure to dry up. Turned out to be a very wet summer, and the pond stayed, so, you never know, those fish may begin migrating upstream any time. I have long wondered whether freshwater trout are adapted seawater trout or what.

  11. Please excuse the presumptiveness of my observation, both in content and in making this point, but when the family home had a similar problem, my father dug a trench (about 4′ deep and 3′ wide) around the house, and filled it with gravel, then put soil over it and that seemed to end any water in the basement. If you’ve already done this and/or find this a bit to forward a make this observation, then my apologies.

    fwiw, I owned with my spouse a house built over the flood plain of a bay, and the sump pump seemed to turn on just about every time there was high tide. We recognized that we needed to move… and got a place built upon blue granite, which made it impracticable to dig into to make the floor of the cellar deep enough to finish the basement as a living space. Home ownership — ain’t it great?!

  12. Jlanstey and David–

    1.) Culverts under roads have their issues: a post-wildfire post-rainstorm mud and debris flow recently blocked a culvert and 150 feet of California’s iconic Highway 1 fell into the Pacific. Repairs will take months and cost many millions.

    2.) Steelheads are, in fact, anadromous (seagoing) rainbow trout. They return to freshwater to spawn.

  13. When I was younger, I would have been out playing in that. Floating things down it, building dams and watching them burst, just watching the water flow by.

    (And by “younger” I mean at least a few days ago…)

  14. After we built our house in a cove on a West Virginia hillside, we did a good bit of excavation to make a flat spot to build on. Afterwards, a wet water spring sprang out of the newly exposed hillside across from our front door.

    To keep that water off the foundation, we built a tiny pond (like 10×14 feet or so) to catch that flow and put it to the front of the house where it flows down a rocky gutter beside the front steps. It is lined with a rubber membrane. The original membrane sprang a leak a couple of years ago, so now on the second tiny pond.

    Anyway, the point here is that being on a hillside, we are the only spot the local woodland amphibians can reproduce for several hundred yards. Right now, the current heavy warm rain has caused the earliest frogs to wake up from their forest floor hibernation, and they are currently frolicing in out tiny pond.

    Much amphibian sex is ongoing, with splishing, splashing, and melodious croaking and froggy noises. We have a large communal egg mass on the upper end of the pond. There will be several waves of different species, including salamanders of various types, including tiger salamanders, which are BIG and quick.

    Peepers are the cutest, tiny tree frogs not much bigger than your thumbnail. We love it when the frogs start up, it means spring has sprung — plus they are so cute!

  15. Sometimes my long well-planned comments disappear.


    We have a tiny pond by our front door, and the recent warm rain has brought dozens of little wood frogs from the forest floor to the tiny pond, where as the season progresses, many different amphibians will come to the tiny pond to reproduce, with much froggy happiness and spring noises.

  16. In my part of the world, streams that mostly flow only in the wetter parts of the year are called “winterbournes.”

    A number of towns and villages used to be named as such (with various spellings – we’re talking Domesday Book here) but the majority are now called “Winterbourne X” where “X” may, for example, be the name of a former landowner, or refer to a monastery or abbey once located there.

    So “Winterbourne Scalzi” would be in keeping with (English) tradition.

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