Duck River

To get back momentarily to the main mission of ScottsdaleTrails and away from the political turmoil that has frankly consumed me of late, I’d like to share with you a Sunday morning boat ride down a lazy river.

My sister, who lives in Nashville close to where we grew up in Columbia, TN, recently sent me an article from Validity Magazine about our hometown Duck River. Author Leslie Colley paints a vibrant picture of a significant body of water that I took for granted as a kid even as I enjoyed hunting, fishing, and boating upon it.

In her article, Colley describes the Duck River as

  • the longest river (272 miles) contained wholly within the state of Tennessee.
  • home to 650 river species.
  • the most biologically diverse river in North America.
  • one of National Geographic’s four most species-dense places on the planet.

Colley’s description of neighboring Lewisburg’s Big Rock Creek greenway reminds me very much of our own Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt [“Ditch to Diamonds“]. Many of the migratory birds detailed in this article are the same birds we see in Scottsdale’s riparian areas. I never noticed how much biology was shared between these two very diverse geographies. Who would have thought it?

As with Scottsdale’s Greenbelt, the Duck River’s periodic flooding of adjacent communities has led to tussles between profitable flood control and conservation of natural areas. The Duck River battle included a more critical element: Endangered species.

The most high profile of these fights was over the Columbia Dam, the progress of which stalled out due to litigation and lack of popular support. The cost of construction, demolition, and restoration is said to be in the vicinity of $80,000,000; a stark price tag legacy of ill-considered public policy.

This is on the order of magnitude of Scottsdale taxpayers’ bill for our McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The notion of conservation vs. profit is not too dissimilar to the fight brewing over hunting in the MSP, and residential development around the MSP; in the much more fragile ecosystem of what is slated to be upon its completion one of the largest municipal preserves in the United States.

Perhaps the Upper Sonoran Desert can look to the lessons of Tennessee’s Highland Rim for guidance in our discussions of community priorities.

Ms. Colley inadvertently captures much of the essence of Scottsdale’s dilemma when she observes that,

…this strange invisibility of the familiar keeps us from seeing the essence of the things around us.

In initiating and advancing what has become the MSP, we’ve made great strides in overcoming Colley’s “strange invisibility.” However, in spite of that progress we continue to overlook some remarkably obvious contradictions in our efforts.

Colley goes on to say,

Connecting communities to the river, raising awareness about its importance are perhaps the best ways to protect it in the long run.

That sounds a lot like ScottsdaleTrails’ mission statement to preserve the community character of Scottsdale and her connection to the Sonoran Desert by similar awareness efforts.

For hiking enthusiast-readers of ScottsdaleTrails, you’ll also enjoy 10 Great Outdoor Experiences to Enjoy in Southern Middle Tennessee by Colley intern Abby Fletcher.

In the same issue of Validity there was an article on how white oak is harvested, milled, coopered (made into casks), and charred for purpose of storing and charcoal mellowing Jack Daniels whiskey from nearby Lynchburg, TN. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t appear on Vanity’s website, but you can sample JD at the Whiskey Bar in Downtown Scottsdale’s Saguaro Hotel.

The juxtaposition of these two articles ironically reminds me of the quintessential aphorism of the thirsty West,

Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting over.


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