The Rivers of Life

Rivers are very important things. We seldom pause to think about the many and varied functions of the rivers that flow through our communities. We hurriedly pass them by on our way to someplace else, but throughout history, rivers have played a very significant role.

Their primary function is to move water downstream. Rainwater flows into brooks, creeks and streams that eventually flow into a river. That river moves millions of gallons of water through a network of other rivers to carry that water to the oceans of the world.  Without this natural drainage system our fields would be swamplands and our towns would be forever fighting flooding. Along the way the mighty current of a river may provide hydroelectric power to multiple cities and huge populations. As the water travels downstream it deposits life-giving nutrients as it is filtered by the soil and rocks of the riverbed. Those nutrients are consumed by microscopic organisms, tiny insects, aquatic plants, fish, birds, reptiles and mammals.

Rivers have always served as transportation routes for peoples and commerce. The mighty Nile provided ancient Egypt with a passageway for her famed barges and warships. The colonists arriving in North America used the James River as a route inland from the Atlantic. Jamestown and Yorktown sprang up on the riverbanks of the new land. The Hudson River, The Ohio River, The Mississippi River, The Missouri River, The Colorado River… all facilitated man’s westward movement through the American wilderness two hundred years ago, and they serve us still today. Many rivers serve as visible borders between cities, states and even nations.

When they are calm and peaceful they become a focal point for recreation, soothing our troubled minds with their relaxing tranquility. When they are angry and violent they can devastate us with their fury. When they are dammed they create placid lakes and reservoirs that beckon us to swim in their waters, bask on their beaches and dine along their shores. Over time rivers can carve breathtaking gorges and grand canyons while creating thundering waterfalls along the way. Rivers have inspired poets, authors, artists and lyricists with the vastness of their ceaseless journeying to strange and exotic places or as a simple and familiar path to home.

Rivers are indeed very important things and in the frigid weather of the winter season their importance is hard to ignore. Weeks of subfreezing temperatures have created a solid and impenetrable layer of ice upon the surfaces of most of our ponds and lakes. The few remaining areas of unfrozen lake water are ringed with waterfowl as they sit together on the icy edge passing the cold days together.

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Occasionally one of our eagles will pay a quick visit to one of these deep blue pools to snatch a duck for dinner but most of the action can be found along the flowing waters of our local rivers.

This is the time of year when eagle watching in Dayton is at its best! (But the window is a brief one as Jim and Cindy will be staying in the wellfield in a few weeks, preparing their aerie and conserving energy for the nesting season that is now just one month away.) There is only one pair of nesting Bald Eagles in the city and it is a joy to know exactly where they will be each morning at sunrise. And not just Jim and Cindy either! The 1/2 mile of open water of The Great Miami River between the Mad River and The Stillwater River on the northeast corner of downtown Dayton is an eagle magnet right now! Every morning Jim and Cindy arrive and always follow the same agenda. Step one is the necessary chore of chasing any intruding eagles away. Step two is spending some time with each other and any of their offspring that may be around. Step three is feeding, whether by fishing from the icy water, snatching up a duck or stealing fish from a Great Blue Heron, gull or other successful hunter. Step four is to pose for our cameras. (OK, that is kind of step one for we humans but Jim and Cindy may not see it that way.)

Here are a few images to give you an idea of the chills and thrills of life along The Great Miami River on these frosty mornings.
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I am always amazed and extremely grateful when I remember that from 1938 to 2008 there were no nesting Bald Eagles in Dayton. What a blessing to be an eyewitness to their return after that 70 year absense! If you are nearby, grab your camera and come join us before the window closes. You can stay in your warm car and watch the eagles fly just a hundred feet away at times.

It is moments like these that make The Great Miami River truly “great” as it reclaims its place among the rivers of life.

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Published in: on January 16, 2015 at 9:28 pm  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for another great article! Always look forward to these. I hope Jim and Cindy have a successful breeding season, although I am very disappointed that there will be no cams this year. I had told some of my eagle loving friends about this nest and we were so ready to view and chat among ourselves while viewing.Looking forward to all updates as the new nesting season unfolds! Thanks again!!

  2. How I take for granted the importance of our rivers and lakes!!!! And to think that it was 70 years that eagles were absent from our area and now they remain for us to enjoy!!!! Ray did an awesome job with the pictures, please let him know. Thank you for the update and I will get to Eastwood Lake one of these weekends to see our eagles I promise!!! Thanks Jim for all you do. Polly.

  3. You and me both George. It is gonna be tough not being able to flip on the laptop the first thing in the morning to see how they weathered a storm the previous night. I am hoping that we can work out something for next year. I will keep you posted as best I can.

  4. A river and everything else has its purpose Polly and making me smile seems to be one of yours. I will let Ray know that you liked his pictures. Half of those images were Roger’s work so I will pass your appreciation on to him as well. If you ever make it to Eastwood I hope our paths cross.


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