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Opal Creek Cascades (Willamette National Forest, Oregon)


Opal Creek Cascades -- Photo  Chris Carvalho/Lensjoy.com



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Opal Creek, located in the Cascade Range about an hour's drive east of Salem, is a beautiful wilderness with a stormy past.  A remnant of ancient rainforest, It was the scene of many protests against plans to log the area.  In this pristine valley grow trees that are over a thousand years old.  When visiting the area, the weather in Portland is no indication of what I'll find.  It can be a sunny day when I leave home but Opal Creek is the scene of a drenching rain.  That rain creates the crystal clear flow of the Little North Santiam River seen in this picture.  The deep green of the water is something I remember from every visit.  

On the trip when I took this picture I camped in the area for three days.  The rain stopped briefly and allowed some sun through the clouds to delicately light the river for this photo.  Other times I was soaked to the skin but it somehow made me feel a part of the rich green surroundings.  

The rainy climate has made Oregon famous, but deforestation across the state and much of the western U.S. is changing that.  Recent years have been dry, and the summer of 2002 saw some of the worst wildfires in history across the region.  In the relatively few years satellite technology has been photographing the forests there has been significant loss of trees, measured with digital accuracy.  We are now discovering that trees play a valuable role in capturing moisture from the air and in moving water from the earth into the atmosphere.  In healthy forests like those at Opal Creek, there is much more rainfall than in areas where the trees have been removed.  According to E.C. Pielou in her book Fresh Water (page 69), a hectare of Douglas Fir forest (2.5 acres) moves 50 tons of water into the air on a summer day.  Recent efforts to thin forests to reduce fire danger may in fact have the opposite effect as they remove trees that are helping pump water into the air.  Increased drought and more fires may result, further damaging the forest in an ever-worsening drought cycle that is already threatening the livelihood of farmers and fishermen.  While forest thinning may be a valuable tool for fire reduction, it must be balanced by planting trees in other areas to prevent drought.  To learn more about the effects of deforestation and what you can do about it, see the References page.  

The photograph above is richly detailed.  I was surprised to find that individual pine needles are visible on the rocks, as well as water droplets on the plants growing near the cascades.  For another picture of this precious wilderness, see Fountain of Life.  


Info:  Chromira digital print of Provia 100F 4x5 chrome, Fuji Crystal Archive CD paper

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