Mapping Our Watershed: Field Notes from Rock Lane

Today I did my second field visit for Mapping Our Watershed, this time to a section of Tookany Creek that parallels Rock Lane, which runs between Elkins Park and Wyncote in Cheltenham Township. The eastern part of this section of creek is bordered by houses and a Township park; residents worked with one of my project partners Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership to plant a riparian buffer in the park, however the creek in this section is completely channelized–it literally runs through a concrete trough. This is the section that, according to flood risk maps, floods more than the western part of the creek, which is largely left to run its course.

This section of the creek is really beautiful, and feels almost wild. The first thing I noticed were the rocks–schist and gneiss, both banded, layered metamorphic rock common in this area. I was amazed by the variety of color and shapes of rocks on the creek bed. And as I have learned more about assessing watershed health, layered clusters of rocks and pebbles with very little sediment around them create “niche space,” or places for water creatures to hang out. The map piece I create based on this section of creek will include the forms and patterns of these rocks. 

The other thing I noticed was the trash. This section of the creek doesn’t have paths leading down to it, so the debris must have washed into the creekbed from elsewhere. The primary material: plastic bags. I am proud to have been part of the push to get Cheltenham Township to adopt a plastic bag ban, which goes into effect next year. Not a moment too soon–we need to keep plastic out of our waterways. 

The banks of the creek also were full of red, clay-rich soil. I am excited to work with this material (and will be posting soon about my experiments with foraged clay). 

This week, I’ll be preparing for the project’s first community workshop, which will be held at Ralph Morgan Park in Wyncote. We’ll learn about how to assess watershed health and capture the beauty of water in photographs–you can still sign up for this FREE workshop here



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