Sunday, February 17, 2013


Wildlife is difficult to find on these really cold days at this time of year.  I happened to be at the Rankin and Leadvale boat docks today and I thought I'd photograph whatever caught my attention.  I was curious what the pictures would look like when I downloaded them in the computer later.  It was an interesting exercise.  As it turned out, I discovered an area at the Rankin flood plain I didn't know existed and the late afternoon turned out to be a historical visit to a beautiful wild spot.

The Rankin area I speak of all the time is a very rustic environment.  The river and associated flood plain lay in a really beautiful valley that is sparsely populated by humans.  This section of the river is the last vestige of wild habitat on the French Broad River section of Douglas Reservoir.  This is the area where all the wading birds, and more, of East Tennessee congregate in the Fall and Spring as they disburse on their migration routes or return from them.  They stop here as they come and go because this flood plain is situated directly under their aviary flyways.  It's a remarkable habitat and I consider it a treasure not found elsewhere.
Many old, rustic buildings dot the countryside.  I passed up shots of a few really nice ones because modern houses spoiled the pictures.  Its interesting how an old dilapidated, ancient wooden building can outclass a modern home.  I guess it has a lot to do with the word character.

There was a group of fishermen standing on the opposite side of the river and I couldn't understand how to get over there.  I drove until I found the Wildlife Management Area that TWRA operates and turned in.  The old dirt road seemed to go in that direction.  This road passed right by the flood plain that I roamed around on and photographed coyotes last summer.  All of a sudden I got my bearings and knew exactly where I was.  The flood plain was impressive.  I've never seen it from this side of the river.  It was beautiful.
Just look at that flat land!  What an amazing habitat!  That entire area will be covered by water late March when Douglas Dam is refilled, backing up the river. That tiny rivulet you see will eventually be swelled to river size.  The depth will probably range from one to three feet all the way across until the river is reached.  
Turning to the left and looking back toward the river - the tiny channel of water widens and eventually flows into the French Broad River.  It's almost unbelievable that all this will be under water by March's end.
Shade was in her glory.  She had level land with grass on it to romp in.  She was having the time of her life.  Her face showed her elation.  I laughed and laughed at her continual running.  It was if she couldn't get to all the places she needed to check out fast enough.  I wasn't sure she would come to me when called.  But, all I had to say was, "Shade - get in the truck," and she instantly turned and returned to the open truck door and jumped in.  She's such a sweet, sweet girl.  I'm really glad I brought her.

I have been noticing this old tower for two years now and never knew how to get to it.  It is an old coal tipple that serviced the early train locomotives of the twenties.  The road I'm driving on used to be the railroad.  It went directly under the coal tipple.

Tracks used to go right under that coal tower.  The engines would stop and align themselves beneath it and fine coal would be released into the locomotive's coal storage bins, later to be shoveled into the engine's burner.

Note the date on the coal tipple and the information on the bullet riddled seal above it.  This is a relic from yesterday and in my mind should be preserved as a landmark, reflective of a historic past.  But, instead it will stand here until it falls down someday and be forgotten.  The new bridge below bypasses this area altogether and there is no longer any interest in this old historic structure.
I've got to mention something right here while the proof is before you.  Hunters constantly gripe and complain about the lessening and lack of property to hunt on.  No Hunting and No Trespassing signs are posted on practically every farmer's property and they wonder why.  Look at this beautiful old building.  Those are bullet holes.  There are bullet holes everywhere I look.  Hunters, who call themselves sportsmen, can't seem to resist shooting ----- stuff.  Well, let me say in their defense that these bullet holes could have been caused by unruly gangs of crazy kids with rifles and pistols just out shooting things.  But, I doubt it.  It's a disgrace to "sportsmen" to have members of their lot perpetrate these indecent actions.  Hell - I wouldn't want any of them on my property either.
Look at the bullet holes in the little building that sits beside the tipple.
And, hunters and "sportsmen" are looking for more land to hunt on and more game to hunt.  Wonder why they're having such a difficult time finding either.  And no, I'm not anti hunting.  Not saying that.  But, they really make it difficult to sympathize with their issues at times.
The bridge in the above shot marks the new route the railroad took that made this old coal tipple obsolete.  The Leadvale boat ramp is over there at the end of that bridge and the highway is behind it.  The shot below is of a bridge pier that supported the original railroad bridge that carried the trains of the past after they loaded up with coal from this old tipple.

 This flood plain is unbelievably gorgeous!
It's going to be really great to come here in the Spring to meet all the countess variety of birds as they return from migration.
 That gray stripe crossing the flood plain above and below is a road that is normally submerged.  It will disappear when the water comes back up in March.
 Wouldn't ya believe it - there has to be human intrusion where humans aren't supposed to be.  Again - why are hunters running out of places to hunt on.  See the sign below.  This guy can't be satisfied driving where I am - where your supposed to drive.  He just has to be out there where he can be seen by the land owner and piss him off.  And he will wonder why he isn't permitted to hunt here when he asks for permission from the property owner.
They even destroy the land owner's signs.  Amazing!
We drove past the French Broad River on the way out of the flood plain.  The water is really swift.  I guess I won't take the canoe up there tomorrow.
That's it for this entry.  I didn't expect to post anything tonight.  Just goes to show ya never can tell.  Tomorrow is canoe day on Chilhowee Lake.  See you then.  Thanks.