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About Fred Paillet

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So far Fred Paillet has created 14 blog entries.
13 09, 2021

Henry Shreve’s Great Dam Removal Experiment of 1831

By |2021-09-13T15:33:53-05:00September 13th, 2021|Categories: Fall 2021, Pack & Paddle|Tags: |

Removal of obsolete dams to restore watersheds to their natural working conditions is a major topic these days in environmental news. Many of us think of such dams as local perturbations on a stream that act as sediment traps and impediments to the natural migration of aquatic life. Fine-grained silt particles in the sediment collecting behind the dam retain a potentially dangerous reservoir for fertilizer and pesticide chemicals washing in from fields and residences. But the situation is much more complicated than that because the function of streams as sediment transport systems depends on a delicate equilibrium that extends over the entire length of the watershed. You can see how this works by recognizing that the force moving sediment is given by the slope of the streambed. If a location has more force available than needed, the extra force will allow the water to eat away at the banks to create meander bends. This, in turn, effectively lengthens the channel to reduce the slope. If there is not enough slope to move the sediment, then gravel-bar deposits will build up producing a braided streambed with an increased slope and an increased sediment load capacity. Of course, the process is a [...]

7 06, 2021

Geological Wonders of the Ozarks in Southeastern Missouri

By |2021-06-30T15:39:58-05:00June 7th, 2021|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Summer 2021|

When we think of geologic wonders in the Ozarks, they are most often associated with karst features like springs and caverns, lofty crags along bluff lines, and the historic legacy of lead-zinc mining. However, geoscientists also marvel over the one truly extensive midwestern exposure of the ancient (we are talking billions of years) exposure of the underlying crystalline “basement” rocks one normally associates with the glacially scoured Canadian Shield. Compare the ages of these rocks that predate the existence of anything more complex than simple bacteria with the “mere” 300-million-year age of the rocks that line the Springfield Plateau. The extensive area of these ancient rocks comprise the St Francois Mountains of southeastern Missouri celebrated by exhibits you can see in several state parks. Two of these are of special interest for geologically minded visitors: Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut-Ins. Nearby you can visit a Civil War battle site overlooked by the ancient rocks of Pilot Knob and the igneous rock glades surrounding the highest point in Missouri. Elephant Rocks State Park contains a pink granite dome that exhibits the classic form of exfoliation where convex layers of rock separate from the central core as the weight of overlying rock [...]

9 03, 2021

Enhancing your Ozark Experience with a Nature Journal

By |2021-03-09T14:29:37-06:00March 9th, 2021|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Spring 2021|Tags: |

For many of us the time we spend in the outdoors amounts to the best part of our busy lives. That has prompted me to invent ways to make those times remain with me as long as possible. One way to do that is by keeping a natural history journal. It could start with the very practical aspects of a small notebook with recorded dates such as the time when a favorite wildflower can be found in bloom in some secluded ravine, or the best date to see migrating raptors at your favorite mountain overlook. It is always useful to have such information available for future reference. My interest in nature journals started early during my days in New England where I enjoyed John Hay’s poetic calendar of the arrival of spring on Cape Cod (The Run). Then on to Thoreau’s famous journal while on sabbatical and exploring the woods around my rented home in areas adjacent to Walden Pond. I soon had my own personal copies of the Lewis and Clark journals while living in Montana, and then the Ozark and Ouachita journals of Schoolcraft and Nuttall after arriving in Arkansas. All of these serve as useful examples of [...]

7 12, 2020

The Mystery of the Ozark Oak Leaf Gall

By |2020-12-07T12:34:24-06:00December 7th, 2020|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Winter 2020|Tags: |

You see them in the leaf litter in late summer on hikes in our oak and hickory woodlands. They look like tan golf balls, complete with the stippled surface texture that helps golf balls fly a little farther than they would with a smooth surface. But these balls are light as a feather, with parchment thin skin and an array of cobweb like strings for an inner texture. Ozark hikers often wonder what sort of fruit these are and where they came from. It turns out these are but one of many different varieties of leaf gall created by insects as part of their life cycle. There are lots of different structures developing out of oak leaves when their growth process is hijacked by insect pests for their own purposes. More than 800 insect species create galls on oak twigs, and over 700 of them are wasps. These particular galls are so perfectly symmetrical that many observers figure they must be some kind of exotic fruit and not just a deformed oak leaf. Some leaf galls are not nearly as noticeable as the papery balls described here. In the case of the round “golf ball” structures in question we have [...]

26 08, 2020

Some Interesting and Confusing Ozark Vines

By |2020-11-12T15:01:23-06:00August 26th, 2020|Categories: Fall 2020, Pack & Paddle|

Some vines are a familiar part of the Ozark outdoors. We easily recognize grape vines and constantly worry about poison ivy. The latter makes us aware that Virginia creeper vines grow in the same environment as poison ivy and we know that three leaflets are bad while five are good (or at least harmless). The other vine we all know and often curse is the family of species known collectively as greenbrier. Greenbrier is common almost everywhere, entwining shrubs and encroaching on trails. The stems are thin but tough enough to trip a horse and are studded with spines that tear both flesh and clothing. Greenbrier is even a concern for gardeners, because birds spread the little blue-black berries far and wide, and once greenbrier seedlings are established in your flower beds, they are nearly impossible to extinguish. So, grapes are at least innocuous even if their fruit is either too sour or too seedy to bother with. Their vines keep mostly above our heads and their stems never carry any vicious spines. Two other common vines often escape notice because they look so much like the others we find so familiar. One of these is the rattan vine aka [...]

8 06, 2020

Pawpaw – The Tropical Fruit that Escaped to the Ozarks

By |2020-06-08T14:53:51-05:00June 8th, 2020|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Summer 2020|Tags: |

Many hikers in the Ozarks are puzzled to see extensive thickets of a kind of shrub with big oblong and vibrantly green leaves that look like they could be found along some tropical jungle trail. This is the pawpaw, a small fruiting tree that was once a useful food resource for Ozark and Appalachian settlers as related by Andrew Moore in his book Pawpaw. I concur with Moore’s observation that pawpaw fruit are not very common in our forests today and wonder how pawpaw could have been a significant part of rural folks’ diet in years gone by. But there are some back-to-the-land types who manage to forage for pawpaw fruit to sell at local farmers markets in Ohio and West Virginia. Part of the story may relate to differences in forest conditions or land use, and how those conditions affect pawpaw pollination. The tree blooms in early April with nickel-sized maroon flowers that attract flies rather than bees. The flower bears a fetid odor that would attract flies while the color resembles that of decaying flesh. Because extensive thickets of pawpaw develop by underground runners, they are essentially giant clones. Pawpaw flowers do not self-pollenate very well and pollen [...]

9 03, 2020

Experiencing a Virgin Forest in Arkansas at the Society Fall Meeting

By |2020-03-09T13:15:23-05:00March 9th, 2020|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Spring 2020|Tags: |

The mention of virgin Arkansas forest conjures up images of massive ranks of white oak columns or soaring canopies of stately shortleaf pine, but ecologists have found virgin forest hiding in plain sight all across America. These are modest forest plots that have remained uncut and undisturbed because they inhabit rough and non-arable land covered by crooked and unmerchantable trees. A decade ago Harvard researchers made news when they documented virgin forest adjacent to the Wachusett Mountain ski area within the metropolitan Boston area. More recently, the UARK tree ring lab showed that virgin chinquapin oak and post oak stands were growing on Mt. Kessler within Fayetteville city limits. Crooked and storm-battered trees there were as much as 300 years old. That was one factor that prompted the city’s purchase of the Mt. Kessler property to preserve it for future outdoor recreation. Ozark Society members recently had the opportunity to experience another Arkansas area of virgin forest – and one that covers a much more extensive area than the limited stand of oaks on Mt. Kessler. This was during our Society fall meeting in November at Queen Wilhelmina State Park lodge, where some of us hiked a five-mile section of [...]

12 12, 2019

In Celebration of the Farkleberry: Our Wild Ozark Blueberry

By |2020-01-21T18:04:58-06:00December 12th, 2019|Categories: News & Updates, Winter 2019|

Before there was Saturday Night Live there were the Farkleberry Follies. Founded in 1967, this performance convened every other year was a time when a collection of Arkansas journalists conducted skits to spoof state politics in general, and Governor Orval Faubus in particular. In a recent editorial, Rex Nelson reported that the main objective of the show was to “skewer the inflated egos of the political class.” The show got its name from an editorial by local cartoonist George Fisher who poked fun at the governor over a folksy meeting where Faubus had lectured a brush-clearing highway crew about the native species of shrubs in our region. One of the most obscure of these was the tree blueberry or farkleberry (Vaccinium arboretum) with its amusing name. There is a direct Ozark Society connection here because the family of current Ozark Society President, David Peterson, received one of the prized farkleberry awards bestowed from the hands of Dale Bumpers some 30 years ago on behalf of a folk music group founded by Fisher in Pulaski County. The shrub itself is especially common in the Ozarks and Ouachitas where it is found growing on the edges of cliffs and around rock ledges. [...]

3 06, 2019

What Will Global Warming Look Like in the Ozarks?

By |2019-07-23T14:16:39-05:00June 3rd, 2019|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Summer 2019|

Global change will affect the Buffalo River and the surrounding ecosystem along with the rest of the world, but do we have to worry about that in our lifetime? The experts are quoting a temperature increase of a few degrees. How big a deal could that be? After all, we see daily temperature changes of several tens of degrees. Maybe we would hardly notice a degree or two difference. Can we even expect to recognize that difference against the background of daily fluctuations? On the other hand, we know that greenhouse gasses have a major effect on how the planet absorbs heat, and that there has been a 40% increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That sounds like a big change. Are we going to see a real impact on the Buffalo River in the coming decade? Let’s start with a couple of firmly established facts. First, it is obvious that the globe heats mostly at the equator and that the heat then moves down the temperature gradient towards the poles. That heat transfer occurs by turbulent mixing - a fancy way of saying that heat exchange occurs in the form of exchanging parcels of warm and cold air. [...]

6 03, 2019

Chert – One of the Most Common Ozark Minerals

By |2019-06-03T12:08:48-05:00March 6th, 2019|Categories: Pack & Paddle, Spring 2019|

As an outdoor enthusiast relocated to northwest Arkansas more than a decade ago, the observation of abundant chert was one of my very first Ozark impressions.  And it was not necessarily pleasant.  The chert attracted my attention in the form of baseball-sized angular rocks hidden in the deep leaf litter of Ozark National Forest hiking trails.  These potentially ankle-twisting nuisances came as a real surprise and forced me to pay far too much attention to my footing when I would rather have been enjoying pleasant fall scenery.  Almost at the same time I began to notice sections of trail constructed into the sides of hills that seemed to have been deliberately paved with gray gravel composed of similar angular rock fragments.  By now all of this is a familiar part of my local hiking experiences.  But what exactly is chert, and where did all the chert in the Ozarks come from?Chert is a glass-like form of rock composed of tiny quartz (silicon oxide) crystals verging on a true glass where molten rock cooled so quickly as to be left with no crystal structure at all.  Trace minerals mixed in with the silica give the various forms of chert their color.  Common [...]