Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘dunes

Flowing water adjacent to the Great Sand Dunes

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I don’t know about you, but when I think of water and sand dunes together I think about dunes on the seacoast. When I visited Te Paki in New Zealand in February, I was surprised to find a stream separating the parking lot from the dunes. The same thing is true in Great Sand Dunes National Park, where people who want to walk to the dunes from the parking lots have to cross Medano Creek (médano is a Spanish word for ‘dune’). What’s strange about Medano Creek is that it pulses. The phenomenon is known as surge flow, and here’s what the website of Great Sand Dunes National Park says about it:

This is one of the few places in the world where one can experience surge flow, a stream flowing in rhythmic waves on sand. Three elements are needed to produce the phenomenon: a relatively steep gradient to give the stream a high velocity; a smooth, mobile creekbed with little resistance; and sufficient water to create surges. In spring and early summer, these elements combine to make waves at Great Sand Dunes. As water flows across sand, sand dams or antidunes form on the creekbed, gathering water. When the water pressure is too great, the dams break, sending down a wave about every 20 seconds. In wet years, waves can surge up to a foot high!

I noticed the phenomenon when I went to take pictures of sand patterns in Medano Creek. No sooner would I compose and take a few photographs, than a “wave” of water would flow downstream and obscure my subject. The picture above shows the shallow regular flow of Medano Creek; the picture below shows a moment of surge flow.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2017 at 4:48 AM

Great Sand Dunes

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Great Sand Dunes was the third of the four national parks we visited on our recent trip. At 720 feet, these are the tallest sand dunes in North America. In addition to that, they sit at an altitude of about a mile and a half, so when we were there on June 8th we took pity on our poor lungs and decided not to trudge up these mountains of sand (unlike the Te Paki Dunes that are just above sea level and that we’d climbed in February).

The dunes are so high that when you’re close you can’t see the mountains beyond them. The picture below gives you a broader view, made more dramatic through the use of a polarizer to add extra definition to the clouds and greater contrast in the sky.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2017 at 5:00 AM

New Zealand: Te Paki

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On February 12th we saw but couldn’t get to some large sand dunes on the opposite side of an estuary from the highway we were on. Two days later on our way to the northern end of the North Island we made a point of visiting the Te Paki Dunes, which with some effort we climbed. Shown here is the most interestingly wind-sculpted section of sand I saw.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2017 at 5:02 AM

Pale orange sand dunes in El Paso

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Speaking of dunes, as I have the last couple of times, I hadn’t known there are pale orange sand dunes on the east side of El Paso (Texas). There are. They made for a pleasant surprise along US 62 on the morning of November 9th last year, when dramatic clouds added to my appreciation.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 1, 2017 at 5:00 AM

New Zealand: flax

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Along with ferns, the other practically ubiquitous type of native plant one sees in New Zealand is flax. At least that’s what the British called it after they arrived and found the Māori using the fibers of the plant to make cloth, just as the Europeans used flax to make linen. The Māori call these members of the lily family harakeke, the most common species of which is Phormium tenax.

On February 12, after driving a few minutes west from the site where I took the picture of sand dunes that you saw last time (and you can still see them in the background this time), I came to the Arai-Te-Uru Recreation Reserve, where I was able to portray these New Zealand flax plants in the stage after they’ve produced and shed seeds.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2017 at 4:48 AM

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park landscape with clouds

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Southern Utah; October 23, 2016.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2017 at 4:50 AM

A rare milkweed

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At Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in southern Utah on October 23, 2016, I encountered the rare Welsh’s milkweed, Asclepias welshii.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2017 at 5:02 AM

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