Writing on the Wild Side #16 – The Power of Water
By Mike Denny: It is March in the spectacular Walla Walla River Basin and a very vibrant green blanket sprinkled with patches of purple, yellow, white and pink flowers has covered this valley in places. The new wheat is a vivid living green in the late afternoon sun. We have had many grand rain storms which paint amazing pictures of mighty great columns of black and gray clouds edged in dazzling white and platinum rolling across the sky with wispy veils of rain along the edges, with solid walls of rainwater plunging to the green rolling hills below. Behind these late afternoon storms can be seen through the clear walls of rain the sun drenched landscape in back of these fleeting storms. One can see the bright greens and browns of the recently watered land.
Recently, I went exploring along with eighteen friends into the sun filled morning in search of what the new season has brought to this normally arid area. We found a very green blanket growing right across the length of the valley from College Place to beyond Touchet. Rows of very green alfalfa plants hosting large mixed flocks of California and Ring-billed Gulls searching for newly emerging insects in the lines of new growth. There were flocks of American Robins moving from field to field. After a couple of hours out exploring the large alfalfa fields we were overtaken by a cover of gray clouds and soon a constant rain. On we went into this greatly appreciated rain storm looking for Long-billed Curlews. Finding none we started searching for the other targets of our trip of discovery; wild flowers. Out on Hatch Grade we located Desert Shooting Stars, Prairie Stars and several Yellow Bells, a true wild lily. On into Wallula Gap we located Sagebrush Buttercups, more Desert Shooting Stars and blooming Biscuit Root. The rain kept coming; soon there were puddles of cool rainwater everywhere. Passing the Alpaca Wool farm and on back into Touchet we headed east on Highway 12 to Walla Walla under a great split in the clouds that showed a sapphire blue sky with a massive black rain storm washing in over the valley from the northwest. Wonderful; more rain and water for summer.
These storms are a photographers dream from high up along Jasper Mountain Road or Lewis Peak Road looking down into the Walla Walla River Valley ahead of one of these advancing storms just at sundown.
For an area that seldom has puddles of water standing anywhere, this was a real treat. Many times we fail to stop and remember the power of water. The life it encourages and sustains. The diversity of wild plants that maintain large numbers of pollinators and birds. The many animals that add so greatly to our lives and allow us to keep living in this wonderful valley. Water is the most important natural resource that we all must consider and think about. Here in the Walla Walla River Basin this powerful natural resource is what allows this spectacular valley to remain so unique and special. It is what keeps this place a visitor’s magnet-the fact that as the name Walla Walla implies “a place of many waters” provides all sustainable life a place under the sun.
Come see for yourself what these great March rain storms create and all the beauty and cold clear water that keeps this valley as a place to care for and protect. Come enjoy this early spring season and yes, even enjoy the cool rain as you keep in mind that it’s what brings life to this warm and sunny region. Spring into March by exploring this very special valley and remember to think about the magic of water and all it brings to your life.
Remember that the Walla Walla Valley must be seen to be believed.