Death Of A Stream

A stream in tallgrass prairie is plowed under for a housing development. Jefferson County, Colorado

I visited a prairie stream today and marveled at the vesper sparrows and meadowlarks zooming across the grassland, pausing to sing from a mullein or a sturdy big bluestem. It was already 70 degrees just after sunrise as first light grazed the grassy tops, backlighting salsify blooms with golden light. My two track disappeared in grass well above the running boards, hiding the glacial cobble that made this land unsuitable for the plow when the land was settled. I bounced along a fenceline heading into the rising sun, putting the truck in 4WD for the steady drop to the creek. At a point where the creek was freshly dammed, fresh water pooled below, the scarred hills reflected both green prairie and tracks of giant machines. A lone elk zig-zagged on the staked hillside, seemingly unsure of where to go. Red-winged blackbirds and songbirds still sang next to the praire sunflower by the creek on a piece of ground that hadn’t been bulldozed yet. The workers hadn’t fired up there machines so early on a Monday morning, so the sounds of the prairie and the green grassland community were juxtaposed against disfigured land that will be transformed for thousands of homes. Before leaving, I imagined thousands of bison traveling the stream, Native American hunters lying on their stomachs along the ridge where I stand.

The stream is unnamed on my map and appears to flow from a seep in the foothills. That it is unnamed seems appropriate for its fate.

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