Thursday, February 26, 2015

Art, Artifice and Nature at Starved Rock State Park

It's been over a year since my last visit, but this was my fourth trip to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. As I've said in previous posts, due to its proximity to Chicago, as well as the spectacular scenery, Starved Rock is one of the busiest parks in the country. It can receive 4 million visitors in a year. In January the two primary draws are eagles and ice.

But what draws me to return so often? You might well ask. The eagles and the ice are no small attraction, I must admit. As regular followers of this blog know, I am also attracted to the contradictions of living with nature in the twenty-first century. The Starved Rock experience is sufficiently paradoxical to inspire return visits. Here is a photo essay. See if you agree.

An eagle nest on an island in the river is visible from the bluff top Starved Rock Trail (with binoculars or a telephoto lens.)

Atop the same bluff a solar panel has been added next to the Starved Rock Trail since my last visit.

The view from Eagle Bluff lives up to its name.

The eagle is also motif number one amongst the collection of woodcarvings that decorate the grounds of Starved Rock Lodge, where I stayed.

Views of frozen waterfalls, ice climbing and spectators:

Views from the trails:

Meanwhile, back at the lodge:

Wildlife in the lobby includes the stuffed bear and ducks along with the live but non-native Japanese koi in the water.

I happened to visit on the weekend of the annual photography contest. This is a selection from the "Adult Landscape" category, including the first place winner. If I had only known, I would have entered in the "Adult Selfie" category. There was only one entry in that category, which was duly awarded first place.

To see more of Starved Rock check out my previous posts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lakeshore State Park in "Bleak Midwinter" -- a photo essay


In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

~ Christina Rossetti

Or maybe not so long ago. I spent an hour or so wandering around Lakeshore State Park recently, in a light snowstorm. Bleak, but exhilarating nonetheless. Some stark, snowy photos:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Last stretch of concrete to be removed from Menomonee River

Preparation is underway for the removal of the last section of concrete channel from the Menomonee River. The project area runs from the Wisconsin Avenue viaduct through Piggsville to Miller Park. The current work being done is to install two diversion pipes along the sides of the existing channel. These pipes are intended to carry the flow of water during demolition and reconstruction.

New sections of pipe are attached at the upstream end of the line (above). After being welded together, the entire pipe must be dragged downstream by this tractor (below), which can pull the 200,000 lb. load.

At the downstream end of the line, just past the I-94 overpass, ice is being removed from the channel.

When completed the concrete channel will be replaced with rock, as was done with the previous stretch, which was done in 2013-2014 (below). To see a previous photo essay of that project, click here.

The purpose of the channel reconstruction is to remove the outdated, ineffective flood control channel, return the river to a more natural state and enable fish to migrate freely. To read more about this project, go to the MMSD website.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

County Grounds: A Wintry Walk

A recent snowstorm enticed me out to the County Grounds. Here is a brief photo essay of the experience.

The approach from Hoyt Park

The highlight of the hike was when I took a break from blowing snow in the shelter of the Swan Blvd. overpass. Serendipitously, as I stood there a snowplow scraped by overhead sending a dramatic cascade of snow over the side of the bridge. I was unprepared to shoot it but I immediately wondered if the plow would turn around and come back over in the other direction. Fortuitously, it did. I caught it (above). I waited a while longer and it came by again! (Below)