Since I live on a river without a township, I’ll just talk about this river system that continually fascinates me, and my community of friends.
A Sense of Place
Our shorelines are owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority which has strict policies about waterfront development. Recently, TVA announced they would no longer sell any more waterfront to developers. We are relieved. I admit that’s selfish of me but when you experience this sort of beauty you really hate to see surrounding areas gobbled up, leveled and built upon, which would change the very reason we moved here in the first place.
Our home and various boats - as you can see, our bank needs work and is my next project.
This river system is an important watershed as well as being a primary transport system for all manner of commerce. Wheeler Lake is 2 miles wide, and the river channel is on the other side of the lake from our house. Barges lumber through the channel daily, the rhythm of their engines is a constant companion. Occasionally unmarked container ships slip by, their cargo and destinations a mystery. The usual suspects dot the lake in abundance – cruisers, sailboats, fishing boats and those annoying jet skis. Every spring and fall we watch “The Loopers” travel by in their yachts and trawlers, moving their large boats south for the winter or north for the summer. Occasionally, the unusual will happen by like the Mississippi and Delta Queen paddleboats, and the replica of The Nina has sailed by twice. Those are sights that stay with you forever and add to the magic of this place.
This river system is on a migratory path for birds and butterflies. This is where I gained my passion for photographing them as it is very challenging. Bear with me – here I go again but I can’t resist my butterflies and birds.
(Clockwise, from top left: Spicebush, Tiger Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail (dark form), Gulf Fritillary, Red Admiral, Zebra Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Monarch, Buckeye - all copyrighted by moi)
(Clockwise from left: Red Breasted Mergansers, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Bluebird, Nuthatch, Chickadee, Red Tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Pine Warbler, Great Blue Heron, Cowbird, Cardinal, Downey Woodpecker, Common Loon, Mockingbird - all copyright by me except the Bald Eagle, copyright by Carroll Adams)
Gardening here is a challenge because the earth is mostly red clay and a crumby rock called “chert.” This sticky red soil is high in nutrients and herbs and native plants love it. The challenge is to convince people to garden with what WORKS in this riverside environment and leave the exotic cultivars for the botanical gardens and those who don’t mind working twice as hard to keep the cultivars going in this hot and incredibly windy environment. The winds can be fierce coming off the lake, making it look like the ocean with 4-5 foot swells.
(Clockwise from left: Virginia Sweetspires/Spring, Native Azalea, Pitcher Plant, Pinxterbloom Azalea, Red Buckeye, Shooting Stars, Virginia Sweetspire/Autumn, Crepe Myrtle, Flame Azalea, Doublefile Viburnum, Sweetshrub)
My friend Carroll and I, both Master Gardeners, have started a neighborhood volunteer organization called the Bay Hill Conservancy. Our focus is to educate our neighbors about this unique environment as well as sharing conservation tutorials which including speakers from various fields, because we all do live on an important watershed. We encourage using native plants and xeriscaping to preserve water. Most people snicker at us, but we’re beginning to gain attention! (I hope it's all good attention...)
So that’s it. No town per se, but a dynamic waterside community filled with great people, boats, wildlife, birds, butterflies, plants and all manner of nature. That all folks….