( a self guided nature trail)
Site #1 - RIBBONS OF GREEN
Pipestone Creek appears as a long slender "ribbon-of -green" flanked by agricultural land. These lush strips of vegetation bordering creeks, rivers, lakes and sloughs are "riparian areas".
Here, the riparian area contains mature river bottom hardwood forest. For wildlife, this is an added benefit because it provides thermal cover for mammals in winter, especially white-tailed deer. As you follow this trail, watch for burrows, nests, tracks and other wildlife sign.
Site # 2 - FOREST LAYERING
This forest has four main layers; canopy, under storey, herb layer and ground surface. Each layer plays a different but interrelated role in this ecosystem.
The upper layer or canopy consists of leafy upper branches of tall trees. Beneath this canopy is the under storey, made up of shade-tolerant vegetation.
A layer of herbs, grass, wildflowers and other soft-stemmed plants grows above the ground level. Some of these adapt by flowering early, while sunlight can penetrate before leaves close the canopy. The fourth layer is the forest floor.
Can you spot the vines here? While rooted in the lowest layer, these vines stretch up to reach the sunlight and provide a good example of forest layering.
Site # 3 - CUTBANK
Even along a meandering stream like Pipestone Creek, the river's current is powerful during spring when fueled by meltwater or after heavy summer rains. Fast current tends to erode banks along the outside bends and deposit sediment on inside curves. The results from the constant flow of water washing the bank are seen here.
Tree roots struggle to hold the soil in place, but erosion is taking its toll. Chunks of riverbank eventually slump into the channel and are swept away by the current. Where the stream's velocity slows, silt is deposited creating sandbars.
Site # 4 - The lookout
Pause here and enjoy a scenic view of the creek.
Site # 5 - HOLE HOMES
Many birds and animals make homes that take many shapes and forms in this riparian area. Can you spot a hollow in the trunk of a living maple tree at this site? A hollow trunk provides habitat for animals and cavity-nesting birds.
After strong winds knock limbs from a trunk, a cavity like this one sometimes forms at the injured point. Tufts of fur found at the entrance of this tree cavity provide a clue about an occasional visitor seeking shelter here, likely a red squirrel. A cavity-nesting bird might eventually choose this spot to build a nest.
Site # 6 - FEEL THE DIFFERENCE
Pause here for a moment. Can you feel a slight change in temperature and humidity? We are on the edge of a slight elevation drop and the habitat changes again.
Different trees and plants have different requirements for survival and growth; thus forest composition shifts as you move through areas with different site characteristics. These can vary in many ways including moisture, nutrients, light, temperature, and the soil's type, structure and acidity.
If you look closely at the species growing in each area, you can learn something about their site needs. For example, can they reproduce in the shade, or grow with their roots wet?