A Day in the Life of the
Hudson River (October 4th, 2012)
On October 4th, students from schools from many locations descended on the Hudson River to do scientific studies and collect data. My class is now the first from Red Hook Central Schools ever to take part in this event, and it was fantastic! After several weeks of preparation, we went to Sojourner Truth Ulster Landing Park in Ulster County on a foggy, drizzly morning to begin our activities. First, we did our Erosion Walk to three bridges which cross a tributary at three different locations on its way to the Hudson River. The tributary is gentle and slow at first, but picks up speed as is begins to drop into a dramatic gorge and the tremendous power of water becomes evident. The final bridge is at the base of a waterfall which is at the high tide level of the Hudson. On the other side of the bridge, one can see the thousands of tons of sediment which have been dumped at the mouth of the creek which extends well out into the river at low tide, creating a natural sand beach.
We then began our river observations with the weather conditions, air and river water temperatures, and water surface conditions. We placed a tide stick in the river and took an initial reading and then took a final reading two hours later. The tide rose 6 inches during that time. We determined the speed of the current by throwing oranges in the water and observing how far they travelled in three minutes. We used a sight tube to determine the turbidity level in the water, and discussed the many variables that effect turbidity. We also took two mud core samples to study the composition of river mud below the low tide line. We examined one core sample more closely back at the classroom. The expected highlight was to be the seine netting of fish, but our net was only effective at catching leaves and a waterlogged stick! Fortunately, a group from Kingston High School had a bigger, better seine net and were much more successful, so we were able to see their fish and try to identify them. The most unusual fish caught was a small hogchoker about an inch and a half long. These fish resemble flounders in that both eyes are on the same side of the body and they swim on their sides rather than in a vertical orientation typical of most fish. Also caught were killifish, bay anchovies, white perch, and a juvenile striped bass.
While we were there, several boats passed by, and we recorded these on our data forms as well. The most dramatic was a large cruise liner that signalled its presence with a foghorn before we saw it emerge from the fog. A tugboat pushing a load of crude oil came up river and it turns out that the tugboat captain was the uncle of one of my students! Canada geese honked as they came in to land in front of us and then made their way over to the sand outwash from the tributary to rest and feed. Later, my class wrote journal entries about the field trip and one noted that the part she disliked was when we had to leave! This field trip enhances and supplements many different curriculum areas, including science, social studies, language arts, and math.
Ulster Landing Park is one of my favorite Hudson River parks because of the natural sand beaches that can be walked at low tide, the waterfalls and gorge, and the hiking trails that extend up to Turkey Point, a former Coast Guard station and now a Hudson River Watertrail site where people who are kayaking or canoeing can stop and camp overnight. This park is particularly interesting in winter when the waterfalls freeze and ice forms along the shoreline and beach in a wide variety of amazing and fantastic forms. This park is directly across the river from Barrytown.