St Louis River Estuary: The stories and the science

Stryking Differences

Stryking Differences – A GeoQuest on the St. Louis River Estuary

Follow the Western Waterfront Trail around the rich emergent wetlands of Kingsbury Bay and across a peninsula to the recently restored and dramatically different Stryker Bay. This tour makes several stops to compare a well-developed estuarine wetland with a restored Superfund site. Make some field observations and take some measurements to see the dramatic effects that humans can have on the landscape.

This GeoQuest combines geocaching – the sport of finding hidden caches using a GPS (Global Positioning System), with science-based field observations and measurements. Your goal is to have fun while learning new things. The tour is a multi-cache, with several stops along the trail. At each stop you will see something new, make an observation or take a photo, and of course, try to find the coordinates for the next stop. So turn on your GPS and star­­t searching!

Your Location

Western Waterfront Trail
Location Map, Parking Info

Stage 1 – Get your bearings!

Your Location

Coordinates: N 46 43.329 W 92 11.212

Look Around

You have arrived at an entry point to the Western Waterfront Trail.

Find the Cache

What to Find: A ‘micro’ container, somewhat smaller than a film canister.
What’s Inside: We’re starting off small, the coordinates to the next site.
It may be high,
It may be low,
It will show you the way to go!

Stage 2 – Kingsbury Creek Crossing

Your Location

Coordinates: Coordinates were in the cache at Stage 2

Look Around

You should be at a steel bridge. The Western Waterfront Trail has a number of steel bridges – this one crosses Kingsbury Creek, which originates just north of the railroad town of Proctor, makes a steep descent along highway 2, flows through the Lake Superior Zoo, where UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute has an in-stream water quality sensor, and finally empties into the St. Louis River Estuary at this point.

Find the Cache

What to Find: This one should be easy to locate, it's an ammo can.
What’s Inside: Tools for your first activity. Coordinates in the cache to find your next stop.

Activities

Measurement 1 – Stream stage
Kingsbury is a “flashy” stream – a 1 inch rain will take it from a trickle to a roaring river. Let’s measure its depth – the safe way. Use the tape measure to measure the height from the surface of the stream to the top of the bridge. The EASY way to do this is to stand on the bridge and find the THIRD VERTICAL POST FROM THE LEFT ON THE UPSTREAM SIDE. From this point, lower the weight until it touches the surface of the stream, and read the height at the TOP OF THE BRIDGE rail. Record the height here and in the cache’s log book.

[it would be great to have some kind of interactive graph/form… maybe a html5 plot of the hydrograph here that would drop the currently measured point on the hydrograph AND submit the data]

Jane – take a look at this new graph Norm has created – it shows the historic range based on our real time sensor, along with a line showing the current condition.
http://www.lakesuperiorstreams.org/streams/NNC/plots/bySite/index.html
Could you bring in the Flow graph for Kingsbury here, and the Temperature graph below? That doesn’t quite allow data input, but it would be a good ‘live’ thing to have on the web page.

Measurement 2 – Stream temperature
Kingsbury Creek is a designated trout stream, and has been stocked with brook trout for many years. Trout, of course, are sensitive to temperature and prefer coldwater streams, but parking lots, pavement and other kinds of development can cause streams to become warmer. For this reason, we have been monitoring the temperature of Kingsbury Creek for many years. Use the thermometer in the cache to measure the stream temperature to add to our long term record! FIND A SAFE SPOT ON THE STREAM BANK and immerse the thermometer 1-2 inches into the water. Take a reading after 10-15 seconds and record the temperature here and in the log book – thank you!
[it would be great to have some kind of interactive graph/form… maybe a html5 plot of the stream temp that would drop the currently measured point on a temp plot AND submit the data]

Measurement 3 – Take a photo!
Standing on the bridge over post #3, use your phone’s camera (you do have a phone with a camera, don’t you?) take a snapshot upstream and downstream. The sequence of photos from you and other geocachers will show us the changes of Kingsbury Creek over the seasons. Email your photos to SnyderGokee@gmail.com
[what if we could have a very specific photo/camera-location spot set up. THEN we could create a quick running slide/show/video (ala the Johnny Cash project) of all of the pictures sorted by date. Maybe just pick one, either upstream or downstream. Could there be mutiple pathways for submission? Twitter? Text message?]

Bonus – scan the QR code in the cache with your smartphone for more info on Kingsbury Creek.
Please return all items to the cache and hide it well!

Stage 3 – Kingsbury Bay View

Your Location

Coordinates: Coordinates were in the cache at Stage 2

Look Around

This nice little hill provides a first view of Kingsbury Bay – what do you notice about it?

Find the Cache

What to Find:
What’s Inside: a camera and the coordinates to the next stage

Activities

Snap a photo of the bay and continue on!
[what if we could have a very specific photo/camera-location spot set up. THEN we could create a quick running slide/show/video (ala the Johnny Cash project) of all of the pictures sorted by date. ]
Yes, a photo-quest is a good idea

Stage 4 – Up Close and Personal – getting to know wetlands

Your Location

Coordinates: Coordinates were in the cache at Stage 3

Find the Cache

Just past the bridge is the next cache site.
What to Find: It is a cammo’d Altoids tin. Altoids tins are popular cache containers, even though they rust and are not particularly waterproof. You’ll see a lot of these.
What’s Inside: Coordinates in the cache to find your next stop.

Look Around

Between here and the next cache, you will come across a small bridge. This little bridge crosses a swale filled with typical wetland plants. Depending on the time of year, this is a good place to learn to identify plants.

Activities

Can you find:

  • Cattails (Typha spp)
  • Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
  • Common Lake Sedge (Carex lacustris)
  • Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Purple Loosestrife is a wetland invasive!

It takes over sites, displaces the natural vegetation, and offers little in the way of good habitat. It is quite common in the estuary, but there has been some control of the plant through the release of loosestrife beetles.
Can you recognize it in its winter plumage?

Stage 5 – Dangerous Curve

Your Location

Coordinates: Coordinates were in the cache at Stage 4

Look Around

You have walked out of the woods, the trail passes below 4-5 nice homes on the hilltop. You have seen where the Kingsbury Bay wetland meets the open water. From this view, a lot of birds might be visible here. New plants include water lily, arrowhead, and bulrushes. Also, submerged aquatic vegetation may be visible here.

Find the Cache

Find the cache to pick up the coordinates for the final stage

Stage 6 – Stryker Bay

Your Location

Coordinates: Coordinates were in the cache at Stage 5. Much of this land is private – please stay on the trail. You will not need to leave the trail to make your observations or find the cache.

Look Around

You have crossed a small peninsula and are now looking at Stryker Bay. During the prosperity at the turn of the century and the manufacturing needed in World Wars 1 and 2, this site was the location of pig iron, coking plants, coal refiners and tar manufactures. All of these industries needed water, and all discharged industrial contaminants over many years. As late as 1981, oil would rise to the surface and tar would ooze out of the ground; it was declared a Superfund site in 1983.

Rather than dig out the contaminated sediments and risk greater environmental damage, a decision was made to bury the sediments underneath a deep sand cap. This work was declared complete on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, after 5 years of construction

[I think it would be great to either have a slide show of historical pictures online or some photos in the cache (or both!) ]
Yes – I will contact Pat Collins, who should be a good source for these.

Activities

Compare what you see here with Kingsbury Bay – what is different?

Take a photo! Looking out over the dock, use your phone’s camera to take a picture across Stryker Bay. Email your photo to SnyderGokee@gmail.com for inclusion in our historic photo gallery

Find the Cache

Can you find the final cache? It will astound you!

Coordinates and hints

Stage 2

Coordinates: N 46 43.424 W 92 11.296

Stage 3

Coordinates: N 46 43.461 W 02 11.083

Stage 4

Coordinates: N 46 43.468 W 92 11.078

Stage 5

Coordinates: N 46 43.337 W 92 10.742

Stage 6

Coordinates: N 46 43.421 w 92 10.601

Maps