Preserving Riverside Property for Wildlife on a Family Farm

| 1/1/2021 2:24:00 PM

Vintage Photo Of Williams Prairie 

A picture taken around 1910 of what was called “Williams Prairie” and is now my farm. Pleasant Hill History Center photo shared with the author.

Our farm is bordered on two sides by the river. I have a picture taken around 1910 from the bluffs across the river from our farm, and the difference between then and now is shocking — there are hardly any trees along the riverbank. When my family purchased this land in the 1960s, mom and dad decided to take “good crop ground” out of production to allow Nature to do her thing. As unpopular as that decision was with pretty much everyone except my parents (and none of these other people were paying the mortgage, so you can guess how much attention my parents paid to them), it was the right decision.

This new buffer between the crop ground and the river reduced the amount of soil erosion from flooding, and the local fauna now had safe places to live and work. As the woods have grown and expanded over the last 50 plus years, we have become home to goodly numbers of deer, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and a few foxes. We see red-tailed hawks, Cooper hawks, goshawks, buzzards, herons, geese, ducks, and occasionally bald eagles in the sky.

Owning Riverside Property

There are a few drawbacks to living next to a navigable river, including the regular flooding of the fields — a major problem if it floods after the crops have been planted — and the occasional boater not realizing (or ignoring) that the land is not part of the river. We’ve had to approach people who decided to camp on our property and light a fire, which can turn into a dangerous issue very quickly in the wild woods.

Even with these drawbacks, there are so many benefits to having the river as a neighbor. The crop fields next to the river have a constant water source because the water table is so close to the surface. In a drought year, this can be the difference between harvest and nothing. Allowing the trees to return has made the riverbank sturdier and less likely to erode, which keeps the land where it should be. The woods and river are a peaceful area to relax and recharge, and a great place to see some of the critters that live alongside us.

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