Mountains as Water Sources - Appalachian Expedition Part 2

Evidence of mountain top mining in the Appalachian Mountains. Photo: Library of CongressEvidence of mountain top mining in the Appalachian Mountains. Photo: Library of CongressYou worry that the proposed mountaintop mining activities on Blair might have an impact on the quality of these water supplies. If the top of Blair is removed to uncover the low-sulfur coal at its center, rocks and debris will be dumped in the valley. This would fill in at least part of the river, eliminating it as a water source and destroying any aquatic life that is present. Also, the small streams on mountains like Blair are particularly vulnerable to logging, road building, and grazing. These activities remove vegetation, which increases erosion, washing soil and agricultural pesticides into the streams and degrading the water supply. Since these streams feed the rivers in the valley, water quality is affected downstream, too. Are people other than those in the Appalachian Mountains affected by the quality of this water? Are other species affected?

For most of the day you've hiked on a trail, following the same stream that flowed by Camp 3. In some places it is only trickling, and in others the water flows quickly, over moss-covered rocks and leaves.

Now as you approach the top of the mountain, you notice a pattern on the ground. The pattern is created by small, rounded hills that pop up all over the side of the mountain. What could have created these hills? You try to get some clues from the surrounding landscape. You notice several cracks in the bedrock. How did these cracks get here? After thinking about it for a little while you are able to figure out that both are the result of drastic temperature changes. The glaciers that covered much of North America 10,000 years ago never reached this far south. Still, temperatures were cold enough during this time period to freeze the surface of the earth here. When it thawed, these cracks and bumps, called hummocks, were created.

When you reach the top you notice how smooth some of the rock surfaces are. They look almost as smooth as the rocks in the mountain stream that have been worn down by water for years and years. In fact, that's exactly what is happening. The Appalachian Mountains are actually getting smaller! These ancient mountains are still being worn down by wind and water today.

On the way back down, you look back toward the summit. As the sun sets behind it, the mountain looks very peaceful. Although you wish you didn't have to leave, you are very anxious to return home and share everything you have learned about Blair Mountain.

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