Levee Glyphs

Blooms of cyanobacteria weave through remnant levees adrift in Klamath Lake’s eutrophic waters.   Stripped of their engineered function, the string of islands continue to serve as an inscription of their own layering of compounded histories:

….(1) the shape of the pre-anthropogenic river delta the levees circumscribed:

[Aerial photograph of the Williamson Delta in the 1940s, image courtesy of The Nature Conservancy]

…(2) the hardening of that formerly dynamic shape and the draining of the water contained within it:

[The farmed delta, aerial from around 1990]

…(3) the atrophying of the material of the landscape itself, revealed once the levees were breached.    The open water within their broken boundaries is now deeper, rather than shallower  than the rest of the lake due to the soil subsidence that occurs when converting such places to field agriculture.

These assembled forms no longer serve to accrete or hold back anything.  They’re just there; leftovers mottled with trees and ruderals; subtle anomalies in the surrounding ensemble of lake forms.  As such they are yet another piece in our collection of inadvertent and monumental ‘earthworks’; artifacts of shifts in engineering and conceptions of infrastructure.  Their grand mark on the water seems to sardonically index the ephemeral and periodic landscape, rather than gesture toward permanence.

Relatedly: Marsh Terracing, Wetland Glyphs

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