Christina River

All posts tagged Christina River

By Guest Blogger: Martha Corrozi Narvaez

Associate Policy Scientist, Water Resources Agency, Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware

On an unseasonably warm Sunday in February I walked hand-in-hand with my 4-year old son along Wilmington’s riverwalk that parallels the magnificent Christina River. As we walked we passed by couples, families, runners, and people of all types with the musings of ice skaters in the background. My son and I talked about the ducks swimming by, the swift current carrying sticks and other debris and the “mean people” that littered their bottles and trash in the river. I couldn’t help but think that just a few years ago I would not have been able to share this experience with him. I am fortunate to share such an experience with him and I also feel fortunate that I understand the complexity and state of this river.

Christina River on a warm winter day.

Christina River on a warm winter day.

It is easy to see that the Christina River has undergone an urban renaissance resulting in the Chase Center, Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, Christina Riverwalk, a variety of restaurants, high-rise residential buildings, the Blue Rocks stadium, and the DuPont Environmental Education Center’s wildlife refuge. This growth is spurred by people’s desire to be near the water and the aesthetic qualities it provides, yet beyond this beauty there is a complex, natural system at work.

The headwaters of the Christina River lie within the state of Maryland and enter Delaware west of Newark. The White Clay, Red Clay, and Brandywine creeks are tributaries of the Christina River. The Christina River is freshwater yet tidal from just south of the town of Christiana to its confluence with the Delaware River at Wilmington. Extensive tidal freshwater wetlands, including Churchmans Marsh, exist along the lower Christina. The majority of the Christina River watershed is located in New Castle County (DE). The Christina River is a mostly urbanized watershed with over 50% of the land cover developed. The watershed is the site of the Port of Wilmington, an important shipping link, and one of the largest importers of orange juice, Chilean grapes, bananas, and automobiles nationally.

Wilmington's Christina Riverfront

Wilmington’s Christina Riverfront

The Christina River has its share of historic contamination. There are numerous contaminated sites bordering the river. Samples have indicated that there are toxics present at elevated levels in the water bodies of the Christina River watershed and fish consumption advisories have been posted for the river. According to the USEPA’s water quality standards the Delaware portion of the Christina River requires varying levels of pollution reduction for nitrogen, phosphorus and bacteria.

Although the Christina River has fallen victim to years of industry, improper land use and anthropogenic influences the story of the river is a positive one. The state is working diligently to clean up and redevelop the toxic sites along the river. The Christina River is also demonstrating improving trends for many water quality parameters. According to a recent article on water quality trends in Delaware’s streams by Gerald Kauffman and Andrew Belden, water quality trend analysis for long term (1970/1980-2005) and short-term (1990-2005) trends show improvement in the Christina River for numerous water quality parameters including: dissolved oxygen (DO), total suspended sediment (TSS), total phosphorus (TP), and total Kjedahl nitrogen (TKN). Positive trends for these parameters indicate improving conditions in the river. Additional parameters, including bacteria, which levels have historically been increasing, show a leveling off for long-term and short-terms trends over this same time period, another good news story.

We know that the Christina River is not a pristine, natural river system yet research shows that there are positive signs for the health of the water body. The efforts by so many locally, state-wide and regionally to improve the water quality has had a positive impact. And as the riverfront becomes more popular and a destination in the region, it is my hope that individuals will learn more about the river and help protect this valuable resource through individual stewardship. And over the years as I continue to walk along the riverfront I will feel fortunate to be able to share this river, which inspires and motivates me, with so many people, especially my son.

Join us at DEEC on April 16 at 3:30pm for National Water Dance to celebrate the Christina River through dance performances and exploration of the marsh for the wildlife calling it home.

To find out more about efforts to improve and protect our waters or how you can have impact, check out the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign website, Facebook, or Twitter!

By Jim White: Senior Fellow for Land and Biodiversity

The Christina River has been one of my favorite Delaware canoeing and kayaking destinations for many years. Cruising with the tide on a late summer day is about as relaxing as it can get.  However, if you are like me, the best part of the experience is searching for wildlife such as American Beaver, Great Blue Herons or basking Northern Red-bellied Cooters and soaring Ospreys.  In the last several years, thanks to my friend Hal White (no relation) I have become very interested in dragonflies and the Christina River is a great place to see several of our common species. Scanning the spatterdock and cattails and other shoreline vegetation can result in observing colorful species such as Green Darner, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Spangled Skimmer and Blue Dasher. However, my favorite species that makes the Christina its home is the Russet-tipped Clubtail.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail photographed by Jim White on the Christina River.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail photographed by Jim White on the Christina River.

This large species of dragonfly is only found on tidal freshwater rivers and is not particularity common elsewhere in Delaware. Hal White, in his book Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies, wrote that this species was not recorded in Delaware until 2003 when a University of Delaware student collected it on the Christina River for his required insect collection. Why the species was not recorded earlier is a bit of a mystery but Hal speculates that large tidal rivers are not a place that most skilled dragonfly enthusiasts think of checking for uncommon species.  Since the 2003 lucky find, Hal has confirmed that the Russet-tipped Clubtail is actually fairly common on the river from August through mid-October.  However, although I had been up and down the Christina River many times over the years, I had never noticed this what I now consider, a rather conspicuous insect. That is, until 2008 when Hal and I mounted a mini-expedition by canoe to photograph this handsome dragonfly for his upcoming book.   It did not take long after putting-in, that we observed several Russet-tipped Clubtails patrolling low over the water.  But photographing flying dragonflies from a shaky canoe is a bit of a challenge to say the least.  Lucky for me though, one of them perched on an overhanging branch just long enough for me to get a few photos – mission accomplished.  So if you have a chance to get out along the Christina River keep your eyes peeled for Russet-tipped Clubtails.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail in flight, photographed by University of Delaware Professor, Dr. Michael Moore.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail in flight, photographed by University of Delaware Professor, Dr. Michael Moore.

Check out the next canoe trips on the Christina from the DuPont Environmental Education Center and see what you can find: Saturday, September 26 and Saturday, October 17

Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies  by Hal White available at the Ashland Nature Center, DuPont Environmental Education Center, or on Amazon.com.

By Sally O’Byrne, Teacher Naturalist

In early August, Delaware Nature Society had a week long camp for 9 – 12 year olds called Kayak Fun and Games.  We spent the first two days getting acquainted with each other and with our kayaks at Lums Pond and the Octoraro Reservoir.  We practiced kayaking backwards and in circles and playing squirt gun tag.  We got good enough to do a synchronized kayak ballet going around bridge supports, which unfortunately I did not video for YouTube fame.

On Wednesday, storms were threatening, but we made it to Dragon Run, near Delaware City to explore an impounded fresh water marsh.  We blazed our way through the vegetation near the end and discovered a fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata), which I have never seen there in the past.

Kayaking Dragon Run near Delaware City.

 

Fragrant Water Lily at Dragon Run.

Fearful that the predicted storms would create flooded conditions on the Brandywine Creek the next day, we went to a private farm on the Chesapeake instead.   We kayaked around the point at Veasey Cove to a cliff on the Elk River, where we discovered  colored clay that could be hand dug.  The kids created all sorts of creatures and became all sorts of creatures after painting themselves with the clay!

Clay cliff along the Elk River, MD.

Coming back to the sandy beach in Veasey Cove, we found this amazing caterpillar, (which I am trying to ID – can’t find it in my book, so have sent off to an entomologist friend) as well as many bald eagles.  We had two mature eagles in a tree and three flying overhead at the same time.

To Sally...From Joe: The caterpillar is a Hickory Horned Devil which turns into a Royal Walnut Moth.

Our last day was spent on the tidal Christina River.  We paddled against the tide for 1 & 1/2 hours and then spent far less time being carried back with the tidal flow.  This part of the Christina is a secret treasure.  As we kayaked through a wilderness with nesting barn swallows, turtles, wild rice and spatterdock, and with Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies flying around us, we heard the sounds of ice cream trucks and civilization beyond the trees.  It was a nice reminder of what can be found in our own back yards.

Christina River Kayaking.

By John Harrod, Manager, Dupont Environmental Education Center
 
This past Thursday was a great fall day for an outing on the Christina River with a clear sky and a light breeze. On this day, the Delaware Nature Society led a late afternoon historic river cruise. Participants were treated to accounts of the river by Sally O’Byrne, DNS naturalist and co-author of Wilmington’s Waterfront.

 

Some happy boaters by John Harrod

Some happy boaters by John Harrod

Sally O’Byrne’s details of the waterfront’s history was extensive and informative, but as a summary,  it has a very rich industrial history that includes building the first iron hulled yacht to win the America’s Cup and making significant contributions to the navel efforts of WWII. 

Christina River ship building remnants by John Harrod

Christina River ship building remnants by John Harrod

Being on the water allowed us views not often seen riverfront including Swedes landing. I am going to let the photos do the rest of the talking. Enjoy the pictorial journey!
Swedes Landing by John Harrod

Swedes Landing by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

Christina landing by John Harrod

Christina landing by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boat at sunset by John Harrod

Boat at sunset by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justison landing at dusk by John Harrod

Justison landing at dusk by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to spend some time on the  Christina River, DNS has a canoe trip this Saturday, October 31st that puts in the water near Churchman’s marsh and paddes down to the DuPont Environmental Education Center. For details visit: http://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/fp09_adult.html#deec.