Twelve Mile Circle reflects my personal interests including those that transcend geo-oddities such as my fascination with zymurgy and breweriana. Recent examples included Geo-BREWities and More Geo-BREWities that examined breweries referencing geography within their names. I do try to tie these themes back to geography in some manner since that’s the notional objective of 12MC, although sometimes I’m more successful at that than others.
The current effort flipped the script. Rather than breweries named for geography, were there places named for breweries? Once again I turned to my trusty friend, the Geographic Names Information System. There were surprisingly few place called Brewery anything. I noticed minor occurrences with Brewery Gulch, Hill, Creek, Spring, Hollow and the like, plus a few historic properties. The list contained only a single populated place, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania named Brewerytown.
Brewerytown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
"Brewerytown runs approximately between the Schuylkill River’s eastern bank and 25th Street, bounded by Cecil B. Moore Avenue to the north and Parrish Street to the south."
The name derived from an earlier industrial past as noted in That’s Why They Call it Brewerytown
Brewers were attracted to the area ponded by the dam at the Fairmount Water Works for the ice they could harvest from the [Schuylkill] river. Then, in vaults carved along its banks, brewers would pack wooden hogsheads of lager beer with ice for six to eight months for the beer to ‘ripen.’ Brewerytown evolved into a neighborhood that accounted for about half the city’s beer production and included some of the largest brewers in the nation, who shipped their beer throughout the world.
By the turn of the century, eleven large breweries had made Brewerytown their home. Immigrants eager to find jobs and to support such industries as malt houses, equipment suppliers, and saloons followed close behind and turned the area into one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods.
What happened? The usual story. Prohibition: "In 1933 prohibition was repealed, but there wasn’t much left of Brewerytown but idle, hulking industrial carcasses with broken windows."
Nonetheless, the current incarnation of Brewerytown showed Signs of revitalization although it still had a ways to go.
… the people in this neighborhood range from cold-cash professionals to college students to families trying to make ends meet. Its proximity to both I-76 and the infamous loop down Kelly Drive makes it hugely desirable for just about everyone–but be warned that when real-estate marketers refer to part of it as "up-and-coming," a lot of the area hasn’t quite, er, come "up" yet.
Two historic properties on the western edge of Brewerytown fascinated me in particular, neither having anything to do with breweries and both about as far apart on the spectrum of culture, social hierarchy and era as imaginable.
Lemon Hill Mansion by Gary Reed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Henry Pratt, a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, constructed a large Federal-style mansion on a 43-acre site along the Schuylkill River in 1800 (map). He named it Lemon Hill for the abundant lemon trees he grew in his private greenhouse located elsewhere on his property. This wasn’t his primary residence either. Pratt used it as a "summer retreat" to escape the confines of the city during the ferociously hot and humid months, as did many of his peers of similar wealth and privilege.
Lemon Hill, now part of Fairmount Park, was licensed by the city to the Colonial Dames of America ("an international society of women members whose direct ancestors held positions of leadership in the Thirteen Colonies.") as their Philadelphia headquarters. In return, the society must preserve the property and make it available to the public in a variety of ways.
John Coltrane House
John Coltrane (1926 – 1967), the pioneering and highly influential postwar Jazz saxophonist, lived at 1511 N 33rd Street (Street View) from 1952 to 1958. That might make it slightly outside of Brewerytown, although close enough for this article.
Those were formative years of his career when he began to establish himself and also started playing with legendary figures such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Even after he moved to New York he continued to "use the house as an alternate residence" for the remainder of his life.
The John Coltrane House was named a National Historic Landmark in 1999. Efforts are underway to preserve the property.
Loyal reader "Lyn" contacted Twelve Mile Circle a few weeks ago with a stack of digital images from a recent road trip to California’s Salton Sea. This has long been on my list of places I’d love to see some day, and I still hope that will happen, so I was pleased to receive the photos. These pictures plus the text I’ve created around them will have to keep me content until the day I can visit the Salton Sea in person.
This wasn’t the first time Lyn contributed to 12MC either. I mentioned receiving a web hit from Cameroon awhile ago. Yes, that was Lyn who happened to be in Douala at the time and knew I’d appreciate the ping.
I’m fortunate to add Lyn to the very selective list of 12MC readers who have provided material that became full articles. All photographs belong to Lyn and are used with permission.
According to the Salton Sea History Museum, this geographic feature was actually an extension of the Gulf of California until about four million years ago. The Colorado River washed enough silt downstream over numerous millennia to cut the tip off from the Gulf. This left behind a large, deep depression now known as the Salton Sink. The floor of the empty sink extended far below sea level, down to -226 feet (-69 metres). By comparison Death Valley — the lowest spot in North America — measured -282 ft (-86 m) so the Salton Sink compared rather favorably as the second lowest spot on the continent.
The Salton Sea was an artificial creation and an accident. People diverted the Colorado River to irrigate parts of the sink, and for a time around the turn of the previous century the area blossomed with cropland. The river busted from its man-made diversion in 1905 after it ran higher than usual, and flooded uncontrollably into the sink. Engineers couldn’t completely halt the breach for two years and by then the spill grew to 35 miles long and 15 miles wide (56 km X 24 km) within the depression, and formed the Salton Sea.
However it was an endorheic basin without an outlet to the ocean. The salinity increased over time, and continues to increase, making it difficult for the few fish species that survived there to thrive in ever worsening conditions.
That naturally brought up a legitimate point. Why would 12MC, or anyone for that matter, want to experience the Salton Sea in person? I supposed it had to be because every description I’ve ever seen of the few settlements still clinging to its shores undoubtedly referenced the phrase "post-apocalyptic" (e.g., Salton Sea: From Relaxing Resort to Skeleton-Filled Wasteland).
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. The Salton Sea held so much promise after its accidental creation while the water remained fresh, before salt built up and poisonous farm runoff added to the disaster. Bombay Beach was envisioned as an inland resort, a beachfront paradise, and was constructed in such a manner. Now it’s mostly a ruin, a desolate place strewn with graffiti and abandoned belongings in the searing Sonoran Desert by a fetid saline lake, a photographer’s paradise and an oddball’s dream. A handful of outcasts still live among the detritus adding character to the scene. Now does it make sense?
Harsh conditions created strange situations out there on the fringes of society. Slab City started as a marine corps training facility during the Second World War: Camp Dunlap they called it. The marines had no need for remote camps in the middle of the desert after the war so Camp Dunlap closed and the government dismantled it, leaving behind only the cement foundations of various buildings.
Seasonal campers in large recreational vehicles learned about the wide selection of perfectly level concrete slabs and figured that a favorable wintertime climate made this an attractive spot to park for a few months every year. Slab City came without amenities, however people remained there as long as they wanted for free. "And now thousands of visitors return to ‘The Slabs’ each winter."
I couldn’t be sure if the isolation created unique behaviors or if people with those traits saw the Salton Sea as a beacon and arrived there from elsewhere, or a little bit of both. No matter the case, this location provided a perfect backdrop for something as wonderful as Salvation Mountain by Leonard Knight (1931–2014).
Leonard’s passion has lovingly created this brilliant “outsider art” masterpiece resplendent with not only biblical and religious scripture such as the Lord’s Prayer, John 3:16, and the Sinner’s Prayer, but also including flowers, trees, waterfalls, suns, bluebirds, and many other fascinating and colorful objects… Its 50 foot height and 150 foot breadth is made totally of local adobe clay and donated paint and is truly unique in the United States and probably the world.
I barely scratched the surface of the Salton Sea’s weirdness or Lyn’s collection of photographs. I need to save a few surprises for later in case I ever make it out there.
I thought about rivers, specifically those with legs that disappeared for awhile. It wasn’t about completely subterranean rivers, although those were certainly fascinating in their own right, it was about surface rivers with underground components. I knew they existed because I had a hazy recollection about reading something once. How rare were they, I wondered, and where did the occur?
Some quick research uncovered several and there were likely many more. I concluded that they might be unusual enough to raise an eyebrow although not something of exceeding scarcity either. They also seemed to share a common attribute, of being found in geographic areas associated with karst topography. Let’s turn it over to the International Association of Hydrogeologists for a simple explanation:
Karst is a type of landscape, and also an aquifer type. Karst areas consist of solid but chemically soluble rock such as limestone (most important) and dolomite, but also gypsum, anhydrite and several other soluble rocks… Karst landscapes show characteristic landforms caused by chemical dissolution, such as karren (crevices and channels, tens of cm wide), dolines and sinkholes (closed depressions, tens of m in diameter) and poljes (large depressions with flat floor, several km 2 or more). Streams and rivers sinking underground via swallow holes are also frequent. Karst aquifers are characterised by a network of conduits and caves formed by chemical dissolution, allowing for rapid and often turbulent water flow.
Postojna Cave Park by Michael R Perry, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Karst was a German word originally, and referred to the Karst Plateau along the border of modern Italy and Slovenia. This limestone-rich area was known for its caves. That continued to the present, for example at Postojnska Jama (Postojna Cave) in Slovenia that became a major tourist attraction based on its favorable geological placement (map) within the plateau.
Obviously an area rich with caves, a typical feature of karst topography, offered numerous opportunities for water to disappear from the surface and reappear elsewhere at a lower elevation. Karst areas were widespread and so were the prospects for partially subterranean rivers. I found a few illustrative examples in the United States.
Santa Fe River, Florida
O'Leno State Park: Sante Fe River Sink by Phil's 1stPix, on Flickr
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Florida’s Santa Fe River wasn’t huge, stretching only about 75 miles (121 kilometres), however what it lacked in length it made up for in wonder at what happened at O’Leno State Park:
Located along the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River, the park features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps, and sandhills. As the river courses through the park, it disappears underground and reemerges over three miles away in the River Rise State Preserve.
I thought it was great that the reemergence had such a completely descriptive name, "River Rise." There, the Santa Fe River reappeared "as a circular pool before resuming its journey to the Suwannee River." The gap was also clearly visible on Google Map’s Satellite View (map).
Lost River, Indiana
Water Dripping by Cindy Cornett Seigle, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Indiana’s Lost River was another short river, flowing about 87 miles (140 km), while disappearing for as much as 25 miles (40 km) of that distance. The hydrology was different than the Santa Fe River, though. There wasn’t a single sinkhole or rise. Rather, the Lost River began normally enough until flowing onto a karst plateau where it disappeared into numerous distinct sinkholes and circulated through untold individual and interlocking channels before reemerging in at least a couple of different places. Furthermore, the sinkholes couldn’t drain the entire flow during wetter times of the year and the river would return to the surface in places. It followed a Swiss Cheese drainage pattern. This feature of the Hoosier National Forest was rather unusual,
The system can be thought of as a three-dimensional river delta. Depending upon how much water is moving through the system, you could have water in all of the levels. There is no other site in Indiana that matches the Lost River system in terms of the dynamic subterranean hydrology (water movement)… The Lost River is one of the largest sinking streams in the country. The watershed is over 200 square miles.
The Lost River reemerged permanently and primarily at a place known as the True Rise. Previously it was thought to be the Rise at Orangeville (map), pictured above, which was also supposed to be more picturesque. Orangeville was "the clearest illustration of subterranean stream resurgence in the famed Lost River karst area."
I also discovered additional occurrences such as the Mojave River in California and the Little Ocqueoc River in Michigan.
A Most Unexpected Example
Donauversickerung by Reisen aus Leidenschaft, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Remarkably, I discovered that the mighty Danube River, the second longest in Europe flowing 1,785 miles (2,872 km) included an underground segment, albeit early in its watercourse while still rather diminutive. The Danube Sinkhole, or Donauversickerung, once again on a karst plateau allowed the Danube to disappear for several miles within Germany before resurfacing at the Aachtopf Spring (map). It was intermittent phenomenon. Much of the time the Danube had sufficient volume to overcome the drainage and continued flowing across the surface in a defined channel as well.