More Ancient Rivers

On August 26, 2015 · 0 Comments

The readers of Twelve Mile Circle seemed to anticipate where this conversation was heading when I wrote about the advanced age of the French Broad River recently. I’d actually intended to write a single article about really old rivers. I had to split it when it got too wordy. I’d seen that same list of rivers by age on Wikipedia noticed by several readers and I decided to have some fun with it. I won’t recite the list in order though. I’ll meander though a bit of it in my own peculiar way.

New River


New River Gorge Bridge

For sure, I thought, someone would mention the ironic naming of the New River in southern Appalachia, flowing from North Carolina into Virginia and then into West Virginia. I wasn’t disappointed. The New River originated during the same Alleghanian Orogeny as the previously-mentioned French Broad River, as did the Susquehanna River. They all dated back about 300 million years, predating the Appalachian Mountains.

Nobody really knew exactly how or when the New River came to be encumbered with a misleading name although the Friends of the New River offered several possibilities.

One educated guess regarding the origin of the name is the theory that in the late 1700s or early 1800s, surveyors were working their way across the new country. When they happened on the New River, they discovered that it wasn’t on any of their existing maps, so they charted it and labeled it as "a new river." Another version of this story attributes the label "a new river" to Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father. The official name change to New River seems to have occurred between 1740 and 1750, although the two names, Woods and New, were used interchangeably in records and on maps in other states until about 1770.

Thus it could have just have easily been known as the Woods River into perpetuity, named for Colonel Abraham Wood who trades with local Native Americans in the 1650’s. Instead it became a very old river with a very New name.

I have been whitewater rafting on a stretch of the New River in West Virginia numerous times. I’d recommend it highly.


Nile River


Fishing in Sudd wetland
Fishing in Sudd wetland by Water, food and livelihoods in River Basins (cc)

If one searches for the oldest river using online tools one will invariable encounter frequent references to Africa’s Nile River. However the Wikipedia list didn’t even place it in the top ten, explaining that it was "65 to 75 [million] for the Sudd section; the rest of the river is only 1 or 2 million years old." Further, the page linked to a site at the University of Texas – Dallas that stated, "Although the Nile seems like an ancient river – after all, it was there long before one of the earliest civilizations began to develop on its banks – it is really a very young river and has gone through many changes over the recent (in geologic terms) past." The only ancient part — still considerably younger than the French Broad — was a portion in South Sudan in a swamp (map).

Don’t expect the rest of the Intertubes to issue a clarification though.


Finke River


Finke River and MacDonnell Ranges

Finke River and MacDonnell Ranges by Georgie Sharp of Flickr (cc)

So now we finally arrive at #1 on Wikipedia’s list, presumably the very oldest river in the world, Australia’s Finke River along with various other smaller rivers nearby (map). They all predated the Alice Springs Orogeny, which would make them up to 400 million years old. The orogeny happened so long ago that most of the mountains have eroded away with the exception of the MacDonnell Ranges and a scattering of other ridges deep within the Australian interior. The highest remaining remnant was Mount Zeil at 1,531 metres (5,023 ft) (map)

Much of the Finke River has been preserved within Finke Gorge National Park.


Meuse


Citadel of Dinant

I seem to have a little extra room in this article. I guess I should also list second place from the list too, if only because I’ve been there in person (as noted on my travel page for the Citadel of Dinant in Belgium, one of the oldest parts of my website). This was a long time ago. In fact, the image I’ve embedded came from a time prior to digital photography. I had to scan it from a print photo.

The Meuse predated the Hercynian Orogeny that resulted in the formation of the Ardennes. The river course ran from a corner of France to Belgium, onward to the Netherlands and finally into the North Sea.


Completely Unrelated

Several months ago I mentioned that I would be supporting a runner in Mainly Marathon’s Center of the Nation race series. That adventure is now just around the corner. I’ll be in eastern Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and in western North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, September 14-19, 2015. They have options for single races and distances as short as 5K in case there are any 12MC runners in the area who might be interested. I have a big list of adventures planned including a few based on readers suggestions, so thank you all for that earlier input.

Nimby Lane

On May 13, 2015 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle has an international audience so I’m never sure whether a term that’s part of my lexicon translates geographically. Many readers probably know the term NIMBY. For the rest of you, and particularly the foreign-language readers, NIMBY is an acronym for "Not In My Back Yard." As defined by Dictionary.com NIMBY is…

…used to express opposition by local citizens to the locating in their neighborhood of a civic project, as a jail, garbage dump, or drug rehabilitation center, that, though needed by the larger community, is considered unsightly, dangerous, or likely to lead to decreased property values.

The term has become somewhat of a personal inside joke during my formulation of articles for 12MC. I’ve attempted to write a NIMBY story for years and I always get about fifteen minutes into it before dropping it. I can never seem to make it flow well. Maybe I’ll write that article someday although for today I’m going to punt once again and take a slightly different twist on the topic.


Nimby Lane



Nimby Lane, Jackson, Pennsylvania, USA

Instead of providing examples of NIMBY behavior I thought I’d focus on a few people who live on streets named Nimby. These had to be some rather special residents as I thought about it, who acknowledged their passive-aggressive behavior with a healthy dose of irony. Good for them! What’s the expression? — something about the first step in solving a problem is accepting that one has a problem?

First I discovered Nimby Lane in Pennsylvania. It was funny because a humongous 4-lane highway was in the figurative backyard. I wondered if the residents had fought the battle and lost or were collectively thumbing their noses at other nearby people who had fought and lost. It was quite the paradox, and of course 12MC loves a good paradox.

I noticed an odd little map symbol just to the west; I wasn’t sure if it was a person kneeling in prayer or a tabletop microscope. Was it a place of worship or a laboratory? It took some digging on OpenStreetMap to confirm that it was indeed a place of worship. Some additional searching determined that this was the site of the Chickaree Union Church, "The Jesus Saves Church" That led me to wonder when one would use a Christian cross symbol versus a person kneeling in prayer. I know we have some OpenStreetMap contributors in the audience. Perhaps one of them could enlighten us.

The name of the highway also provided a tantalizing point of trivia since we’ve already veered along an unrelated tangent once again. It’s not difficult to derail me. It was labeled US Route 22, the Admiral Peary Highway. That seemed like an odd choice.


Robert Edwin Peary
Robert Edwin Peary via Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Admiral Robert Edwin Peary was an Arctic explorer who was credited with leading the first expedition to the North Pole in 1909. Later research showed that he probably missed it by quite a few miles although he certainly garnered significant fame during his lifetime for his achievement. He was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania. That was less than 20 miles away from Nimby Lane. Clearly a lot more had happened in Nimby Lane’s back yard than met the eye.


Nimby Drive



Nimby Dr., Savannah, Georgia, USA

Nimby Drive in Georgia seemed less clear-cut. It was located within a nascent golf course community at The Club at Savannah Harbor. Actually I wondered if it might have been nothing more than a cute placeholder name. The residential area, at least on the most recent satellite view, seemed to be in the early stages of development with a street grid and very few houses. It was funny because the back yard was a golf course and usually people like golf courses in their back yard. In fact I think that houses in golf course communities commanded premium prices? Maybe it referred to golf balls, as in it might be nice to live near a course except for the places where a wicked slice could send something crashing through a window.


Sam Snead hanging out in Savannah
Sam Snead hanging out in Savannah by Jesse Hirsh, on Flickr (cc)

The Club at Savannah included a bust commemorating golfer Sam Snead. I wondered if there might have been a local connection like I’d observed with Admiral Peary in Pennsylvania. Nope. Snead was born in Virginia and died in Virginia. Apparently it was simply a tribute to a legendary golfer instead of a local connection. Snead was not in their back yard.


Australia



Nimby Place, Cooma, NSW, Australia

I found a couple of Nimby Roads in New South Wales, Australia. I’ll have to defer to the Australian readers to determine if NIMBY is actually a thing there or not. I got the distinct feeling that neither road referred to the acronym, though. They were found in areas where roads carried aboriginal terms so it probably meant something innocuous in a native language like "pleasant view". I could be completely wrong though. I made that up.

The Nimby Road in Cooma actually had a rather lovely backyard, the Cooma North Ridge Reserve:

The North Ridge Reserve area on the edge of Cooma comprises approximately 80 hectares which was a consolidation of a Crown Land Reserve and land purchased by the Council from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in 1996. The area is home to many native animals and flora and is a favourite area for the many people who enjoy bushwalking.

I would think that just about anyone would want that in their backyard.

There was another Nimby Road near Harden (map). The two Nimby spots were only about a three hour drive apart via Canberra. That might make a nice weekend trip for readers in New South Wales.

Savages

On March 25, 2015 · 2 Comments

I continue to make progress with the logistics supporting my recently-revealed 2015 Travel Plans. First on the docket will be a 150 mile (240 kilometre) bicycle adventure on the Great Allegheny Passage trail between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cumberland, Maryland. I’ve been scoping the route and noticed a peculiarly-named town on the Maryland side of the border, Mount Savage (map). It seemed as if it would have fit within the theme of an earlier 12MC article from 2012, "Carnage, Slaughter and Mayhem." Too bad I didn’t discover the town until now.


Mount Savage
Mount Savage by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)

Hopefully in a few short weeks, and assuming all goes well, I will be able to substitute my own photograph for the one I borrowed above. I figured Mount Savage must have been named for someone with the not completely uncommon Savage surname. Did the surname have its roots in people who were wild, primitive, barbaric or possessing other seemingly impolite behaviors? Well yes, and no, and sort-of.

In the British Isles, Savage appeared to trace from the Latin silva (forest) then to Old French then to Middle English. Source material was scarce although a cluster of consensus implied that the word meant something similar to courageous and unconquerable during the Sixteenth Century and would have been a compliment. It shifted to its current uncouth definition later.

In Eastern Europe, Savitch and variations existed independently and were frequently associated with Jewish populations. Savitch often became Savage when immigrants bearing the name settled in the United States. The etymology was even more obscure. It may have derived from the Sava River (map), a tributary of the Danube flowing through current Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. Alternately, it may have derived from the first-name Sava, possibly a Slavic form of Saul. No source seemed definitive.

Mount Savage was named for "a land surveyor, Thomas Savage, who happened to be traveling through the area in 1736." There was an even larger town elsewhere in Maryland called simply Savage (map). Its name derived from "John Savage Williams, a Philadelphia merchant with interest in a mill on the falls of the Little Patuxent." Both of these Savage surname usages appeared to tie back to the British Isles derivation as did other examples I discovered.


Neen Savage, Shropshire, England


Ford
Ford at Neen Savage by Ollie Brown, on Flickr (cc)

I expected to find at least one Savage in the United Kingdom given the surname’s ancient pedigree. Neen Savage in Shropshire came to the forefront as the leading example (map). I teased its history from an old book, Shropshire: Its Early History and Antiquities (1864)

Neen Savage. The Celtic nene signifies a river and the word nan a brook is said to be a remnant of a primitive language. Certain it is that two of the Shropshire Neens are intersected by a stream. Neen Savage is the subject of the following entry in Domesday Book: — "The same Ralph holds Nene, and Ingelrann [holds] of him. Huni held it [in Saxon times] and was free"… Neen and Neen Savage were held by two several feoffees of Ralph de Mortemer who himself held of the king. The family of Le Savage descended from the Domesday Ingelrann hence the latter place acquired the name Neen Savage its present title.

It seemed appropriate to select an image of the ford over the body of water that inspired the Nene of Nene Savage for this part of the article.

I also learned a new word, feoffee ("a trustee who holds a fief (or ‘fee), that is to say an estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner.") I don’t imagine I’ll get to use that one much in casual conversation.


Savage River, Tasmania, Australia.


Untitled
Savage River by caspar s, on Flickr (cc)

Savage River (map) defined a body of water, a town and a national park in Tasmania. Of the name, "Although it is tempting to think that ‘savage’ was a description of the river, it is equally likely that the river was named after Job Savage, a storeman at the Pieman River sometime before 1881."

I was actually more fascinated by legends of the aforementioned Pieman River (map). Rumor had it,

The Pieman River gained its name from the notorious convict Alexander ‘The Pieman’ Pearce who was responsible for one of the few recorded instances of cannibalism in Australia. In a bizarre footnote to the history of the region Pearce and seven other convicts attempted to cross the island to Hobart where they hoped they could catch a merchant ship and escape to some ill-defined freedom. They lost their way and in the ensuing weeks all of the escapees disappeared except for Pearce. When he was recaptured unproven accusations of cannibalism were made against him. The following year Pearce escaped again accompanied by another convict, Thomas Cox. Once again Pearce found himself without food and, to solve the problem, he killed and ate Cox.

That was amazing stuff. In a land known for its characters the Pieman took the, um, cake. He was even more extreme than Captain Thunderbolt. Too bad the Pieman River wasn’t actually named for him. Never let facts get in the way of a good story.

Alexander "The Pieman" Pearce really was executed for cannibalism though.


Other Travel Plans

Some travel plans go well. Others change. The Thousand Islands trip is off. Apparently we waited too long to start looking for places to stay so maybe we’ll try that again next year although search a little earlier. Instead we will travel to Asheville, North Carolina (something may have piqued my interest there). Does anyone have any Asheville suggestions?

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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