Bill Trandum

Fluvium is not a word most of us use in our daily conversations

Fluvium is the stuff that mankind, nature and gravity sends down our rivers and streams. Except when there’s a flood, nature’s contribution is mostly silt, sand, clay, sand, gravel and stones that are carried along by the river or stream current as it rushes or trickles seaward.

And it includes awful stuff as well. Cow pies, horse manure, bear scat, coyote droppings and stuff from failing drain fields. It includes fertilizer, natural and manmade, that washes off farmland, ranches, grazing land, nicely mown yards and even chicken coops into the many drainage ditches that are the water-shedders that feed our year-round streams and creeks. The U.S. Geological Survey has not bothered to name a number of them here on the Key.

Too bad critter habitats must be near fresh water since the critters don’t know any better than to leave their scat where a little rain washes it into our streams. Nature gives them iron stomach linings so the presence of a little decayed waste doesn’t send them to Dr. Doolittle.

Dogs, cats, rabbits and other household guests add a bit to the stew. So do cars, trucks and buses as they drip or spew oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission oil and de-icer onto the pavement where it also washes into our drainage ditches. They, in turn, feed our creeks and streams, each of which deposits its fluvium in an estuary. The continuous pileup of fluvium generally causes a hump, or delta, where the stream enters the bay. That entry place is called an estuary.

Puget Sound has lots of estuaries, most of which are no longer in their natural state because humans build stuff there, like Seattle’s Harbor Island where the Duwamish River deposits its fluvium, or the Tacoma Tideflats where the Puyallup River does its dumping. Others, like the Nisqually Delta have either been partially or mostly returned to their natural state.

The Key Peninsula has many small streams whose fluvia have hardly been interrupted so their mini river deltas make for healthy estuary habitats.

Our estuaries include Minter Bay, Glen Cove, Dutcher Cove, Rocky Bay, Burley Lagoon, Vaughn Bay, Filucy Bay, Blue Heron Lagoon, Taylor Bay, Von Geldern Cove, Herron Landing, Mayo Cove, Thompson Spit and a number of others.

The roughly 20-mile-long, 5-mile-wide Key Peninsula, home to about 17,000 folks, is neatly crisscrossed by streams and creeks and sports numerous healthy unspoiled estuaries.

What a beautiful place to live. Our two waters, Carr and Case, inlets are joined together by Pitt Passage and then Drayton Passage, whose water swirls past Devil’s Head, where there are no estuaries.

So much of Puget Sound has been spoiled. Not here though. Our crystal-clear tidal waters are a testimonial to leaving nature alone. Good for us.

When you’re watching a lovely sunset over a quiet little estuary, turn to your love and say something like, “fluvium improvium, my darling, let’s leave it alone some more.” You’ll score romantic points, expand someone’s vocabulary and help keep our waters crystal clear. A win-win win.

Bill Trandum is a retired U.S. Navy captain, a guest columnist and a self-described student of all things winds, waves, weathers, tides and waters.
Winds, Tides, and Weather
Winds, Tides and Weather