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Flat Stone Garden Stream

Flat Stone Garden Stream
Japanese Garden Streambed

Japanese Garden Streambed

Gardens mimic nature. Gardeners create living works of art, often which grow into other masterpieces through time. An engineered streambed meanders through an Asian-style garden at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island (pictured to the right). Although obviously designed, not by nature, this bed perfectly illustrates an aspect of geoarchaeology I look for during my work, mostly when examining excavation unit wall profiles. It displays a simplified snapshot of stream flow.

A snapshot of a natural stream captures a dynamic mini-landscape. Within a stream, even in a specific cross-section, a huge variety of behaviors occur. Water flows at different speeds, the sediments passing through are different sizes, and a variety of species hang out in different parts. The latter two characteristics influence whether people frequent the streambanks, either to just chill, or to hunt, gather, fish, etc. The water speed hugely influences those latter two stream behaviors.

Water speed and stream character influence the rock at the stream base. The photo above features rounded, flattened cobbles. If those rested where nature deposited them, this is the story they would tell. It will be a numbered list.

1). First, a stream would have experienced a phenomenal flooding event, which slowed enough at that point so that it could not support rocks that size. Because no rocks are larger, the stream must have been faster upflow to deposit the larger rocks. The river would have continued carrying smaller ones downstream.

2). Those recently deposited rocks would have been carried a while. This is due to their rounded nature, which shows that the rocks have bounced together, gradually hitting other rocks, though not with enough force to make them small. The smoothed roundness indicates that water finely ground the rocks over a long time while the rocks were in transport, so the water wore down all sides evenly.

3). The rocks have been in that spot a long time. This is suggested by their flat nature. Water shaped them, wearing them down (top and bottom, where it could easily flow) where they are.

4). The creek now flows on an area that was once a huge river. This is indicated by the rock size. A tiny stream couldn’t carry those rocks. Also, the fact that there is no downcutting and not much soil formation (and also the brochure and video indicating the garden was manufactured) indicates it is a human-made streambed.

If you are ever on Bainbridge Island, and have some time and extra funds, I recommend a visit to Bloedel Reserve. It is quite an enchanting place!

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Japanese Garden Streambed by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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