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Is it Ruined? Revisiting my Local Park After a Brutal Summer

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Extreme heat and over two months without a drop of rain has devastated much of the local vegetation, leaving me to wonder what I would find

A few weeks ago, for the first time since November of last year, I was able to get out to my local spot for hiking and photography here in Fort Worth, Texas. I'm not sure what happened to Spring in these parts; I'm pretty sure we just skipped that season this year and moved right into the Blast Furnace season.

Regardless, it resulted in no local outings earlier in the year during the small window when there was fresh new foliage, and the temperature wasn't yet hovering around the triple digit range.

Weather data for DFW for July 2022
Ah, July... you jerk

Because I'm a nerd, I pulled the weather records for DFW airport - a fair approximation of weather for the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex - and found we had 47 days of 100+ degree highs (that's 38 Celsius for the rest of the world) between June 11 and August 20. We also had no rain in that period (that has since changed, as we went from one of our driest years ever to setting a record for the wettest August on record over the course of about five days).

That doesn't include many other days, going back into May, with highs in the mid to upper 90s.

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Just looking at my own yard, I've lost two trees to the heat and drought, and it looks like our large holly bush out front is not long for days, either. Driving around town and along wooded areas things weren't looking much better, with large swaths of brown foliage. Hopefully, the trees and plants are just stressed and not dying, but it's a depressing sight either way.

A photo of drought damaged trees in Fort Worth, Texas
A typical scene around town: crispy trees and plants

Thankfully, we're seeing a bit of mercy, with recent rain and cooler temps.

With that, I finally had the opportunity to head out early one morning The views along the 20-minute drive were not encouraging as the road was lined with more brown than green in many places, and once the road topped a rise to give me a view of part of the park, my heart sank as I saw brown treetops spreading across the vista.

Walking into the park initially gave no signs of hope (the photo above is from the trailhead). Five to 10 minutes down the trail I chose, and I was steeling myself for what I would continue to find. Here's part of that hike:

Those aren't Fall colors... those aren't due for another 3 months!

Thankfully, only the upper parts of the park were in such bad shape. Once I made my way down the first major descent, only a 40-50' drop, it was as if I entered another world where the drought hadn't happened. The grasses and smaller plants were still pretty fried but, for the most part, the trees were still nice and green.

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After spending around 45 minutes exploring a new trail I found off the main path, I anxiously made my way to an old friend: a tree I've come to call The Witch. Since I discovered it one foggy morning in January 2021, it's never looked particularly healthy, and I was worried that it would have been one of the lower-elevation trees to have suffered.

I was very happy to discover that wasn't the case!

A gnarled oak tree arches through a woodland
The old witch is still alive and well

I'm not sure what it was about this visit to the park, but after playing with different compositions and light to get some new photos of The Witch, I ended up finding another new-to-me side trail nearby. I've been exploring this park for nearly a decade, yet it still has secrets to uncover!

There are some future possibilities on that trail with some nice, twisted oaks, but without compelling conditions I ended up spending time playing with various compositions of small scenes. A light, but persistent, breeze wreaked havoc with several of my shots as I was trying to focus stack; I've yet to determine if I had any success.

A pile of animal bones found in Eagle Mountain Park in Fort Worth, Texas
Some small, unfortunate creature I came upon

From there, I opted to follow a branch of the new trail and discovered it connected up to another that I had partially explored before, providing a nice future shortcut to bypass one of the harder stretches of the main path. Huzzah!

I then had to explain to random passersby that, no, there wasn't a deer or anything exciting standing in the open meadow: I was just taking photos of grass. So goes the life of a nature photographer...

The side trail popped me out not too far from another of my go-to locations in the park, where I created Last Respects back in October 2020. Once again, the scene is drastically different now, thanks to the lack of rain. Not only is the water level much lower, but a couple more trees have fallen into the water as the shore collapsed under their weight (and lost the support of higher water levels).

A dead tree in a drought-reduced lake at Eagle Mountain Park in Fort Worth, Texas
The same location, August 2022
Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth, Texas
Those rocks were entirely submerged when I was last here

The temperature was creeping towards the mid to upper 80s, but I decided to push on and check out one more spot that I've visited multiple times in the past, right along the lake's shore.

Well, it used to be right along the shore... the water is about 40-50' further away, now (at least; I'm a terrible judge of distances).

When I moved here to north Texas and first visited the park it was also during a period of extreme drought. At the time I thought it was normal for there to be sandy beaches along the lake. I don't think it was quite as bad as it was in 2013, but it wasn't far off:

A sandy beach at Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth, Texas
2013 shoreline along the lake
A sandy beach at Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth, Texas
2022: A year ago, my tripod would have been well into the lake

Of the 800+ photos I took during this return visit, 413 of them were along the shoreline as I decided to take the opportunity to try to capture some different water detail/abstracts. The water's edge was just covering a bit of a rocky shelf instead of the usual sandy bottom, and there were a couple little patches of seaweed and stone interacting with the gentle waves.

Below are some of the photos I made on this outing. I've pared them down to make several available as prints, as well. To view larger versions, and read additional back stories for each photo, please visit my Texas gallery.

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Which are your favorites? I'd love to know, so feel free to drop a comment below, or comment on individual photos in the gallery!

A photo of green gasses, covered with grains of sand, growing along a beach at Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth, Texas

As always, thanks for stopping by. I'll be sharing more from this location soon, as I take advantage of cooler mornings as they come more often... stay tuned!


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