Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/303

This page has been validated.
289
WATER-SUPPLY OF RIVERS.

growth of spruce-timber. Near the top of the mountain there is a pond, covering about one acre of ground. This pond was undoubtedly scooped out on the southeast side of the mountain during the Glacial period, and at the outlet the water is confined by a wide, low moraine dam, such as, upon a larger scale, distinguish all our moraine lakes. This pond, some 2,000 feet above the level of the sea, forms the head or source of a small trout-brook that flows down the side of the mountain past where the kilns have been erected.

I first visited this pond in August, 1874, and was very curious to know where the water came from, for I could not understand how the small extent of country drained could supply so much water during such a warm, dry time.

In the summer of 1876, after a thousand acres of timber had been cut, a fire broke out in the woods, not only killing the standing timber, but destroying the corded wood in the kiln-yard, and doing considerable other damage.

It was part of my business to prevent this destruction, as far as possible. Men were sent to the fire, and worked there for several days. In going to the kilns, the road leads up the mountain, by the side of the brook. The season was very dry, and the water in the rivers unusually low; but, in going up the mountain, I was surprised to notice that there was as much water in this brook as I had ever seen, except after some long, heavy rains, and my judgment in this matter was confirmed by all the men working at the kilns, with whom I spoke on the subject.

The fire was very fierce, and, after leaving the standing timber, spread across the cleared ground, burning the soil as far down as it was dry; and it actually ran through a field of potatoes freshly hoed, leaving the half-grown, scorched, and burned potatoes, lying upon the top of the ground. This fire lasted several days, and I was at the kilns every day during its continuance, and was every day surprised that the brook, fed largely from the drainage of the burning land, seemed to increase with the fierceness and extent of the fire. In some places, when cleared land had been burned over and dried under the scorching sun, in one or two days afterward the fire ran over it again, taking off another shaving of soil. This continued until the fire was finally quenched by rain.

Afterward, in making an examination of the soil, I found that it consisted of from two to four feet of what is known among the woodsmen of Northern New York as "spruce-duff," which is composed of rotten spruce-trees, cones, needles, etc. This "duff" has the power of holding water almost equal to the sponge, and, when it is thoroughly dry, burns, like punk, without a blaze.

I was told by Mr. Cooper, who has the direct charge of the kilns, that, in sledding wood down the mountain, the sleds frequently wore off the "duff," and came to ice.

On June 30, 1876, while the fire was still burning, I tested the water