Water catchment: phase 1, day 1

31 05 2021

First, let me refresh your collective memories:

Last year, Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area herd manager (and all-around great guy) Mike Jensen put the finishing touches on the new, updated herd management area plan (updated from 1994!) that he worked on for two years. If you follow that time-machine link back to July 2020, you’ll see that Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson’s decision included eight items. No. 8 was to authorize “additional new water developments for improving wild horse distribution across the HMA.”

We had hoped to start the first catchment last fall, but Mother Nature had other ideas for the week Mike had rented the machine to do the digging. And as winter approached, the project got pushed to this spring.

Fast forward to this spring (which was two weeks ago!), our BLM dream-range-team of Mike, Garth Nelson (also a rangeland management specialist), Daniel Chavez (range tech) and seasonal weed sprayer Jim Cisco broke ground on phase 1 of the first of two new water catchments in Spring Creek Basin.

This week on the blog will be devoted to the progression of the project. So today’s photos depict that Monday’s work; Tuesday’s post will depict that Tuesday’s work, etc.

On to the dirt work!

Daniel, the youngest of our range team, ran the mini excavator to dig holes for four 3,500-gallon poly (heavy plastic) water tanks while Mike and Garth used an augur to drill holes for the support posts for the roof system that will go over the tanks to catch rainwater and snow.

While the digging was under way, Jim readied the laser level in order to ensure the holes are all at the same depth. Then he used it to measure the run down to the eventual location of the water trough. That laser level got a workout (as did Jim) during the week. Garth would give Daniel breaks from running the mini-ex. Like Daniel said, it was a bit dizzying to scoop (to dig) and swing (to deposit). Here’s a sad thing: They dug down about 4 feet to bury the tanks about halfway, and the dirt is dry, dry, dry, all the way down.

Here’s a closeup of Garth and Mike using an augur to drill holes for the support posts for the roof over the tanks.

As it turned out, they decided on different locations for the posts to stand, but these first holes gave us the straight line on which to align the tank holes. Another sad note: Garth later used a post-hole digger to clean out the holes … and the dirt was SO dry, it all just slid right out of the digger’s “jaws.” (Also of note, of all tools in existence, I despise post-hole diggers the most!)

Did I mention the laser level? They used it to ensure that all the tanks were buried to the same depth and were level, and they also had to make sure there was enough “drop” down the slope (which doesn’t look like much of a slope, does it?) so gravity will do the work of allowing water to flow from the tanks (even when the water level is low) to the trough. As with our other two troughs, there will be a float to keep the water level constant. And the guys also will add an evaporation cover. In the pic is Jim, master of the laser level.

Zoom in on this pic. See Mike? See Mike smiling? He’s measuring out the distance from the tanks to the trough location. Mike is always smiling! 🙂

Mark it! This will be the basic location of the trough, and this perspective is looking back up toward the tanks. You can see the first one that we delivered on the flatbed trailer behind it. Also, see the white thing behind the truck cab? That’s a 200-gallon water tank (the truck is Jim’s weed-spraying rig), and the guys filled it with water each day before they left Dolores, and each day, we emptied it to one of the aprons at the main (and original) catchment, for a total of 800 gallons! (Friday, Ma Nature graced us with rain, so there was no work that day, and she provided the water!)

Tomorrow: A bit more digging, a bit more leveling, and the holes will be ready for the tanks!


Also today, Memorial Day, we remember all those members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in service to their country. Though they did not make it home to family and loved ones, their service and sacrifice cannot be forgotten by those of us *at* home, for whom they fought and died.


30 05 2021

I love this pic of our guys working together to push a water tank into a hole dug last week in Spring Creek Basin!

This was part of phase one of the first of two new water-catchment projects for the mustangs: digging holes for tanks, digging trenches for pipes, placing the tanks in the holes, placing and putting together the valves and pipes in the trenches (including down to the eventual trough). Next up: auguring holes and setting the supports for the roof over the tanks that will funnel rain and snow. (I really do have hopes of doing at least a brief post about phase one …!)

Left to right above: Mike Jensen, Garth Nelson, Daniel Chavez and Jim Cisco – excellent BLM’ers all!

Super full flower moon

29 05 2021

Is there a “correct” string of those words? I’ve seen ’em all different ways. Here’s the particulars:

It was nearly full.

As May’s full moon, it’s also known as the “flower moon,” because this is the month of spring flowers and we DO have wildflowers now.

And it was a supermoon because of its close(r) proximity to Earth.

It WAS super, and as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared into the clouds.

A craziness: I didn’t even realize the band was out there until I stopped shooting, so gobsmacked by the amazing moonrise was I!

(The pic was taken Tuesday night.)

A little color underhoof

28 05 2021

Temple moseys through the paintbrush. I’m not sure whether she stopped to smell them as she went!

Green and red in almost-summer

27 05 2021

The greasewood is getting a lot of attention from everybody these days.

It’s for them

26 05 2021

It’s all for them.

Grace in the desert

25 05 2021

Sego lilies are among my most favorite wildflowers that appear in the basin. (Like the horses, they’re really all my favorites, just by virtue of being here, surviving and thriving!) That such delicate lilies appear in this harsh, dry environment seems to be one of the most miraculous and simplest wonders of the desert.

They’re blooming in earnest now. According to Range Plants of Utah, “it thrives on rather dry, sandy soils.” I’ll say!


Sue … I hope you return soon to wild places to find healing.

Walking into the sunset

24 05 2021

Maia walks over a ridge to join Houdini in grazing.

All eyes

23 05 2021

Before our little rain Friday (!), the greasewood was the greenest thing in the basin. Now Hollywood is going to have a lot more green to grace his grocery “aisles.”

What are they up to out there?

22 05 2021
(BLM rangeland management specialist Garth Nelson pushes dirt into a trench laid with pipe from the water tanks while herd manager Mike Jensen, range tech Daniel Chavez and seasonal weed-sprayer Jim Cisco shovel dirt into the trench along the “front” of the tanks to cover the pipe. A roof with a gutter will pipe rainwater/snow into the tanks, and the pipe in the trench directly in front of me as I take this pic will run water to the trough, which will be on a float.)

We’ve had some big doin’s out in Spring Creek Basin recently.

Remember when our BLM folks (herd manager Mike Jensen and Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson) updated our herd management area plan last year? Remember the two new water catchments that were proposed (and approved) in that EA?

Our first tanks for the first of those water catchments are in the ground. 🙂 That’s phase one of the project; phase two is coming. It will take me a bit to consolidate several days of work into a nice little post to detail their work. That’s coming, too. But just in case you wondered what the heck our BLM guys are doing out in Spring Creek Basin these days … this is a bit of an answer. 🙂

And in best of all news, we actually got a decent drizzle of rain in Disappointment Valley yesterday! No, the catchment isn’t at the point of catching that rain, but soon. … Hopefully very, very soon … !


If you’re in Norwood, Colorado, this evening, join us at The Livery (1555 Lucerne St.) for Kat Wilder’s first in-person reading to celebrate the publication of her memoir, “Desert Chrome”! Folks will start to gather around 6 p.m. Bring your own camp chair, picnic and beverage for an outdoor gathering. San Miguel County and Colorado state Covid protocols will be followed.