Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Oasis in the Desert

You see these as you drive along the highway. A lone tree standing far off or a cluster standing in a verdant patch of green. What could these be and how could they be in this barren waste? I often wondered this about the strange oases of green that I would see driving along Route 40. They were clearly not watered by springs bubbling from the ground. After the desert storms of this winter I started to understand.

An oasis of green in the barren waste of Machtesh Ramon

There are declivities in the desert landscape, some larger some smaller. Some are quite large, basically basins in the ground. During the dry season these topographic differences are hard to detect with the naked eye. When rain falls, however, these declivities gathter the waters unto themselves. Along the drainage paths of the waters, gullies and wadis form, giving way as they spread out to these shallow basins where waters gather. It is along these water trails and gatherings that plants and even trees begin to grow.

The photo above is of one of these basins in Machtesh Ramon. It is quite deep, since this is a mature tree growing near its center. As I observed these basins I also started to notice the work of man. There were berms that had been thrown up on the downhill side of the declivities' drainage, to hold even more water then they would naturally contain. When the water evaporates, the soil continues to hold moisture, giving rise to these mysterious patches of trees and grass, oases in a barren land.

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