Sunday, December 11 , 2016, 2:04 am | A Few Clouds 58º


Captain’s Log: Riprap Fosters and Supports Critters

Certain structure shapes tend to foster and support life. As a young kid, I lived close to a long section of riprap along the side of a river bed. I learned more lessons about critters — what they need and what they are willing to defend — here than in perhaps any one other place.

As a lad, I could crawl down into the riprap, hide, watch and learn. I quickly learned that it was a rich and vibrant community of critter life. I could watch the critters and see what they needed for protection, for nesting, for eating and for space.

That’s where I learned that each kind of critter has different space needs for a fulfilling life. That’s when I also learned that even very little critters have effective means for defending their space. I may have been the biggest thing in the space between boulders, but I wasn’t the baddest. It seems like I was always running home for bug and animal bite first aid. Good lessons.

Over time, I learned that the critter community in the wild river bed depended on that long line of riprap  — some for hunting, some for hibernating, some for raising families, some for shade and some just for the relative protection from predation the various sized spaces between rocks afforded. Each species used the habitat for their own needs, and I learned to recognize the potential for life in sections of riprap.

Now as an adult, I look along a river bed lined with riprap and I’m able to sense how that habitat helps maintain our precious populations of wild critters.

How important is that to us? Well, we do like a rich array of wildlife and a sense of healthy land. But there is also protection for what is important to us. For example, coyotes that are able to forage through the riprap and find plenty to eat may not come into your yard for your cat or dog or other pet. Skunks, raccoons, possums and others would generally prefer finding their sustenance in a wild place than in our neighborhoods. Well, except for the ones that have become accustomed to us.

This isn’t just a land thing. These lessons also translate to oceanic environs. Jetties are a form of reinforced riprap that become full of life, both above and below the waterline. Habitat enhancements in the near-shore waters support the generation of life and the sustenance of life. In the case of habitat enhancement structure in the ocean, we have learned to customize the structure to do things like protect a brood stock of abalone, scallops and others, while helping to breed enough for people to go collect fresh, natural seafood.

A perfect example of that capability is the Fish Reef Project. Click here for more information.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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