View Full Version : Dust in a forest?

09-18-2009, 02:34 AM
Hello everyone, quick question. I am writing a novel that takes place in Kansas during the late 1800's. Part of the story involves a trek through the woods or forest (not sure which is more appropriate since pictures are a little hard to come by). If there is a trail (specifically a wagon route) passing through the forest, would it make sense for a cloud of dust to be visible where horses are being ridden? I haven't visited Kansas in a very long time so I can't remember much about it, and my own research hasn't been very illuminating.

Is there anyone that can determine the plausibility of this, and if it does work, would it be jarring as a reader to read about a small cloud of dust on a trail in the forest? I am kind of worried that it wouldn't sound right, even if it was true. Thanks in advance.

09-18-2009, 02:57 AM
Here is a photo of a Kansas forest.

Back when I was in Girl Scouts, I took a three-day covered wagon trip across Kansas. It was a lot of fun, but it was mostly open prairie (rolling grasslands) with trees only around streams, rivers and a few lakes. There is some forested land in eastern Kansas, but I'm not sure where. But, here's a couple of examples:
http://www.kshs.org/tourists/region/wooded.htm http://www.kansasbirdingtrails.com/cgi-bin/site.cgi?site_number=15#flora_details

I used to do some horseback riding in wooded areas (not forests, but small areas with hardwood trees) and there wasn't much dust. The little bit that was there could be kicked up by horses hooves and a wagon and would probably stay close to the ground. Light in these areas get filtered through trees, giving a mottled look and the dust would probably be seen that way.

p.s.: With Kansas, the dust isn't in the forest. It's Dust in the Wind.

09-18-2009, 04:57 PM
The problem that you have is putting a forest into Kansas. In a dry Summer a trail through a forest could be dry enough for there to be dust in the air after some horses passed by.

the addster
09-18-2009, 05:18 PM
I'd advise you to take a look at a couple of sites like this..




and keep in mind most existing forests today aren't old growth like they would have been in the 1800's. Most have been clear cut, and what you have now is not nearly as dense. , save land that has been reserved.

I'm voting no clouds of dust. Just a feeling.

09-18-2009, 06:23 PM
With enough use by horses and wagon wheels, the ground cover in a forest will be wiped out. But, the type of dirt/dust under the ground cover is going to depend a lot on how long the forest has been there undisturbed. There'd be a layer of "mulm" (think it is), decaying vegetation on the way to becoming soil that could be several inches thick. And, of course, over time, soil / topsoil builds up as more of the mulm becomes soil. So, one of the questions would be what the sub-surface soil is under the topsoil and mulm. That also should make a difference in the dust.

From personal experience, I know in Ohio, wheeled travel through forested area that hasn't been disturbed, possibly ever, will cut down to the soil and raise dust.

Hope that helps. Puma