Thursday, June 9, 2011
Just as I was packing up at New River Junction, Jeremy Monroe, Director of Fresh Waters Illustrated called me to finalize our plans for the rest of the week. When he learned I was staying on the New River, he gave me a tip for a riffle that held candy darters, located in Stony Creek. I wasn’t planning on snorkeling here today, but I couldn’t pass up the possibility of seeing candy darters. I have seen pictures of these fish in field guides and part wonder if the artists renderings are more fiction than fact. I didn’t think fish that brightly colored, red, orange, green, and blue, were supposed to live in North America. The riffle is behind the Interior Whistle Stop, a small picnic park with a wooden train playground. The riffle doesn’t look like much from the surface. Not much more than shin deep. But as soon as I stuck my face in the water, a candy darter shot off. Then another darted from behind a rock that I was able to slowly trail upstream and snap multiple shots of the amazingly colored fish. This is why I do this, why I snorkel streams and rivers and document what I see. To protect amazing sights like this. To protect the diversity that remains in our fresh waters. There were other fish here as well, mountain red belly dace, and crayfish. Seeing them gave me the same thrill I got when I saw the candy darter. And this was the same thrill I got when I snorkeled with the smallmouth this morning, the shad this spring, and the sunnies every summer. There are things of worth and beauty in our streams, and we need to work to protect them all. I want my kids and grandkids to have the same opportunities I did to see these incredible streamscapes and witness the drama, struggles and splendor of fresh water life. I want the seventh generation to have more of these opportunities than we do today.