The word “badass” never came to my mind when explaining creek and river snorkeling. But that was exactly how one of our participants described it during Wormleysburg’s River Day. Wormleysburg is a small town right on the Susquehanna across the river from Harrisburg. They have never celebrated the Susquehanna before. We were grateful to play a small part in the event by taking people snorkeling off the Wormleysburg “Yacht Club” pier, to show people that even right here there is stunning life. And that’s where the badass comment came from: awe at the life in Wormleysburg’s front yard.
Crayfish were everywhere, some pretty large. All of them were the non-native rusty sideds, but that really didn’t matter. They were still amazing and entertaining to watch. Juvenile small mouth bass huddled in the lee of large mounds of wild celery, a kind of underwater vegetation. The orange and black stripe on their tails quivered as they worked to hold against the lazy current. Adult smallies patrolled just out of reach. It was great seeing healthy smallies here since their numbers are dropping for yet to be determined reasons. Huge Chinese mystery snails, another non-native, grazed along the bottom. Some were almost the size of a tennis ball. But the find of the day were three species of fresh water mussel: eastern elliptio, and two species of lamp mussel. These animals are all native. Freshwater mussels are some of the most imperiled organisms in North America, and while the eastern elliptio is still considered common, the lamp mussels are species of conservation concern. There is also concern about potentially declining elliptio numbers. All three mussels were juvenile. Where there are young coming into the population, there is hope.
The day was filled with joy and discovery. People lined up to get out on pontoon boats, paddleboards, kayaks and canoes as we shuttled people and gear in and out of the water. Wormleysburg came together to celebrate this great resource in their town, to show people how amazing the Susquehanna is both above and below the surface. There is wonder in life, any life, native or not. Rivers are special places, pristine or not. And Wormleysburg River Day celebrated all of that. Badass Wormleysburg. Very Badass.