This stream is artificial in that a few miles downstream a dam severs fish migration routes, besides the multiple dams that block the major river path to and from the sea. Right from the start I think that this creek is a fake shell of what it once was. But then I wonder if migrants like shad and herring actually made it this far upstream. I slip into the water anyway.
A Black nosed dace school feeds and a few look like they are starting to spar for breeding rights. Some of the males pectoral fins are turning bright orange. A juvenile brook trout tolerates me for a while, rockets up river and then floats back down. I wonder if this is a hatchery release or if this was a wild bred fish. A mature rainbow, an obvious hatchery plant, shoots past. An eddy of twig detritus turns out to be a huge congregation of northern case maker caddisfly larvae that crawl on the bottom.
The creek is loaded with crayfish, and my first assumption is that these are one of the invasive species present in the region, based solely on their abundance. It turns out they are one of the natives, rock crayfish, who appear to be expanding their range east. The rainbow trout is more invasive than these profuse crayfish.
It doesn’t matter hatchery or wild. Dam or not. Ecologically these things certainly do. But the reality before me in this snapshot in time of Hammer Creek is very real. Blacknosed dace silver black and gold. Orange knobs on rock crayfish claws, Green frills of algae, extremely agile light spotted brook trout fingerlings, are all very real, and inspire visions of a heathier Hammer Creek, which is no illusion.
The biological assemblage is entirely influenced by us, but that does not mean it’s not real or valuable. We are part of the biology. We are the environment and the environment is us. This doesn’t give us license to impact more streams. Rather it shows that we need to love what is here, preserve what remains, and work to restore the impaired.