Friday, August 04, 2006

Forty-nine wiser Girl Scouts

Now that the 2006 Camp DeWitt programs have come to an end it's time to reflect on some highlights and lowlights, although there were very few of the later.

There are now 49 more young people who have a newfound appreciation for the river, indeed for all rivers. They will never again look at a river the same way most people do, as a mere body of water that flows under bridges and is host to fish and frogs.

On Wednesday and Thursday we only covered 4.1 miles each day between Kellers Landing and Kingwood access. That is long enough considering they were paddling rafts. Each day the scouts were treated to extraordinary wildlife sightings including osprey (2), great blue heron (many), kingfishers, cormorants, eastern brown water snake, and yesterday, a surprise appearance of one mature bald eagle that flew out of the trees just below Milford, NJ.

I brought along the kick seine net and we conducted sampling for macroinvertebrates in the rocks and gravel of a small tributary, as well as in the river itself. The girls learned that every square foot of the river bottom (and every healthy stream) is teeming with life including shrimp (scuds), the larvae of a variety of insects such as mayfly, dragonfly and caddisfly, snails, clams, mussels, Johnny Darters and so much more. Both groups were hesitant at first but it took all of 30 seconds for them to become fascinated by what we found in the net, so much so that they begged to do more sampling. Now the girls know that rivers and creeks are complex systems where the larger organisms such as birds and fish are completely dependent upon the tiny creatures that comprise the bottom of the food chain. Many of these smaller organisms can only survive in clean water.

The scouts were amazed by the degree of trash along the river banks and were curious about the recent flooding. It was difficult for them to imagine that little over a month ago the river was twenty-five feet over their heads, but the proof could been seen in the trees where lawn chairs and other items were snagged during the flood.

The only lowlight was the intense heat and humidity, and frequent dips in the water provided a degree of relief, along with copious consumption of water and Gatorade. Once again thanks to Dee Keller of Kellers Landing for providing a great teaching environment and river access, Hank and Bunny Snyder of Lazy River Adventures for supplying boats and equipment, and Joe Pylka for helping me guide the trips.

Speaking of trash, river cleanups are being planned for September 16 and September 23. Details to follow.

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