Wading a Creek and Finding a Slice of Childhood
Let me get close to a creek and I lose about 50 years (or more) and feel like an inquisitive kid once again. I want to see what’s under every rock, run splashing through the shallow ripples, poke a stick into the deep holes looking to see what comes out and, in general, explore every inch of the nature that surrounds me.
There’s a small creek trickling over rocks between two hollows on the north side of my property. It hasn’t run dry while I’ve lived here but, like now, it has dwindled during hot dry periods. However, critters still survive and thrive.
Yesterday I found snails (their presence indicates healthy water), a crayfish, a salamander, a turtle, minnows and frogs.
Whether you call’em crayfish, crawfish or crawdads these freshwater crustaceans are commonly found in ponds, lakes and streams under rocks or on the muddy bottom where they feed on aquatic plants as well as living and dead animals. They tend to hide out during the day and come out at night to forage.
Although crayfish sizes and colors vary, most have long antennae and pincer-like claws that are used in feeding and self-defense. When threatened they rear up and wave their claws around before flicking their fan-like tails and quickly swimming backwards. To pick one up for a closer look, come from behind and grab its firm body shell behind the pincers so it can’t reach you.
Tennessee offers great habitat for more than 75 species of crayfish, most of which can be legally caught and used for fishing bait. There are currently nine protected species so it’s best for anglers to catch crayfish at the destination fishing hole or use one of the many plastic imitations available to entice a smallmouth bass.
I didn’t see a snake but I’ve seen several in recent weeks, including a rattlesnake. People who have lived in this area for decades love to tell visitors these hills and hollers are infested with more rattlers than the rest of the county combined. I’ve lived here more than a quarter century and have seen only about six – that’s not infested in my book.
You do need to be aware of snakes when wading. While most snakes are non-poisonous, they should be avoided; even the non-poisonous ones can give you a painful bite. All snakes are protected by law – you can’t kill a snake for just being a snake.
To become a wader, all you need are a pair of sneakers to protect the bottom of your feet and a sturdy stick for balance, poking and turning over rocks. That’s not a long list of gear and very inexpensive for hours of fun. Add a couple of field guides on reptiles and amphibians, wildflowers or trees from the library and you are set for fun any time of year.
If you don’t know where a stream is, look at a map. Most parks (city, county or state) have them. You need permission to wade on private land and it is usually not hard to come by. So take your inquisitive kid creek-wading soon!