Introducing the Avis Canoe Launch!

Sometimes you have to buy a property people think is already public and actually make it public.

Thanks to support from our members and extra help from George and Shirley Durrwachter that just happened. For years, people have used a property on the Avis side of the Route 150 bridge over Pine Creek to get on and off the Creek in kayaks, canoes, and tubes. They have fished here, swam here, and even sat in a chair while the Creek flowed over their feet and legs.

Everyone seems to think the Bureau of Forestry owns the property.

They don’t.

Well, not yet.

NPC bought the property Friday, June 28, 2019 and will be conveying it to the Bureau of Forestry in the next year, then it WILL be a public property, owned by the Bureau of Forestry and managed as part of the Tiadaghton State Forest.

Already a popular access point for the community & visitors, the Avis Canoe Launch will now remain open to the public forever!

The property was owned by an individual who had development plans for the property. However, when those plans fell through the owner looked to selling the property.  When a local resident learned of the potential sale, he became concerned that the public might lose access to the Creek during the sale. This prompted him to reach out to the Tiadaghton State Forest District Forester.

The Bureau of Forestry started working with the landowner to buy the property. While the landowner was agreeable to selling the property, he couldn’t wait as long as the Bureau of Forestry would need for their acquisition process. As a state agency, when the Bureau buys a property there are a variety of other Departments that need to review documents and approve the transaction.

The Bureau of Forestry asked NPC to buy the property and then work through the Bureau’s process to sell the property to the Bureau.

George and Shirley Durrwacther donated the funds for the purchase price of the property. George grew up on Pine Creek. Fishing, swimming, and floating. He and Shirley recognize the recreational value the Creek provides for residents and visitors alike and wanted to help keep access in place for people to use and enjoy the Creek.

Ariel view of the purchased parcel

NPC’s members and donors provided other resources needed to get the project started. A sales agreement was drafted; the DEP files for Pine Creek Township, Clinton County were reviewed; and the title search started.

That title search found a 1947 deed that referenced a “frame gasoline station.”

Those three words carry a lot of weight with them. A geologist was hired to prepare a Phase I environmental review. His review was complete, but there weren’t any records showing storage tanks being removed from the property. Pennsylvania didn’t keep records on underground storage tanks until the 1980s.

The Clinton County Historical Society looked to see if the Sanborn maps for Avis or Jersey Shore showed the area. The Sanborn Map Company published very detailed maps for fire insurance companies through the 1970s. The maps detail the buildings in over 12,000 towns and cities in the United States. There wasn’t a Sanborn map that showed the area of this property.

A group of “local guys” who meet for coffee a couple mornings a week were asked if they remembered anything about the property. They remembered the old ice plant, and the gas station up the road, but none of them remembered a gas station on this property. Although, they did appreciate being asked and having something new to talk about for a couple of days.

Without reports or documentation that the tanks were gone, additional steps were needed. Soil sampling and ground penetrating radar were done. The soil samples were all okay. NPC shared the report with two geologists who read the report and agreed it looked good.

The ground penetrating radar was the next step. It was a much shorter process than the soil sampling. When he was done and packing up his equipment Josh, the technician who did the ground penetrating radar said, “There are no big metal things underground.” The official report was longer, but had the same message.

With those steps complete, a closing could be scheduled. The documents were signed without a hitch. Staff are working to get signs made with the property’s 911 address and have reached out to local emergency services to determine who needs keys to the existing gate on the property.

Now the process of selling the property to the Bureau of Forestry can begin. Documents are being drafted and reviewed. Reports are being shared and updated. Keep an eye out in future newsletters for more information about the project and updates on when it will become part of the Tiadaghton State Forest.

Celebrating Turtle Creek

“Everyone does a little, so no one has to do it all.”

Turtle Creek Partnership motto

A partnership led by NPC and including state agencies, county conservation districts, non-profit organizations, and willing landowners joined forces to tackle the challenge of bringing Turtle Creek back to health while maintaining a working agricultural landscape. Together, we’ve focused a sustained investment on this waterway as part of a larger effort within Pennsylvania’s North-Central region. What we’ve learned can help other Pennsylvanians improve their local waterways too!

Click the image to learn more about the Turtle Creek story.

As a member of NPC you are playing a major part in the efforts to provide clean, quality water to our communities.  We hope you are as proud of this shared success as we are!

Not already a NPC member? Join us today!

The Return of the Eels

Say ‘Hello’ to the American eel! What would your gut reaction be to coming across this little guy in your local stream?  It may startle some (and perhaps even elicit an “Eek!”), but when the Stream Restoration Team found this eel during the Conley Run project in Union County last week it brought about a collective “Woo Hoo!”.  Here’s why this was an exciting and significant find for the team:

Eels once were very common in the Susquehanna River basin, but dam construction in the early 1900s ended the eel’s ability to migrate to the Atlantic Ocean as part of their life cycle.  It wasn’t just the eels’ life cycle that was disrupted by those dams. Several species of freshwater mussels rely on eels to serve as a host for the mussels’ young. Without the eels to host the young, the mussels can’t reproduce. A single mussel can filter up to 24 gallons of water a day. That’s a lot of sediment removal and a lot cleaner streams and creeks.  So, back in 2009, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began stocking eels in Buffalo Creek and Pine Creek to help replenish the population.   

This eel shows that not only are the eels growing (when they are released they are only a couple of inches long), but they are also moving throughout Buffalo Creek to its tributaries which will help mussel populations throughout the watershed. 

More eels = More mussels = Cleaner water! 

Now, doesn’t that make you want to say “Woo Hoo” too?!

*Fun Fact about the American eel:
The maximum recorded age for an American eel is a whopping 43 years!

Listen to the Bees

My family and I were spending our Saturday morning outside in the garden a few weeks ago, when something happened that stopped my always-on-the-go 2 ½ year-old in his tracks.  Our weeping cherry tree had just blossomed and its drooping branches had formed a delicate canopy of soft white flowers.  My curious toddler dashed under the branches into his “cave” then came to a quick halt and breathlessly called out to me, “Mommy, listen to the bees.”

I set down my trowel, slipped in under the canopy, and was treated to the loud hum of collective buzzing.  We stood there and watched in awe as the honeybees darted back and forth from blossom to blossom working their magic.

This magic, so to say, is actually the act of pollination.  In order for plants to make seeds to reproduce, they need pollen to encounter a part of the plant called the pistil, both of which are located in flowers.  The cherry tree’s showy blossoms attract the honeybee with the promise of sweet nectar.  When the bees come into contact with the flower, they get some of the pollen on their bodies, which they then carry to other flowers.  Once this happens, the plant can produce a seed that will either be eaten by an animal or drop to the ground with the potential to sprout into a new tree. 

This small, simple act from the honeybees mesmerized my son for quite a while, and steered my thoughts towards where would we be without pollinators?  Here’s some quick facts* to be(e) aware of:

  • Bees pollinate as many as 170,000 species of plants.
  • Pollinators affect 35% of global agricultural land, supporting production of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide.
  • Every third spoonful of food is dependent on pollination.
  • About 40% of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – are facing extinction.

The bottom line is people need bees, and right now, bees (and other pollinators) need our help!  This week, on 5/20/19, we observed World Bee Day to help raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development.  There are a lot things you can do to help protect our pollinators.  So whenever you’re out and about next and hear that familiar buzz, I hope you take a moment to really stop and listen to the bees. 

*Data Source:  Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food

Wild about Wildflowers

Next week kicks off National Wildflower Week.  Always the first full week of May, National Wildflower Week commemorates the colorful blossoms that bring our landscapes to life. Whether they are on mountainsides, pastures or our own back yards, wildflowers create habitat, help conserve water and reduce erosion.

Wildflowers in bloom at NPC conserved lands this month, include Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule Ait.)

The month of May is a very exciting time of transition in the plant kingdom.  Look around and you’ll see black cherry trees, sassafras, and red oaks flowering.  Trees leaf out during the first half of May in most of Pennsylvania, often prompted by a good rain that follows warm days.  Wind pollinated tree species produce pollen either just before or during leaf-out, so that the pollen is blown to the flowers without interference from the leaves.  As the trees leaf-out, the ephemeral woodland wildflowers begin to wane. Late-spring woodland wildflowers blooming now include mayapples, trillium, and yellow and pink lady’s slippers.  As they bloom, peak, and wane all around us, it’s hard not to go a little “wild” about wildflowers!     

Lady Bird Johnson once said “native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours.” The former first lady had a passion for native plants and the value they serve in restoring and creating sustainable, beautiful landscapes. 

Mountain laurel
(Kalmia latifolia)

One native wildflower that is sure to let you know you’re at home in Pennsylvania, is our state flower, the Mountain Laurel.  Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) was adopted as the official state flower in 1933.  This broadleaf evergreen is usually a 12-20 ft. shrub, but is occasionally taller and single-trunked, attaining small tree stature. Each spring and early summer, the woods and mountainsides of Pennsylvania come alive, as mountain laurel clusters of delicate blooms open in umbrella-like fashion in red, pink or white.

Fun Fact:  Native American people fashioned spoons out of the bark of the mountain laurel, which they referred to as “spoonwood.”

For more information on Pennsylvania native wildflowers, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wild Flower Center.

Talkin’ Trout Habitat

Just as they differ in appearance, each of our Pennsylvania trout species has slight variations in their preferred habitat. 

Brook trout live naturally in small, cold, clean streams. They also adapt to ponds and lakes, as well as instream beaver ponds. Of all the members of the char family, brook trout adapt most easily to their environment and can endure the widest range of conditions.  They will tolerate relatively acidic waters, but not temperatures much over 65 degrees.

Brown trout may be found in all of the state’s watersheds, from limestone spring creeks, infertile headwaters and swampy outflows to suitable habitat in the larger rivers and reservoir tailwaters.  A brown trout’s optimum water temperature range is 50 to 60 degrees, although it can tolerate water temperatures in the low 70s.  Like brook trout, they are also somewhat tolerant of acidity.

Rainbow trout are considered fastwater fish, preferring the swift runs and riffle areas of streams. They may live in small creeks, as well as suitable spots in large rivers, the tailwaters of dams, and in lakes and reservoirs. Their optimum water temperature is about 55 degrees. Although they do best when the water is under 70 degrees, they can withstand temperatures into the 70s if there is plenty of oxygen and a cool, shady place to which they can retreat. Rainbows are the trout least tolerant of acidity. They do best in slightly alkaline waters.

Despite their differences, all trout need just a few basic things in their habitat to survive:  cold water, clean water, food to eat, places to hide from predators, and clean gravel to lay their eggs in.  These things may sound simple, but factors such as streambank erosion can have major negative impact.  Eroding streambanks and increasing sedimentation into the region’s streams can smother aquatic life as it covers the stream’s substrate. 

For the past decade, NPC has been a part of the Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership, working together to decrease erosion and sedimentation, improve water quality for the public, and increase aquatic habitat on agriculturally impaired streams in northcentral Pennsylvania.  The partnership is comprised of NPC, PA Department of Environmental Protection, PA Fish and Boat Commission, and the County Conservation Districts. To date, we have worked at over 140 sites installing habitat structures and are continuing to see steady improvements to overall stream quality!

Talkin’ Trout

Pennsylvania is home to some of the best trout fishing in the world!  Excited anglers from across the state will soon gear up to fish their favorite spots on Saturday, April 13, during the traditional statewide opening day of trout season.  In celebration of this long awaited highlight of spring, we’ll be talking trout all month long.

Three different trout species can be found in PA waters – Brook, Brown, and Rainbow. Let’s start by getting to know each of them a little better.

Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)

The brook trout is Pennsylvania’s official state fish. It is technically a type of char belonging to the salmon family, Salmonidae.  The brook trout—also called the speckled trout—is a beautifully colored fish with yellow spots over an olive-green back. The spots along the trout’s back are stretched and almost wormlike in shape. Along its sides, the brook trout’s color transitions from olive to orange or red, with scattered red spots bordered by pale blue. Its lower fins are orange or red, each with a white streak and a black streak, and its underside is a milky white. A brook trout usually reaches 9 to 10 inches in length.

They are often found in clean, cool mountain streams and are most active around dawn and dusk. During the day, brook trout may retreat to deeper waters.

These fish are extremely opportunistic and eat a variety of insects, often preferring adult and nymph forms of aquatic insects. They will also eat beetles, ants, and small fish when they are available.

Fun Fact:  The biggest Brook Trout of state record, weighing in at a whopping 7lbs, was caught right here in North Central Pennsylvania, at Fishing Creek in Clinton County!

Brown Trout
(Salmo trutta)

The brown trout is not a native Pennsylvanian, although it is now naturalized and widespread here in the wild.  Brown trout are brownish in overall tone. The back and upper sides are dark-brown to gray-brown, with yellow-brown to silvery lower sides. Large, dark spots are outlined with pale halos on the sides, the back and dorsal fin, with reddish-orange or yellow spots scattered on the sides. The fins are clear, yellow-brown, and unmarked.  Wild Brown Trout in infertile streams may grow only slightly larger than the Brook Trout there. But in more fertile streams Brown Trout that weigh a pound are common. A Brown Trout over 10 pounds is a trophy. Brown Trout may exceed 30 inches in length. The state record is more than 19 pounds.

They may be found in all of the state’s watersheds, from limestone spring creeks, infertile headwaters and swampy outflows to suitable habitat in the larger rivers and reservoir tailwaters.

These fish eat aquatic and terrestrial insects, crayfish and other crustaceans, and especially fish. The big ones may also eat small mammals (like mice), salamanders, frogs and turtles. Large Browns feed mainly at night, especially during the summer.

Rainbow Trout
(Oncorhynchus mykiss)

The rainbow trout is native only to the rivers and lakes of North America, west of the Rocky Mountains, but was introduced to PA at the turn of the century.  Rainbow trout are gorgeous fish, with coloring and patterns that vary widely depending on habitat, age, and spawning condition. They are torpedo-shaped and generally blue-green or yellow-green in color with a pink streak along their sides, white underbelly, and small black spots on their back and fins.  They average about 20 to 30 inches long and around 8 pounds.  The state record is 20 pounds.

They prefer cool, clear rivers, streams, and lakes, though some will leave their freshwater homes and follow a river out to the sea. These migratory adults, called steelheads because they acquire more silvery markings, will spend several years in the ocean, but must return to the stream of their birth to spawn.

Rainbow trout survive on insects, crustaceans, and small fish.

March Macro Madness Continues

The NCAA College basketball tournament is underway and Macro Madness continues at NPC. We’ve been highlighting different macroinvertebrates on our Facebook page this month, but have really explained how biologists look for macroinvertebrates or collect them.

Biologists use several methods to collect macroinvertebrates. The one we’re going to describe is the D-frame kicknet method because that’s what we have photos of.

Biologists shuffle their feet in the stream for a specified length of time over a specified distance.  A D-shaped net is used to scoop up the materials dislodged by the shuffling and kicking feet. 

The material in the net is transferred to a container, treated with ethanol to preserve it and taken back to the lab for processing.  A random sample will be sorted with all the macroinvertebrates (water insects) grouped by taxa. 

Looking at the sorted sample, an aquatic biologist will consider what taxa are present, those that are tolerant of polluted water, or those that are intolerant of pollution and need clean water?  How many taxa are present?  How many individuals are in each of the taxa?  Comparing the answers to these questions and other will provide a better understanding of how the in-stream restoration work is improving water quality.

Dragonfly Nymphs (Gomphus)

The life stages of a dragonfly are egg to larvae to adult. The dragonfly larvae are also called nymphs.

Dragonfly nymphs live in the streams and creeks and rivers. They need water that is pretty clean.

They are usually a drab color. They have 6 legs, large eyes, and small wing buds on their back.

They breathe through gills kind of like a fish. A dragonfly nymph’s gills are located inside the rectum. They drawing water in and out of their hind end, over the gills, to breathe.

If they forcefully expel the water out, it moves them forward quickly – sort of like jet propulsion.

The lower jaw is scoop like and covers most of the bottom part of the head. Dragonfly nymphs feed by lying-in-wait. They quietly rest on the bottom of the stream or creek, on the substrate or on submerged plants. When a potential meal swims or crawls by, the nymph’s extendable jaws pushes out to snatch and pull in the meal.

Riffle Beetle Larvae (Promoresia)

Like other insects, riffle beetles go through several life stages. In their larval stage, they are

in fairly clean streams and rivers with riffles (no surprise given their name).

Like other animals the riffle beetle larvae molts. It sheds its exoskeleton after a new exoskeleton develops underneath. An exoskeleton can’t stretch as the larvae grows, so when it outgrows an exoskeleton it sheds it. They’ll go through 6 to 8 molts.

Riffle beetle larvae are elongate. You can see the head and all 3 pairs of legs if you look down at them from above. Their antennae and mouthparts are shorter than the head. The larvae have very fine gills that coming out of the tip of the abdomen. These can be pulled in for protection, or pulled in and out to increase oxygen flow.

As larvae they appear to be collector-gatherers and scrapers. They eat algae and other plant material in the water that either grows there or falls in. The larvae are rarely eaten by other invertebrates, but fish do eat them.

Several sources explain the human caused threats to the riffle beetle larvae include lower oxygen concentrations in streams and rivers, increased water temperatures in streams and rivers (water temperatures can go up because the tress along a stream are removed for examples), big changes in the amount of water flowing in a stream, and pollution.

Mayfly nymphs (Epeorus)

Adults mayflies are on the top 5 list of a trout’s favorite foods. The nymphs are found in fast flowing water on either soft or firm creeks bottoms.

They are scrapers or collector-gathers. They eat algae or decaying plant material.

Mayflies are sensitive to pollution. If they’re in a creek you’re probably going to have  good water quality.

One reason they’re a good indicator is because they’re found in a lot of different habitats (soft stream bottoms, hard stream bottoms, in rocks, on plants, etc.). They are also easy to find and there are usually a lot of them.

Mayfly larvae are part of the widely used EPT Index (Ephemeroptera-Plectoptera-Trichoptera). This is a system used to measure water quality. Biologists count the number of different types of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies and those numbers determine where on the scale the water quality falls.

Stonefly nymphs (Leuctra)

Stoneflies are found in most running waters. You can find them in boulder, cobble, water-soaked wood, and leaf packs.

Most species are predators or shredders. The shredders eat decaying plant material.

Stoneflies like clean, cool flowing streams. Most stonefly taxa are sensitive to water pollution.

Like mayflies, the presence of stoneflies is a reliable indicator of excellent water quality. If stoneflies aren’t in a stream, however it doesn’t necessarily mean the waterbody is polluted. Stoneflies have a very specific habitat conditions and it may just mean the habitat isn’t there.

Stonefly larvae are also part of the widely used EPT Index (Ephemeroptera-Plectoptera-Trichoptera) to measure water quality condition. This is a system used to measure water quality. Biologists count the number of different types of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies and those numbers determine where on the scale the water quality falls.

A fun fact, in low oxygen conditions, larvae will do “push-ups” to move water across their gills.

Caddis fly larvae (Pycnopsyche)

Female Caddisflies lay their fertilized eggs directly in water, or just above the water line on plants. When the eggs hatch a worm-like larvae emerges.

The larvae will live underwater for sometimes as long as a year. They use their feathery gills to breathe.

Caddisfly larvae build houses for themselves. They are general a “straw” shape with the larvae inside the hole. They will carey the house with them everywhere they go.

After pupating into their winged adult form, they crawl or float out of the water and fly away. Adults have short life spans (just a month or so).

Support Access to Creeks and Trail During Raise the Region

You can help work on projects to create more access to creeks and streams and rivers for fishing, paddling and splashing. You can create more access to trails for walking and birding and biking and skiing. Your support of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy during Raise the Region helps land conservation projects, public access projects, and projects to improve streams move ahead. Donate by clicking here.

March Macro Madness

“March Madness” may refer to college basketball playoffs, but at NPC it’s Macro Madness.

Macroinvertebrates are animals that don’t have a skeleton inside their body and are big enough you can see them without a magnifying glass or microscope.

Macroinvertebrates, often just referred to as “macros,” are one way scientists test water quality. Some macros can only live in clean water, some can live in water with a little pollution, and others can live in water with a lot of pollution.

Examples of macros are mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, scuds, snails, and leeches.

Macros are categorized based on how clean the water must be for them to live there. Some macros are more tolerant of sediment and pollution than others.

Here are some tolerant macros. They can handle living in polluted water, or water that has sediment in it.

Aquatic Earthworms (Oligochaeta)

These worms are pollution tolerant, meaning they can live in polluted water. Their body is soft, cylindrical, and long – like the earthworms you find in your yard or on pavement after a summer rainstorm. The body is divided into many segments (usually 40-200).

Aquatic earthworms have a life span between several weeks to years. They reproduce sexually or by dividing their bodies. Mating usually occurs in the late summer to early fall.

There are about 10 different families of aquatic worms in North America. Aquatic earthworms are just one of the families. They live in lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands.

Aquatic earthworms don’t have suckers (leeches have suckers) or eye spots. They eat a lot of different things. They are detritivores (eat decomposing plant and animal material), algivores (eat algae), and predators.

Some aquatic worms are very tolerant of pollution (long red ones) while others are very pollution sensitive. The presence of high numbers of pollution tolerant worms at a site may indicate polluted conditions.

Midge Larvae (Chironomus)

Midge Larvae are another pollution tolerant species. Midges are small insects that look like mosquitoes, but don’t bite. Midges, like a lot of insects, go through various life stages.

When they are larvae that live in streams and rivers. That are usually on the bottom of the waterway in among the water plants or tree limbs or branches that have fallen in.

Midge larvae are important to many stream and river systems. Because of how much leaf litter and plant material they eat, the larvae help recycle nutrients in these systems.

Midge larvae are also a food source for other animals. Some of the organisms that feed on them include insects, fish, birds, and other aquatic invertebrates. Midge larvae are often most active at night in the dark, this provides some protection from predators.

The 4 life stages a midge experiences are the egg, larvae, pupa, and adult stages. There are stages within some of these stages as well.  During the larvae stage midges go through another 4 stages. The 4 larvae stages are known as ‘instars’, and can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 years.

Leeches (Erpobdella)

Leeches can live in polluted water. They are considered a pollution tolerant taxa.

Leeches are flatter than worms, but not completely flat. They have a slight rounding to their back, but are pretty flat on the bottom.

While some types of leeches have suckers and suck blood, Erpobdella leeches eat invertebrates smaller than they are. They do this by swallowing their food whole.

Leeches are most common in warm areas of the stream or warm streams. Generally this is the shallower areas. If the water isn’t too deep, it’s easier for the sunlight to warm up the water. In shallow areas the stream isn’t usually moving as fast. Leeches like the slower moving water. They’ll use the plants, stones, and sticks for shelter.