The ninth annual Scioto Brush Creek Day saw students rotating from a station that taught about various life-forms in the waters, to the kinds of fish found there, to games, based on the concept of the predator-prey environment in the waters of Scioto Brush Creek.
“It is an event that was originally organized by the Shawnee Nature Club from Portsmouth, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources,” said Martin McAllister, of The Friends of Scioto Brush Creek. “And we have since expanded and formed a new nonprofit group called The Friends of Scioto Brush Creek, Inc.
McAllister said the primary goal of the group is to maintain and improve the water quality of Scioto Brush Creek through education, awareness, and involvement of the local residents.
“That's our mission, and a big part of that mission is working with students. And we focus on the Northwest fifth-grade class every year, where we send educators into the classroom to bring to them an awareness of watershed concepts, water quality concepts, predator-prey relationships, and repairing corridor health,” he said.
Normally, when the Scioto Brush Creek Day event is held, students get down in the creek to collect fish and macro invertebrates, but a storm the night before made the waters rise and caused turbulence, so the gathering of all samples for experiments was performed by Ohio Department of Natural Resources and other adult personnel.
The storm heavily affected the coloration of the water, and at the place where the confluence of the main stem and the south fork join, there was muddy water on the left side of the creek and clear water on the right side, because the storm hit the north side of the watershed and did not drain into the south fork.
“We want them (the students) to come away from here realizing that this watershed, Scioto Brush Creek Watershed, this stream, is one of the healthiest streams left in the entire state of Ohio,” McAllister said.
According to Friends of Scioto Brush Creek Inc., Scioto Brush Creek is one of the cleanest streams in Ohio. It has a watershed area of 386 square miles or 175,332 acres, 81 percent of which is forested, and measures 54 miles in length, including the south fork.
McAllister said the reason so much of the Scioto Brush Creek area is not developed is because it is very hilly, and not conducive to building.
He said the stream had been studied since the 1920s, and since that time, has lost only two of its 71 total fish species.
“It is one of the few remaining streams in Ohio to have a native breeding population of Muskellunge,” McAllister said.
The Muskellunge, or Musky, is a relatively rare freshwater fish of North America. It is the largest member of the Pike family.
“Very few people realize it, but this is probably one of the top three remaining streams in the state of Ohio,” he said. “It is truly a wilderness life stream.”
Mike Greenlee, an aquatic biologist, from the Division of Wildlife in Athens, brought fish from other tributaries and showed them to the students.
Greenlee talked about the various species of fish and their importance to the stream.
“We go into streams, like Scioto Brush Creek, and collect fish to find out how they are doing,” Greenlee said. “We want to learn things like what they eat, and to test them for contaminants to see if there are chemicals in the fish, and we collect them to count them.”
McAllister said every student attending the Scioto Brush Creek Day would receive a free live tree that normally grows in that area.
“And also as a part of the in-classroom programs, there was a competition to essentially learn as much as they could about the creek and take a quiz,” he said. “The highest scorers on the quiz receive a number of prizes donated by local government agencies and local businesses.”
McAllister summed up the purpose in teaching the students about the watershed of Scioto Brush Creek.
“It's our hope that they will become aware of the necessity to conserve the environment. Because if they don't, then all this has been for nothing” he said. “We have to begin somewhere, and what we're hoping is that maybe they won't remember Skipjack Herring, or the Warmouth Carp Sucker, but maybe they'll remember that Scioto Brush Creek is a very special place. And that alone will be enough.”
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.