2013 NANFA Convention at Cumberland Falls State Park Kentucky

Josh Blaylock

The 2013 edition of the annual NANFA Convention was held at Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky.  This year’s convention was hosted by Kentucky and Ohio Regional Representatives Josh Blaylock and Matt De La Vega.  From May 2nd through the 5th, NANFA members were treated to some of the best that Kentucky has to offer.  Cumberland Falls is one of the most beautiful and unique places in the state of Kentucky.  Geologists estimate that the rock over which the Cumberland River plunges is about 250 million years old.  Often called the Niagara of the South, Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Northern Hemisphere where a Moonbow (a rainbow by moonlight) can be seen.  The only other location is Victoria Falls in Africa.  The State Park and Dupont Lodge gave NANFA members a great location and wonderful facilities, offering everything they needed with a rustic feel, not to mention the delicious southern food provided by Riverview Restaurant.  falls
ulandOn Thursday May 2nd, the convention kicked off with guests arriving and checking in.  Between arrival and the planned events, many people took the time to relax and explore Cumberland Falls and the surrounding area.  That evening Uland Thomas held a photo tank build workshop.  Many people joined this to learn how to and build a fish photo tank.  The tanks that were built were auctioned off on Friday with proceeds going to support NANFA. 
On Friday, May 3rd, NANFA was treated to a variety of wonderful speakers.  We were honored to have the guest lineup that we had.  Making back to back appearances, Kristina Alford from TNAIC spoke about Brook Trout propagation.  Matt Thomas from KDFWR presented his research on the Fishes of Buck Creek.  Brooke Washburn from Morehead St. University presented the research of Dr. Eisenhour on Percina Stictogaster, the Frecklebelly Darter.  JR Shute from CFI spoke about this year’s Convention mascot, the Kentucky Arrow Darter.  Michael Hensley from The Nature Conservancy spoke about their work on the Green River.  David Cravens from the KY Center for Mollusk Conservation spoke about their work with Kentucky’s Mollusk.  NANFA BOD member, Brian Zimmerman presented on Captive Propagation.  We also had a park ranger from Cumberland Falls give us a unique history of the park.talks
auctionThat evening we had a wonderful southern dinner from Riverview Restaurant, followed by the annual auction.   This was likely the largest auction to date for a NANFA convention.  Donations poured in from large corporations, small companies, and many, many NANFA members.  Lots of books, live fish, fishy folk art, and aquariums are just a few of the many items that were sold.  Some of the more notable items were custom aquarium backgrounds donated by Designs by Nature, the NANFA built photo tanks, Mike Lucas’s handmade fish ornaments, and even a few cases of the 2013 Convention unofficial drink, Kentucky’s original Ale-8-One.  This year’s auction was record breaking in both size and income.
Saturday May 4th was a big day in Kentucky.  First, it marked the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby.  But, it was also a big day for NANFA. It was, I’m told, the first time it has rained during the field collection day of a convention.  Despite the forecast, the NANFA members came together to explore one of the most diverse areas in the United States.  We arranged for 3 separate trips.  Trip 1 was led by host Matt De La Vega and that group went to the Kentucky River drainage.  Heading East, they had dry conditions for most of the day.  As an added bonus, Matt Thomas from the KDFWR took them to a location for KY Arrow Darters.  This site is frequently used by CFI for their work with the Arrow Darter.  Though they were contained to one river drainage, they caught an impressive number of species.trip
ulandTrip 2 headed west and was lead by Uland Thomas.  Though they encountered rain at their first location, that didn’t stop their day.  They headed east and sampled some locations in the Middle Cumberland River drainage.
Trip 3 was led by host Josh Blaylock and this group sampled locations in the Middle Cumberland River and upper Green River.  This was a unique trip as there were multiple locations within the area that allowed us to sample very different habitats.  This group also witnessed some spawning action of Longnose Gar.  One member even got in on the action with a Golden Redhorse, and we’ll leave it at that.  Due to the drainages and locations we went to, this trip yielded the highest number of species.redhorse
rainSunday, May 5th. The heavy rain continued.  We had 3 trips planned but cancelled those due to the weather.  Many people began their trips home, but one group stayed behind to brave the rain and find more species.  We traveled north to some locations in the Rockcastle River and Dix River.  In the Rockcastle Drainage we sampled Crooked Creek, which gave us plenty of the KY endemic, Striped Darter.  We also seined in a very unique cave fed creek that has a unique looking Orangethroat species.  We ended our day in the Dix River where we caught the Sheltowee Darter.
In the end, the convention was a great success.  Even with the poor weather on the collecting days, everyone had a great time.  This convention didn’t happen just by the efforts of Matt and I.  I would like to take a few lines to thank a few deserving people.  Casper Cox and his son, Cobalt, did an amazing job on the the artwork for the convention logo and T-Shirts.  Dave Neely’s illustration of the Kentucky Arrow Darter was spot on.  I’m still blown away when I look at the overall work of the shirts and logos.  Michael Wolfe for all his work on the website and making sure it all worked, he really made us look good. Tom Watson for handling the registration.  Both Tom and Michael did a ton of work on the auction and without them it couldn’t have been as great as it was.  Phil Nixon for once again stirring up the auction bids.  auction
fallsSpeaking of the auction, a HUGE thank you to all the NANFA members who donated and participated.  There are many people who helped in some way, and I want to thank each of you, even if not by name. Another big thank you to our speakers and to the Cumberland Falls State Park.  This year’s convention was, in my opinion, a success.  It brought in a record income for NANFA. Moving forward, I hope to have another convention in Kentucky soon, perhaps we’ll move to the Western part of the Commonwealth for a totally new experience.
Photos by Jenny K, Casper C, Fritz R, and Michael W