NANFA-L-- Pigeon Mountain return
Tue, 2 Aug 2005 22:16:10 EDT

I returned again last weekend to Pigeon Mountain, the last weekend of July
2005. I spent Sunday snorkeling with Jim Long of the National Park Service in
the Little River near Centre, Alabama. Rains from a couple days before had
driven the water high and turbid and visibility again was only about 3'. Still
we spent the day patiently easing through a variety of habitats. The fast
flows and weedy edges yielded the most activity. I was able to point out and then
capture a beautiful Blue Shiner in all its glory. Alabama Shiners were still
in color and spared in the fastest current. Soon picnicers and waders
descended on us so we retreated into a back water spillway. Lack of visibility
really hurt our efforts but nontheless we were able to view about 20 species
including large congregations of Log Perch. I have been awestuck-in-the Little
River several times in the past but these last 2 visits were disappointing due
to the turbidity. Lots of silt covered the rocks and streambed except in the
fastest flow areas. Many areas were seemingly devoid of life. I can only
guess what it would have been like 100 or better 200 years ago. The entire top of
Lookout Mountain which overlooks Chattanooga is drained by this river.
Uniquely it flows down the center of this broad flat appalachian mountain
southward and then over a series of waterfalls and eventually intoWeiss Lake. A lot
of activity is upstream of the site we snorkeled.
That evening after a pleasant meal together i headed back north and got a
cheap $25.99 motel in Summerville, Georgia near Paradise Gardens. My intensions
were to further explore Pigeon Mountain and take some photographs. A late
start, a trip to the Reverend's Gardens, searching for odd camera batteries,
lunch-in-Pop's Buffet ( while i recharged my batteries in a convenient
boothside wall outlet :) i finally got me to my first stop about 2:30-in-the
Summerville State Fish Hatchery. I walked in and introduced myself and Kevin sent me
out to a concrete block building where i was able to observe thousands and
thousands of Lake Sturgeon young of about 2". Several were light and albinoish
and one was 2 headed! A fella cleaning some green water devices fished me out
a dead one so i could study it carefully. A very unusual fish. I asked Kevin
if i could have a couple for the cement pond but he said they were worth
their weight in gold and i had no gold but what is in my teeth. I dont think
they would do well in my pool but are they not interesting creatures? Nearby was
a beautiful, lush and inviting spring run but i wanted to return to the
sites i had visited a few weeks before and time was now limited.
I returned to a little sheltered stream-in-the furthest upstream road
crossing i could locate. This stream drained Lookout Mountain's edge and flat area
slightly to the south of Pigeon Mountain. Visibility had only been a couple
feet last time but now i could see about 4 or 5 feet. Very little siltation
and plenty of exposed rock and gravel offered a nice habitat. I observed Creek
Chubs, Rainbow, Stripe and Mountain Shiners, Coosa Darters, Sculpin,
Stonerollers, Redear and Green Sunfish, Hogsuckers and a few nicely patterned
Crayfish. I also caught a fleeting glimpse of what i took for Blacknose Dace but
felt like that could not be. Sure enough in checking the books later both them
and the Stripe Shiners are in the Mobile drainage's upper reaches. This is a
nice spot and one i hope to return to and possibly expand the species count.
Perhaps a few other Shiners or Darters may be found with more patience and a
bit more walking up or downstream. Studying the map again the flat area
upstream can be accessed from the top of Lookout Mountain and i could also explore
the nearby East Fork headwaters of the Little River.
I then went to the site that was so clear on my last visit but devoid of
life while observing from the bridge above. I now know why no life was seen...
No Water! What was once clear, deep and swift 3 weeks ago was now dry,
tumbled, mossless rocks. Yet when studying the Gazateer this crossing's headwaters
were many, many blue lines draining a large sheltered portion of the mountain.
No water, how odd? There should be lots of water. I could see a stagnant
pool downstream but figured it would not yield to my efforts. I walked upstream
a bit but just more tumbled rocks. I finally decided that this section of the
waterway runs underground and so i studied the map and headed downstream.
This mountain is laced with caves and probably underground streams. About 2
miles downstream-in- another crossing the water was green, sluggish, silted and
uninviting. Another stream joined a few hundred yards up the road and it was
nearly the same. A intense cloudburst thunderstorm had recently fallen on the
area for several minutes and possibly could have stirred these waters up.
Another trip is warrented but the silty, sandy bottom looked very messy... i
could see no clean cobble anywhere, just the rocked and bouldered banks. I dont
understand this, all that drainage from the south end of the mountain top
must go somewhere.
I eased on north along the mountainside passing the LaFayette Spring works
and its fish ponds and checked Blue Spring out again. Several boys were
playing and had stirred it up but the water was much clearer than before. It is
called Blue Spring simply because the water is bluish. On my first visit the
water was near opaque frosty blue but now offered clarity where the boys were
not playing. They told of seeing a couple fish, Sunfish i would imagine, yet i
had seen nothing in the spring run i had waded 100 feet downstream a few
weeks before. Not even Sculpins.
I left for my last stop on the Mobile drainage side, a small stream draining
a portion of the mountain side and a shallow valley-in-the north end. I had
seen Mountain, Rainbow and several unknown Shiners on my first visit but the
clarity was about the same this time, perhaps from the recent cloudburst. This
stream offers promise for the future so i chose to use the remaining light
to revisit my favorite site on the Tennessee Drainage side of Pigeon Mountain.
This was the unmarked boardwalk that i felt warranted a closer study. Now in
full gear i was able to walk up the streamside a hundred yards and lay in
several crystal clear pools and patiently observe the species that presented
themselves. Nothing was added to my list from the previous visit but again i
observed Blacknose Dace, Stonerollers, White Suckers, Stripe Shiners, Hog
Sucker, Creek Chubs, Redbreast and Bluegills and several Snub and handsome Rainbow
Darters. I had recently bought and applied some reading glass lenses to the
inside of my mask and they greatly improved my ability to study carefully the
markings on the fish i could approach closely. I am back on top of my game.
Clear water, beautiful substrate, plenty of fish and lush streambanks. Lots
of neat, long rectangular rocks covered the streambed and jutted from the
banks. Some were 3' long and could be used as mantels over a fireplace. Many
looked as if they were hewn by man into functioning shapes. I picked up a couple
for my aquaria and pondered what uses such uniquely shaped stones could offer.
The sun was setting and i wanted to check out a few other sites on the way
home. I had had several good snorkels so i stripped my gear and dried off for
the hour ride home.
Not much more was seen on this visit and generally the streams clarity was
the same with a couple exceptions. Im hoping that several potential crossings
will be clear on another return and offer some additional diversity. Time is
my factor and there are many places i want to visit and explore but i will
make a point of returning once again before the season is out to this mountain
straddling the divide. It is difficult to be in the right place-in-the right
time for maximum visibility. I have seen some change in these 2 visits and
want to study several different considerations. Another trip indeed.

back home and ready to head east.
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