NANFA-L-- Pigeon Mountain return (now people mentality)

Nick Zarlinga (
Wed, 3 Aug 2005 07:38:48 -0400

I can only
><)> guess what it would have been like 100 or better
><)> 200 years ago.

Nice write up Casper. Your comment above spurred me to relate an incident
that I found a bit sadistically funny, yet very telling. I have a friend
who is over the past couple of years starting to get into NANFA and is
starting to really appreciate this "natural history stuff". He has no
biological background, is very intelligent, and is becoming amazed by
nature. I guess you can say that we have opened his eyes. On an outing
where we were catching some real nice fish, he turns to me and the dialogue
goes something like this;

Friend: "I am amazed-in-how these things [native fish and other animals]
can survive out here"
Nick: "What do you mean?"
Friend: "You know, there are so many diffenent kinds, with no help."
Nick: "Help? What do you mean?"
Friend: "You know, help by us. They just can live out here with out us
helping them."
Nick: "What do you think it was like before we were here?"
Friend: "I don't know, I guess I never really thought about it. I guess I
just figured that there wasn't much around until we got here."
Nick: "Oh?"
Friend: "All we hear these days is how we have to help the beavers and the
otters and such. It just seems like they need our help to survive."

I thought this was really telling. In my opinion, this represents what the
rest of the world thinks about nature. If it came from some "[insert your
degrading, disgusting, uniformed people stereotype here]", then I could
understand, but this wasn't the case.

Nick Zarlinga
Aquarium Biologist
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
216.661.6500 ext 4485

"Who hears the fishes when they cry?"
Henry Thoreau--1817-1862

><)> -----Original Message-----
><)> From:
><)> []On Behalf
><)> Of
><)> Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2005 10:16 PM
><)> To:
><)> Subject: NANFA-L-- Pigeon Mountain return
><)> 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.
><)> casper
><)> back home and ready to head east.
><)> /--------------------------------------------------
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><)> American Native Fishes
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/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association (NANFA). Comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of NANFA. For more information about NANFA,
/ visit Please make sure all posts to nanfa-l are
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/ help, visit the NANFA email list home page and archive at