NANFA-L-- Around Pigeon Mountain
Mon, 18 Jul 2005 20:13:44 EDT

I went out yesterday exploring Pigeon Mountain in Georgia which straddles
the Tennessee Divide. The Divide is interesting in studying maps as it is made
of fingers, ridges and valleys which seemingly jut into the two opposing
drainage basins. The Divide is visually very irregular, meandering and can be
difficult to follow while studying a map. Long valleys, low parallel ridges and
mountains seperate the two. Thin blue lines can almost connect but lead to
other great rivers.

Pigeon Mountain is a relativily high mountain and is almost all natural,
unpopulated and managed by the goverment as a wildlife management area. Caves,
springs, rock formations and deep forest make up the mountain's features. It
appears as an isolated protrusion from the surrounding land and offered a
promise of discovery.

I started on the western flank that is of the Tennesse valley drainage. I
was hoping to find some clear mountain streams that may host Southern Red
Bellied Dace or perhaps even Flame Chubbs. The headwaters that flow out of the
western cove eventually converge with several other valley streams to make South
Chickamauga creek. South Chick flows behind my house before meeting the
Tennessee river a few miles downstream. The stretch behind my home is green and
virtually opaque though, rarely,-in-times clarity has been between 3 or 4 feet.

Sadly this exploration was disheartening as most of the creeks were either
heavily silted, murky or lifeless. The water's orgins were on the mountain and
springs but once it flowed through a few fields and pastures its clarity was
quickly reduced. Many of the creeks, including springs were restricted to
access. Properties were often posted, fenced and contained pastured cattle and
horse farms. Most observations were-in-bridges and road sides.

I did find one unmarked access to a boardwalked nature trail. Though very
little water flowed in the small stream it was canopied by a thick forest and
offered many clear pools i could rest in. I was bareskin and chilled but
observed Snubbed and Rainbow Darters, White Suckers, Creek Chubs, Striped Shiners,
Redbreast Sunnies, Blacknose Dace, Stonerollers and even a Hogsucker for
such a small stream. This would be a good stream to return to and really work a
length of it while wearing a wetsuit. Once a stream becomes silted these
small pools become filled denying me access as well as offering the native
species the clear, clean gravel they need to reproduce and feed in.

After disheartening attempts-in-several other sites I crossed the valley to
the far slopes and found a crystal clear stream yet was seemingly devoid of
life, as were several spring runs nearby with the exception of snails. This is
a bewilderment to me. New construction and gated fencing prevented me from
going further upstream to gain other points of access.

I recrossed the valley and drove around the northern slopes and checked
another stream. It flowed along the highway and into the mobile drainage. Fairly
clear and promising I easily found an access by an old bridge. I jumped in
bareskin but the visibilty was only about 3 or 4 feet. However fish soon
congregated about me and i quickly observed Rainbow, Mountain and Stripe Shiners. A
pair of Studfish. Stonerollers and probably Coosa Darters. Hogsuckers. The
Rainbows were colored robustly though not electric. Several of the Mountain's
sported powder blue heads but the water's limited visibility prevented me
from locating a spawning aggregation. I also observed just below a staircased
riffle a sleekish pair of Tricolors or Alabama Shiners but they were so fast
and moving in and out of range i had difficulty in knowing exactly what they
were. Very sleek though which is not a character i normally see in those 2

I edged the mountain's eastern base and checked a few spring runs and creeks
with minimal success. Again siltation and clarity restricted my efforts
though the waters encountered were a bit clearer. I worked the map well all day
hitting nearly every potential stream in both drainages. Posted signs and
barbwire keep me from a few locations including a great spring which the city of
Lafayette evidently uses for their water supply. Just downstream of this
spring are a private lake and the several fish farm pools, all green, so i decided
it was not worth further study and certainly unnatural to original species
downstream. In my travels i have found some stunning springs and try to locate
each one that is marked in my gazeer. My hope is to find a wonderful spring
one day and become a "keeper of the spring".

I ended my day with a few other quick small creek snorkels and a last light
dip into the Little River which was several miles driving further south. The
sun was setting and the water turbid from a recent rain and crowds of wading
Mexicans enjoying the sandy, silty beaches. I almost grabbed a motel room for
a return snorkel the next day in hopes of settled waters. The Little River
has offered some wonderful snorkeling in the past, but i was worn and weary
from a full day and decided to return home for a nights rest and a Monday's
work. I'm again saddened by what i see, and see often on these trips. It takes
much effort to locate clear water that offers natural habitat and is undamaged
by man's activities. Season, weather, rains and luck play a big part in if a
day spent searching will be productive in snorkeling. A return in another
week or month could be better or could be worse. My time is limited. But for
certain it is plain to see the difference between natural sheltered flowing
water and disturbed ground pouring itself into a stream's substrate. Yes i think
we are seeing the disappearance of many, many species of our native fish.
They have nowhere to go but where they are and have been for generations and
ages. Then we clear the forests, til the ground and pave the earth. We all eat,
build and drive. There are many of us.
dang near straddling the Tennessee Divide
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