I snorkeled four different rivers - Big Sugar Creek (Neosho drainage), Flat
Creek (White River drainage), Niangua River, and the Gasconade. Big Sugar
Creek had great visibility and it was full of Cardinal Shiners including
some still in full breeding colors. What really struck me was the absence
of Common or Striped Shiners. It seems like any river you go to in the east
if full of one of these species or its cousins. The Cardinal Shiner seemed
to be the most common fish. There were also lots of Northern Studfish, some
with some good colors.
The second day I drove to Flat Creek and on the way hit the upper part of
the Spring River where I found Arkansas Darters and I believe a Least
Darter. Flat Creek was full of Duskystripe Shiners, but most didn't have
too much color. I found a Yoke Darter and a couple of Ozark Madtoms. There
were tons of Rainbow and Greenside Darters and Logperch. When I got further
down stream I found White-tailed Shiners. After hitting this creek I went
northwest through the hills and came upon a very beautiful spring. There
was water running off the limestone cliffs into it and the water was crystal
clear (the clearest I've ever been in). It was a absolutely wonderful spot.
It was full of Southern Redbellied Dace, Duskystripe Shiners, stonerollers,
sunfish, bass, Rainbow Darters, logperch, sculpins, and Ozark Shiners.
Next I hit the Niangua River and worked my way downstream. As soon as I
jumped in I observed a Bluestripe Darter working the edge of the water
willows. The Bleeding Shiners and Ozark Shiners were still spawning over
gravel piles and it was wonderful to just float and observe them. I looked
like crazy for a Niangua Darter, but like his cousin the Arrow Darter I was
unsuccessful. I did manage to get some Missouri Saddlebacked Darters
though, so I was happy to see two of the three Missouri endemic darters.
Finally I snorkeled the Gasconade, but I struggled to find clear water.
Oddly enough it seemed to get clearer down stream (in the Mark Twain
National Forest) and here I got to observe Missouri Saddled and Gilt
Darters. I also saw two more Bluestripe Darters.
Altogether it was a good spur of the moment trip. Not as good as Tennessee,
but not bad. I was struck by the abundance of Southern Redbellied Dace and
I even came across them in the larger rivers. The other thing that struck
me was the nice country in the extreme southwest corner of the state
(McDonald county). If there is a right was to do agriculture this has got
to be pretty close. There were fields of tall grass used for hay and this
appeared to be the dominant form of agriculture. There were cattle but they
didn't seem to graze the land to death. There was an abundance of
Dickcissels and Eastern Meadowlarks and a lot of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers
in the open country. Very nice.
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