NANFA-- The SC trip

Roselawn Museum (
Thu, 20 Jun 2002 15:31:26 -0400

Hi All

I enjoyed hanging out with Chip Rinehart and John Patterson last Saturday
over in SC. I've only known Chip for six months, but already we've
collected in four different states together. I was meeting John for the
first time. The weather was ideal, with temps in the upper 70s to low 80s,
cloudless sky, and low humidity. Sunblock definitely would have been called
for except that each site we visited had a wonderful canopy of trees
overhanging the water. I can't stress enough how beautiful SC is, and I
can't believe it's taken me six months to get back over there.

Beaverdam Creek was absolutely packed with fish. Evidence of other wildlife
was abundant. We found skeletal remains of what looked like a gator, and
bird bones in the water. Deer tracks could be seen in the mud beside the
stream, and freshly stripped limbs that the beavers were working on floated
in masses of pine needle clumps. We saw lots of crawdads and clams as well
as a few helgramites (sp?). John swore we were catching the same crawdad
over and over. Seining was sometimes difficult due to large stones
scattered along the bottom, but apparently the fish were in a generous mood
as we still did quite well. Some idiot had left half of the contents of his
toolbox on the stream bed. Once we started finding the Christmas darters
(in surprisingly slow water) it was really hard to move on to the next

I'm glad we did, however, as Steven's Creek was not to be missed. As soon
as we parked the vehicles, John and I wandered out onto the bridge where SC
23 crosses the stream. This old structure was built without any allowance
for pedestrians, and John and I had to climb up into the framework to take
the obligatory upstream/downstream pictures without becoming roadkill in
the process. Chip told me that the height of this bridge (VERY tall) was
unusual for the area, but we could still clearly see many fishes and a
large turtle swimming in the clear water far below. Access to the water
required a short hike down a canoe portage trail that ended in a steep,
wooden stairway at the water. The bottom step dropped off far enough to
suggest that the water level is often much higher than we found it that day.

Until then, the lack of depth and clarity of the water had kept me out of
the wetsuit, but I could resist no longer! Once I was in the water, I soon
discovered that I could have snorkeled cofortably without a wetsuit were it
not for several very large, colorful leeches. Normally, I am about leeches
the way many folks are about spiders and snakes. Just seeing one has often
kept me in waders. I didn't see them until one attempted to latch onto my
hand. Fortunately, I didn't freak, (-: just snatched it off and returned to
my gear bag to fetch the neoprene gloves...everything else was already
covered. After that, the leeches ignored me, and I became slightly more
concerned about other residents of the stream.

As far as I can tell, there is no clear line in SC between where the gators
are and where they ain't. In most of the stream the water was shallow
enough to allow you to spot one approaching, especially in the bright
sunlight. I longed to venture further into some very inviting deeper,
darker pools, but I kept getting the "gator vibe" strong enough to make me
hesitate. Chip and John had courteously chosen to work quite a ways
downstream from where I was snorkeling, so I could have been toast before
they would have known it.

The view underwater was every bit as stunning as the scenery up top. Rocky
riffles peppered with whitefin shiners, bluehead chubs, and spottail
shiners dropped off into sandy pools where ridges of stone formed
underwater stairs. Redhorse shot past me so quickly I couldn't even tell
what kind they were. I also saw large hogsuckers, stonerollers, assorted
sunfish, and scads of blackbanded & Christmas darters. Curiously, I don't
think we saw a single topminnow all day.

This creek typified those little slices of nature that give you rest all
the way to your soul. I could have easily spent a week there.
Unfortunately, reality beckoned in the form of a scheduled midnight
workshift that I couldn't avoid. So, I made like a cowboy and headed off
into the sunset in the direction of GA. Do yourselves a favor, folks. If
the SC boys invite you down (or up, Doug), GO!

Steven A. Ellis
Kennesaw, GA
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