Sitting at my Riverkeeper desk on the eve of a new year and reflecting on the whirlwind of change for me and my family in 2020, I find myself distracted.
The goal for the past few days has been to write a column providing a nearly wrapped bow on the long list of accomplishments by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association in the past year, and previewing some of the things we have in store for 2021.
Each time I have a cool idea -- a hook to build a column around -- however, I catch a flash of blue from the corner of my eye.
Ironically, I am a Riverkeeper distracted by a "River."
Growing up on a small farm in Huntingdon County and falling in love with whitewater paddling adventures, R. John Dawes saw first-hand the importance of clean water and how issues that threatened that resource impacted the aquatic ecosystem.
“I used to instruct whitewater kayaking and paddled a pretty significant portion of my life, so I love a lot of the creeks in Pennsylvania,” he said. “I have seen first-hand the significant impacts of abandoned mine lands. When I started paddling near Johnstown, the river would actually like burn your eyes when you would roll and that was due to the acidity that is associated with acid mine drainage. There were really orange riverbanks and no fish – things were completely still. The water couldn’t support macroinvertebrates or fish.”
Michael Kinney spends plenty of time along the tributaries that feed the Susquehanna River, sharing his images regularly via his Facebook page. He shared his favorite images of 2020 in the gallery below.
Dr. Joseph Simons III, the Vice President of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association Board of Directors, loves fly fishing for trout and exploring the outdoors. That was especially true in 2020, where our river-based resources offered a welcomed escape for he and his family.
Thankfully, he is also an excellent photographer, and has journaled his time outdoors with a variety of great photos. Below, he shares his favorite images (in chronological order) from throughout the year, all taken within the Middle Susquehanna watershed.
Over the course of a decade, Hammersley Fork – a tributary of Kettle Creek in portions of Potter and Clinton counties – had jumped its bank and traveled down a stretch of road.
“People were essentially driving through a Class A trout stream,” said Kathleen Lavelle, a field coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Pennsylvania cold water habitat program. “Trout Unlimited worked with a local contactor, DCNR, land owners and local groups to put in a channel block upstream to re-route the creek back where it belonged.”
But that left numerous species of fish trapped in a ¾-mile stretch of dewatered road.
The 42-mile Tunkhannock Creek is the only waterway within the Middle Susquehanna River watershed nominated for the 2021 River of the Year honors.
Voting has begun to select the 2021 River of the Year, with a deadline for online voting set for Jan. 22, 2021. We encourage everyone within our watershed to consider voting for the Tunkhannock Creek. Why? Consider the following:
John Dawes, of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, shares how the agency helps smaller watershed groups via grants and other services, talks about the dangers of acid mine drainage, fracking and other waterway concerns and suggests how to make a difference.
As Ivan Eego and a group of friends joined for an ice fishing expedition on Oneida Lake in New York last year, things didn’t go as they expected.
“The weather was horrific, fishing was bad, I broke through the ice after dark and had an ATV break down a mile out and had to retrace my tracks to get a tow vehicle,” the Sunbury resident remembered. “Yet, I had a blast! I had a large sturgeon roll up on the camera, caught some walleye and perch, enjoyed some local dining and, of course, the camaraderie of friends made for a memorable experience.
“I think that’s what ice fishing is all about. Not the catch, but the adventure and shared memories.”
Looking for a unique gift for the outdoors lover on your holiday shopping list? The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper is offering lightweight neck gaiters and hats with the association logo -- with all proceeds going directly back to protecting and promoting our river-based resources.
Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper John Zaktansky chats with WKOK radio personality Mark Lawrence on the Sunrise program about the HERYN (Helping Engage our River's Youth with Nature) Program, Songs of the Susquehanna and other projects.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.