The Tuesday in late May started out chilly with a little snow on the ground from the previous night.
We set up our tables and stream-monitoring gear in the upper meadow along Fourmile Creek.
By the time our first pack of laughing and giggling sixth graders from McGinnis Middle School arrived, the promise of a sunny afternoon was realized.
Keith Krebs spoke to them briefly about the importance of water and water quality in the Upper Arkansas Valley and impressed on them that they are the future stewards of this beautiful valley we call home.
The pack was divided into two groups of six or seven kids – one group bouncing around getting on waders (thanks to Keith for donating the waders and building the new stream seines) for some in-stream invertebrate sampling.
The other group had collected water samples from Fourmile Creek for chemical analysis of stream quality. After about 15 minutes, the groups switched duties so everyone got to get in the creek – their favorite task.
Once each assignment was completed, the students moved on to another of the Conservation Camp stations and a new bunch of pre-adolescents arrived to learn about our beautiful watershed.
This year, over 50 kids came through our stream health station.
Jim Impara and Keith Krebs of the Collegiate Peaks Chapter Trout Unlimited helped and instructed the kids in creating a collection of stream macro-invertebrates, identifying the critters they had discovered and utilizing that information to infer the water quality of Fourmile Creek.
In years past a multitude of invertebrates were collected including large stonefly nymphs, mayfly nymphs, cranefly larvae and annelids (worms).
This year, however, only a few cranefly larvae and annelids were collected.
The kids were unsure about conclusions regarding stream health based on this year’s collecting. While a single point sampling is insufficient to establish a trend, it is puzzling as to where all the stoneflies and mayflies have gone. Perhaps it might be related to the very low flows in Fourmile Creek last year and the concurrent warn water temperatures.
Darci Kaiser (AmeriCorps intern at Greater Arkansas River Nature Association) and Jerry Wright (CPC-TU) staffed the water chemistry stations aiding the kids in making water quality measurements of pH, phosphates, nitrates and dissolved oxygen.
A shout out to the Buena Vista school district and science teacher Greg Hogan for continuing to organize this long-established, fun and educational Conservation Camp.
TU and GARNA also send their appreciation for the enthusiasm and good manners of the McGinnis students.
For more information about Collegiate Peaks Chapter our events and projects visit collegiatepeaksTU.org
Jerry Wright is a current board director and treasurer for the Collegiate Peaks Chapter – TU.