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Virginia’s Trout Heritage Waters for 2018

leah kirk


Virginia’s Trout Heritage Day falls on the historic opening day of trout season and has been developed to provide the type of fishing event that anglers who like opening day have missed. DGIF eliminated opening day of trout season in 1996 in order to increase the number of times streams are stocked and to provide increased trout fishing opportunities from October through May. While the majority of trout anglers continue to support this programmatic change, some trout anglers and communities liked the atmosphere and opportunity provided by the old opening day.

A group of 20 waters will be freshly stocked with trout to allow trout anglers and communities to plan activities around a known stocking date. The Department has worked with the U. S. Forest Service, local communities and private landowners to provide this opportunity.

Selected waters are stocked for the first Saturday in April to create an announced stocking event. The following waters will be stocked for Heritage Day on April 7, 2018


Southern Appalachian Fly Shops Prospering

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Southern Trout inbox overflowed with announcements from the region’s growing number of fly shop. Smoky Angler of Gatlinburg, TN, and Brookings of Cashiers, NC are celebrating their 30th Anniversary, and Little River Outfitters located Townsend, is yet another older establishment is adding an online store.

            Everyone loves exploring fly shops, but is a very tough, largely season business. Just staying open during January is tough. Amazon undercuts prices on big ticket items such as rods and reels. When you’re in one of the older, well established, watch how they conduct business. They have broken the code. They know what they are doing.

            When I wrote my first guide to trout fishing in the Smokies, there was the Creel in Knoxville, and the Fish Hawk in Atlanta. Now there are dozens of fly shops where there used to two. It is big fun seeing so many people enjoying was I knew here all along. Big Fun….

            Most of these shop have in house shop guides. Some of them are front for a guide service. In 1970 there was not a single guide for trout in the South. Times have really, really changed and mostly for the good. If I could ever learn spell and grammar, what a wonderful world it would be, eh?

Shenandoah National Park Open

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Luray, Virginia: Facilities in Shenandoah National Park will begin opening in March and will continue to open throughout the spring. Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center, located at mile 51 Skyline Drive, will continue serving visitors on weekends (weather permitting) until March 23 when the visitor center will begin operating 7 days a week. The Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, located at mile 4.6 Skyline Drive, will open 7 days a week beginning April 6.

Campgrounds will operate on the following schedule: Big Meadows Campground will open March 30; Lewis Mountain Campground will open March 30; Loft Mountain, Mathews Arm and Dundo Group campgrounds will open May 2.

Elkwallow, Pinnacles, South River, and Dundo Picnic Grounds are currently open. The remaining picnic grounds will operate as follows: Big Meadows will open March 30; Lewis Mountain will open March 30; and Dickey Ridge Picnic Grounds will open April 6.

Concessioner-operated restaurants, lodges, and associated facilities will operate as follows: Lewis Mountain Cabins/Campstore will open March 16; Skyland Resort will open March 22; Big Meadows Wayside and Big Meadows Shower/Laundry will open March 29; Loft Mountain Wayside will open March 29; Elkwallow Wayside will open March 30; Skyland Stables will open April 6; Loft Mountain Campstore/Shower/Laundry will open May 2; Big Meadows Lodge will open May 9.

For more information about planning a trip to Shenandoah National Park go to or call the park at (540) 999-3500.

Trout Addiction A Gateway to Rivers & Streams

leah kirk

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Anybody passing through Sperryville, Virginia can’t help but be drawn to the creative hand-painted “Trout Addiction” sign.

“Come Get Hooked, Guided Fishing Tours, Handicapped Welcome,” topped off with a spectacular brook trout everybody’s raving about. Kind of makes you want to go fishing. “It’s nothing fancy, it’s not even trying to be fancy,” insists Eddy Burke, the down-to-earth fishing guide whose home is behind the sign. “I want to be able to take kids and the elderly — maybe some wounded veterans — and have them catch trout.

Fishing guide Eddy Burke heads down the bank to a favorite fishing hole where the Robinson and Rose Rivers meet near Syria, Virginia.

“My goal was to always work with handicapped children, especially the ones from the city who’ve never had a chance to fish. If I can get them out to a trout pond, let them catch a fish, show them how to clean it and eat it, I think it will go a long a way. They might even get addicted like I am.”

Born and raised in Rappahannock County, his ancestors displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park, the 58-year-old Burke, a master plumber by trade, and his wife, Lisa, who commuted to Alexandria for her job, always talked about guiding fishing tours from their Main Street home.

“We were going to open last April,” Burke recalls. “I got the signs made up, got the gear together. And then [Lisa] got sick and I took it [the sign] down. By July she was so sick I had to quit work.”

“She passed on Christmas Eve,” he says. “Fifty-five years old and the love of my life. She wanted to do this. So I’m going to try to do it like she wanted to do it.”

Which means when he set out for Madison County one morning this week the back of his SUV was filled not only with fishing gear — casting and fly rods — but a picnic basket containing the most delectable smoked (by Burke himself) salmon this side of Kodiak.

Eddy Burke makes a point of stopping at Syria Mercantile for fishing flies

“I’m not a chef but I can cook,” he offers, adding “Lisa had ideas of packing everything from smoked fish to baked beans and coleslaw. But I’ll have a nice little lunch and some refreshments in the cooler, just the basics. A shore side lunch.”

And then there are the trout that can be consumed almost as quickly as they are caught.

“My preference is straight off the grill as hot as you can,” says Burke, “so we can do that. And I’ll have some smoked trout or salmon for lunch if we don’t catch much. But we’ll catch something. Some days it might be a little thin, but we’ll catch a few.”

As the weather warms, Burke looks forward to guiding locally this year on the Hughes, Robinson and Rose Rivers in Madison County, as well as the limestone streams surrounding Luray.

“Limestone only runs a certain streak,” he educates. “There’s no limestone on this side of the mountains, it’s on the other side. You can’t beat limestone; it’s premiere. That’s why there are springs over there in Luray you can sit a house in — millions of gallons of water flowing in and then dumping into the Hawksbill. There are rainbow [trout] in there by the hundreds.

“We have top-notch fishing right here in our backyard,” the guide points out. “And all the streams in Shenandoah National Park have native brook trout. I’ve got little four-foot rods for that.”

The Robinson River in Madison County is one of several local rivers and streams stocked by with trout.

For the more adventurous, Burke knows every trout-filled mountain lake from here to the southwestern corner of the state.

“If somebody wants to experience a true wilderness trip it can happen,” he says. “The high mountain lakes are incredible. I prefer them. That’s the cream of the crop. A trout stream is harder to fish if you’re not an experienced fisherman, but the lakes I can take the kids to . . .

“If you don’t spend a least a day or two and camp overnight it’s not worth a trip in there,” the guide adds. “Some lakes you have to hike four or five miles into, but it’s worth it. There’s no bells or whistles to bother you. You can camp, you can build your little fire, you can cook, the kids can play, the dogs can run, it’s just wide open.

“And you can always come back,” Burke will remind his clients. “You won’t need me after the first trip. When these kids leave a lake I want them to come back and do it again. Now they’ll know where to go.”

Book a “Trout Addiction” guided fishing tour by phoning 540-987-9129.


leah kirk


SOMERSET, Penn. – With an eye to exhibitors and presenters planning their 2019 schedules, the Fly Fishing Show® has released new dates and venues in advance, said Ben Furimsky, president and CEO of the seven-location annual cavalcade of fly fishing:

               Denver, Colo. - January 4, 5 and 6;

               Marlborough, Mass. - January 18, 19 and 20;

               Edison, NJ - January 25, 26 and 27;

               Atlanta, Ga. - February 1 and 2;

               Lynnwood, Wash. - February 16 and 17;

               Pleasanton, Calif. - February 22, 23 and 24; and

               Lancaster, Penn. - March 9 and 10.

               All show sites remain the same as in 2018.

               Previous and potential exhibitors seeking advance registration or to be placed on a waiting list may contact the Fly Fishing Show at; phone (814) 443-3638.   

Breaking News: Remembering Norm Strung

leah kirk

Frank Sergeant’s The Fishing Wire carried a recent entry about The Outdoor Writers of Association of America’s 2018 Norm Strung Youth Writing Awards contest for promising young writers to showcase their skills in prose or poetry and win cash prizes totaling $1,400. I really don’t give a squirt of possum piss for the OWAA, but I was a member from 1981 until 1993. It’s a great group according to many if you like to hear a lot of nothingness.

               I was aware of the Norm Strung Youth Writing Awards were named after Norm Strung, who served as OWAA president from 1984-1985. Now deceased, Strung received OWAA’s Excellence in Craft award in 1989. He won the Ham Brown award in 1988 for his service to the organization. That same year, he organized and edited a book for OWAA titled “Selling the Outdoor Story.” He was also recognized as Outstanding Board member in 1975.

               Back in 1987, I along with a group of other writers was invited by SATOUR to spend several weeks in the then quite controversial Republic of South Africa. Our group left JKF on the last SATOUR flight before President Bush applied sanctions on the old heavy segregated African nation. While there we did it all from goose and big game hunting to fly fishing for trout and deep-sea fishing during our five-week grand tour of the country.

               Frankly among the writers on the junket, I was the only one in the group I had not heard of before. Sensing I was a little lost, two older gentlemen, Zack Taylor of Sports Afield and Norm Strung of Field & Stream took me under their wings (as well as introduced me to the wonders of the dry martini). 

On the trip we rarely slept in the same place more than twice. We literally did it all on an inclusive tour of the country from dining with parliament members and staying on a Boer farm to meeting with Desmond Tutu. Winner of the Nobel Prize and Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the leader of the Zulu. We even visited the country’s lone stripe joint at Sun City. As a twenty-something year old, it was one of many trips of a lifetime.

               Norm Strung took a liking to this opinionated hillbilly. We fished a creek together north of Cape Town where in the mountains we had to keep an eye not for bears but for baboons and leopards. Later at a lemon grove, we jumped shot Guinea and Franklin fowl, and Norm pulled me out of a bar one evening when I was having a friendly exchange with a likkered up local on how effective President Bush’s sanctions were. Bush had implemented US sanctions on the RSA and we discussed its effects on the rand.

Every day of the trip was a new adventure. At the time I did not know that Norm would be gone from among us in less than two years. The lessons he taught me about the business formed my conduct years at Vulcan Outdoors and later the magazine I now run. I know I did not impress him in any way, save for perhaps with how green I was.

Norm Strung was an okay guy. In those days he wintered in Mexico where he shot quail daily and summered in the Rockies chasing trout. He made such a deep impression on me. I wish you could have been with us.   

WFN Presents "Friday Flyday" Fly Fishing

leah kirk

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WFN Presents "Friday Flyday" Fly Fishing

                An expert fly fisherman comes together for a unique block of programming every Friday night beginning at 8 p.m. ET on World Fishing Network for “Friday Flyday.” With six fly fishing shows back-to-back, anglers’ Friday evenings are jammed with tips, tricks, and adventures on the fly. Learn more at

World Fishing Network: World Fishing Network is North America’s only television network, online and mobile platform dedicated exclusively to fishing and outdoor enthusiasts with programming that covers instruction, tips, tournaments, travel, food, boating, outdoor lifestyle and more. Available to cable, satellite and telco subscribers throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, our lineup includes a selection of the best North American and international series and the most diverse species coverage of any TV channel hosted by some of the top anglers from North America and across the globe.

Fly Rod Chronicles (10 p.m. ET) –  Host and member of the Southern Trout “Legends of the Fly” Hall of Fame, Curtis Fleming fishes the headwaters of West Virginia’s big trout-laden Elk River.

The New Fly Fisher (8 p.m. ET) – Few people realize on the St Mary’s River there are large runs of Atlantic Salmon. In this special episode Colin McKeown and guest, Steve Bathgate cast streamers for these big salmon.

Westcoast Sporting Journal (8:30 p.m. ET) – Searching for early-season salmon on the fly at Addenbrooke Island.

The Legacy Experience (9 p.m. ET) – The Legacy Experience chronicles saltwater fly fishing conditions into British Columbia's river inlet and the remote Great Bear Rainforest coastal region in search of chrome, bright, silver salmon on the fly.

Fly Fusion (9:30 p.m. ET) – Filmed in British Columbia's Kootenay region, co-hosts Jim McLennan and Derek Bird fly fish for oversized bull trout and Westslope cutthroat.

American Fly Guide (10:30 p.m. ET) – The South Fork of Idaho’s Snake River offers spectacular views, but don’t look up too long… you’ll miss the great fish.


About. For more information, please visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. #MyOutdoorTV

2nd Annual Hatchery Creek Fly Fishing at KY’s Wolf Creek

leah kirk

Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown, Kentucky begins 2nd Saturday Fly Fishing on Hatchery Creek.  Professional Volunteer Fly Fisherman, Mark Lamberth is eager to share his 50 years of experience.  Mark has fly-fished in over 42 states and ranks Hatchery Creek as his top choice for fly fishing. 

Two sessions will be offered each 2nd Saturday of the month - 10 am-noon and 2 pm - 4 pm CST.  Spots are limited, please contact Mark at 615-513-6193.  You must be preregistered to attend. Sessions are free.  Registrants will meet at the Visitor Center and sign in at least 15 min. prior to the session.  If possible, please bring your own gear. Some gear will be available.   For more information visit our website or follow us at or call Moria Painter at 270-343-3797

GA & SC Helicopter Stock the Chattaooga River

leah kirk

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The holes in the bucket drained the water from the holding tanks while the trout were transferred into the big bambi bucket. Once the bucket filled with trout, the long tether line was straightened out for liftoff. The pilot would slowly lift, after having cleared the trees he took off up the river with each full bucket of trout. On this particular day, he made 10 trips up the Chattooga River.

To see all that’s involved you would think it would take all day explains an article in the Raburn Georgia TU newsletter. But once the ship got started, the experience and expertise of the crew on the ground had thousands of trout swimming in the Chattooga River in just a few hours. To say what I watched was impressive would be an understatement.

Each time you fish the Chattooga DH, remember the work and man hours that go into stocking the river. The South Carolina side did the same thing one week before Georgia. Different agencies participate and contribute funds to make this happen every year. For those who support Rabun TU we spend a portion of our funds to help make this event possible.

WV Protecting 130 Miles of Wild Brookie Streams

leah kirk

The WV Division of Natural Resources hopes to protect a long line of native brook trout streams in state’s high country with newly proposed regulations to make 130 linear miles of stream and tributaries catch and release areas.

“We’ve recommended four different streams for catch and release,” said Acting Assistant Chief for Fisheries Jim Hedrick. “It’s not only to preserve that wild fish population, but those are areas where the DNR has already either made an attempt to improve water quality with limestone fines or with physical habitat improvement.”

The waters proposed for the designation are:

–Middle Fork of Williams River and tributaries in Webster and Pocahontas Counties

–Tea Creek upstream of the Tea Creek Campground and its tributaries in Pocahontas County,

–Red Creek upstream of the County Route 45 Bridge and its tributaries in Tucker County

–Otter Creek and tributaries in Randolph and Tucker Counties.

“Each one of these includes not only the main stem of the stream but also the tributaries,” explained Hedrick. “A lot of them also have populations in the tributaries as well, so we’re really protecting the whole watershed in this case.”

It’s a stark contrast to the way the state has always handled native brook trout streams. During past decades, the agency was reluctant to ever reveal or publicize the location of any native brook trout waters for fear their numbers were fragile and needed to be protected. However, years of work to enhance and restore those streams along with a greater sense of conservation by sportsmen has changed the attitude toward those locations. Now, rather than hiding them, the state appears much more willing to promote them if they are on public property.

A lot of them are on private land and we don’t want to showcase those and create conflicts with the landowner, but showcasing and establishing catch and release where it can showcase the population is critical.


A second proposal called for the establishment of a fly-fishing only catch and release regulation for Edwards Run. The area is a 1.25-mile segment upstream of Edwards Run Pond on the Edwards Run Wildlife Management Area in Hampshire County near Capon Bridge.

“This is a high-quality trout stream, but brook trout were actually extirpated from that stream in the 1960’s,” Hedrick explained. “We’ve gone through special efforts to restore the stream and actually now have to reproduce populations there.”

The DNR found brook trout from another nearby stream and was able to restore the native population in Edwards Run. Stocking on Edwards Run is discontinued to provide space for the native fish, but the put and take stocking will continue on the pond. It would also be the nearest fly-fishing designated stream to the population centers around Martinsburg.

TN Announces Availability of 2018-19 Clean Stream Grants

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NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announces the availability of grant dollars to assist cities, schools, community organizations, civic groups, watershed organizations, and conservation groups, etc., with stream clean-up projects and planting projects during the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Five grants, at a maximum of $1,000 each, are available for each of TWRA’s four regional Aquatic Habitat Protection projects (a total of $5,000 per region). The funds will be obligated as grants, so the grantee must have a nonprofit tax number. The projects are to be completed, the money spent, and a report submitted by June 30, 2019.  The application deadline for this program is June 30, 2018.


                The grant money could be used to buy supplies such as rakes, work gloves, and garbage bags. Also, it could be used to pay disposal fees for solid waste and tire removal or to provide promotional items like project advertisement or T‑shirts and refreshments for volunteer support.

Grant proposals should include the applicant organization’s name, tax ID number, address, phone, and the name of a contact person authorized to enter into contractual agreement on behalf of the organization.  The proposal should also include the name of the stream, county or counties involved, and the project area and description.

Contact TWRA’s Della Sawyers at (615) 781-6577 or by email at   with any questions.

MDC Host Fishing Ozarks Rivers Program

leah kirk

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WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Fisheries biologists with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will host a workshop on fishing Ozark rivers Thursday, April 12, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at MDC’s Ozark Regional Office in West Plains. Fisheries Biologist Blake Stephens said fishing is different depending on if it’s in a lake, pond or river and this workshop will focus on river fishing skills specific to the Ozark region.

“Our Ozarks rivers offer amazing fishing opportunity,” Stephens said. “There’s nothing like enjoying the serenity of our local rivers while fishing with family and friends, or even on your own.”

Stephens said experienced anglers will share their expertise at the workshop, teaching attendees how to catch a variety of sought-after stream fish such as goggle-eye, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and walleye.

“We’ll talk about fish biology, feeding habits, seasonal movement patterns and what kind of tackle you need to be successful,” he said.

Learning about the fish you’re trying to catch can lead to greater success in fishing. The workshop will include special information about each species mentioned including when to fish for them, where to fish for them and what methods and tackle are best suited for each type of fish.

The Native Fish Coalition

leah kirk

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While it often flies under the radar, of Southern fly fishermen,  the East Coast is home to myriad wild native salmonids.  It is also home to some of the rarest, including endangered sea-run Atlantic salmon, rare Arctic char, and sea-run and pond-dwelling brook trout. 

Founded in Maine, Native Fish Coalition (NFC) has expanded into New Hampshire and Vermont and is looking to expand further. Their goal is to add chapters throughout the native range of brook trout, our focus species.  NFC is an apolitical, all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  We formed to address what was falling through the cracks, and to give some absolute focus to wild native fish. 

NFC is a conservation and not a fishing group, and our focus is solely on native fish – and all native fish not just salmonids or gamefish.  We are a coalition by definition and practice and are working with anyone who shares our vision.  NFS’s emphasis is on information, education, research, regulations, restoration, and reclamation.  To learn more about Native Fish Coalition go to


WV Using Wild Brookie Eggs

leah kirk

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By taking eggs from native brookies, fertilizing them and putting them in a hatchery to develop, WV  biologists will be able to stock fish that are, in every respect, untouched hatchery culture. What makes the fish a native trout is its genetics. Once you have the same strain in a hatchery for a long time, you tend to breed out its natural instincts and scare responses. Using the new approach, you don’t have the fish in a hatchery environment long enough to lose those instincts.

                WV kicked off the effort last fall when they visited a native brook-trout stream in WV’s Eastern Panhandle, captured several breeding-sized fish, stripped them of eggs and milt, and released them unharmed back into their native waters. The fertilized eggs were taken to university aquaculture facility for hatching. When the spawn is three inches long they are released in spring in an Eastern Panhandle stream that lost its native population years ago. Previously the state tried to offset the losses of native fish by replacing them with hatchery-strain fish.

Other hatchery brook trout didn’t seem to do well at reproducing on their own. The effort is starting small. Last fall, during the brook-trout spawning season, biologists collected nine egg-laden female brookies and 16 males. The fish were “milked” for their eggs and milt. Not all the eggs that were fertilized turned out to be viable. Ninety of them hatched. Since then, they have enjoyed near-total survival.

They’ll be put in a tributary of the Cacapon River, not far from the tributary they were taken from.  The streams have similar elevations, water temperatures, and water quality, so chances are they’ll adapt to the new stream.

Breaking News: Remembering Lefty

leah kirk


We lost a giant of a fly fisherman this week with the passing of Lefty Kreh. I cannot imagine a single person who lived a richer angling life or who had a greater impact on fly fishing than did Lefty. So many of us who met and knew Lefty, and as impressive as his knowledge was of the sport that binds us together, his humble demeanor is what we remember the most about him.

            I met Lefty at the 2012 Troutfest in Townsend, Tennessee. Thereafter our paths crossed frequently. Below is a link to an article on him that I wrote late last fall that appeared in Southern Trout Magazine. I encourage all to read it. Funny thing about it. I rewrote it numerous times making numerous changes at his request. He wanted it completely correct. The rewrite came out of hours of telephone conservation.

I hope you enjoy. And, may Lefty’s reception at Heaven’s Gates be most memorable. I suspect St. Peter will want Lefty to give him some casting instruction.



Maryland: Stocking 300,000 Trout This Spring

leah kirk


Maryland anticipates releasing more than 300,000 brown, golden and rainbow trout in lakes, rivers, and streams over the next few months, as 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for trout fishing in Maryland. The department’s hatchery team began preseason trout stocking late last year and will begin spring stocking starting this month when some areas are closed to fishing. Although there is always some form of trout fishing allowed in the state year-round, the department considers it “preseason” until these March closures take place.

“Trout fishing has become an annual rite of spring for many families,“ Fishing and Boating Services Director David Blazer said. “This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself and your family in a rewarding experience that will last a lifetime.”

Trout stocking is made possible through revenue from fishing licenses, trout stamps, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. This grant program allows the department to hatch, grow and release trout throughout the state. The majority of Maryland’s stocked trout are raised in the department hatcheries, including the Albert Powell Hatchery in Washington County, the Bear Creek Hatchery in Garrett County as well as through a partnership with the privately owned Mettiki Hatchery, also in Garrett County.


Anglers should consult the 2018 Maryland Guide to Fishing and Crabbing for specific details on daily creel limits and other important information. The department’s trout stocking website, social media and email service provide updated information on what locations are being stocked. In addition, anglers may call our stocking hotline for a weekly summary at 800-688-3467.

Aerial Liming Underway in WV’s Monongahela Forest

leah kirk

West Virginia’s has renewed a decades-long battle to treated more than 50 streams in the highlands with limestone sand to help neutralize the effects of acid rain. These effort permit trout and other forms of aquatic life to survive and even thrive in waters in many otherwise sterile environments.

Limestone sand is being used by the Monongahela National Forest to treat acid-damaged soil in an experimental project where a helicopter is carrying four-ton bucket loads of limestone sand to these waters. Applying limestone on the ground improves the soil and the ability of a watershed to resist the effects of acid rain. The limestone sand is being spread over almost 800 locations on both sides of the Lower Williams River

The helicopter liming site is among the most acid-plagued locales in the Monongahela, although there are several areas even more severely damaged, including the Otter Creek Wilderness. Soils in this geologic formation are not resilient to the high level of acid rain inputs that the region has received over the last century.

Bipartisan Move Provides GSMNP Funding

leah kirk

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Senator Lamar Alexander plans to introduce a bill to help address the $215 million backlog of projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Senator Alexander said, "The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are struggling with a backlog of maintenance needs that are not being addressed. The maintenance backlog – which includes roads, buildings, campgrounds, trails, water systems and more – limits access to our national parks and diminishes visitors’ experience.”

“In the Smokies, the maintenance backlog exceeds $200 million – and around 75 percent 80 percent of that is roads. Park employees and volunteers are filling this gap and doing a lot of things we take for granted.  Last year, roughly 2,800 volunteers donated nearly 115,000 hours to the Smokies – helping to maintain trails, serving as campground hosts and doing all kinds of things to make visitors feel welcome and learn more about the park.

 “President Trump and Secretary Zinke have made addressing the growing maintenance backlog a top priority, and I agree we have a responsibility to address the growing maintenance backlog in our national parks. This is an issue Congress has been focused on for many years and working with Secretary Zinke,”

President Trump included the proposal to help address the National Park Service maintenance backlog in his infrastructure plan and the Department of the Interior’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talked about the importance of addressing the maintenance backlog when he visited the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park.

Protecting the Nolichucky River

leah kirk

Southern Trout along with residents along the Nolichucky River and others are working to “keep the Nolichucky free-flowing.” Only about one-third of one percent of rivers are federally protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. With next year marking its 50th anniversary, activists and local outdoor enthusiasts say “there is no better time to build a movement around the iconic Nolichucky Gorge.”

Tennessee has already recommended that the seven-mile stretch between Poplar, North Carolina, and Unaka Springs, Tennessee, be recommended by the U.S. Forest Service for protection under the act. Years after US Nitrogen constructed a pipeline along the river in Greene County, some residents believe more needs to be done to protect the river’s ecosystem.

John Grace, a kayaker from Asheville, recently produced a short film that called on residents in North Carolina and Tennessee to contact their senators and urge them to protect the river and surrounding gorge. He said the campaign to federally protect the river will “need a little push.”

Grace said the Nolichucky, which is one of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in the southeastern United States, must be protected — not only to preserve the ecosystem but to encourage economic growth through outdoor recreation and tourism, which he said could be lost if a dam or other developments were constructed.

Matt Moses from Mountain River Guides agreed that keeping the river untamed is essential to the outdoor recreation industry around the Nolichucky. In Grace’s video, he talked about how important that industry is to Unicoi County. The Nolichucky River gorge and the Appalachian Trail are the two big tourism draws here in Unicoi County.

                Outdoor sports enthusiasts come from all across the country to enjoy the Nolichucky and its ecosystem. The first consequence would be the loss of habitat. When you put in a dam, parts (of the river) become dewatered, and it becomes a dry stream bed.  Woody Callaway, co-founder of Liquid Logic Kayaking, said the Nolichucky River is an “iconic place.” He too supports protecting the river under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act due to its ecological value and location.

“What I think is really cool and unique about the Nolichucky is that this is a natural river — there’s no dams,” he said. “If you look on a map, and you look at the topography, the Nolichucky headwater starts at two of the highest points on the East Coast, Mount Mitchell to the south and Roan Mountain to the north.”

How the Brook Trout Cross the Road

leah kirk

How the Brook Trout Cross the Road.jpg

Restoring a stream beneath a bridge in Unicoi County East Tennessee has gotten quite the reputation as a trout fishing destination, for the monster rainbows and browns. The unsung heroes of the sport are the smaller brook trout. They are a sensitive species with a need for clean, cold, quality water and wide habitat. Such was the case in Unicoi County, Tenn., in the Cherokee National Forest, where a box culvert had been years ago built underneath a road crossing on Briar Creek, a tributary to the Nolichucky River.

It created an interruption in brook trout habitat. Water could still flow beneath the road. There was a big opening underneath the bridge, but there was a slick concrete pad there so that when the stream ran over it, the water was shallow and fast and there were none of the riffles or pools found in a natural stream. The water ran so fast that it eroded the stream bed on the downstream side and created a little waterfall. The fish would have to jump up to even get up to the pad in shallow water conditions, which was nearly impossible for them.

The result was a disconnect between two populations of brook trout, which many times result in genetic isolation. Advocates for the fish—TVA, Trout Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in this case—joined together to fix the problem, replacing the box culvert with a new, bottomless arch culvert, as shown in the photo above.

The new culvert will restore the stream bed and create riffles and so that as fish move up and down the stream beneath the road will open up about two miles of habitat for the downstream trout.