Waynesville is in the midst of a makeover on three of its streams, and it’s a renovation that fish, crayfish and tadpoles alike are likely to find satisfactory.
One of the three projects is already complete, a rehabilitation of Shelton Branch at the Waynesville Recreation Park that wrapped up in October, with stream restorations at East Street Park and Chestnut Park poised to start soon.
It’s a sunny, abnormally warm October afternoon, and Tom Anspach is ready to meet it with a canoe on the Pigeon River.
But Anspach, accompanied by 19-year-old Josh Arford, isn’t there to paddle for miles or fish for trout. He’s there to fish for trash.
It’s a sunny Friday morning on the Pigeon River when the bucket brigade assembles, five-gallon containers in hand. The stock truck has just arrived, making its way up windy U.S. 276 and down the equally squirrely N.C. 215, tanks loaded with fish and water.
A pair of fish culturists from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission stands atop the truck as a line of bucket-bearers forms leading up to it, and the work begins. Each bucket received a splash of water and a dollop of flipping, fighting trout — rainbow, brown and brook all mixed together in one writhing mass.
Nearly a century old, the aging Cullowhee Dam is at a crossroads — with risk of failure increasing, Western Carolina University must decide whether to renovate the existing structure or remove it completely.
The dam hasn’t been used for power generation since the 1960s, but it creates a reservoir of still water that supplies WCU and the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority. However, some would like to see the dam disappear, offering increased opportunity for paddlers and allowing fish and other aquatic life to travel freely through a more natural, higher-quality river.
My family and I were in the Rock Hill, S.C.-Charlotte area a few weeks back to visit my sister and catch my niece, Haley Barfield (one of the triplets, yeah, as in three, Allison and Jess round out the trifecta) in Shakespeare Carolina’s production of Macbeth. We also got to enjoy a birthday dinner with Matt, the triplets’ older brother.
The attraction between people and waterfalls is nothing new, with a couple waterfall deaths per year typical between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest.
The clear water of the West Fork Pigeon River tumbling from its mountain headwaters takes on a yellowish hue through the plastic of the snorkel mask, revealing a riverbed of rounded rocks that sometimes sit within inches of the surface and sometimes plunge feet below.
Fish swim placidly in the flow, darting only occasionally when the wearer of the snorkel mask draws a bit too close for comfort. Here and there a leaf or a stick streams by like a stowaway for parts unknown.
Western North Carolina continues to be in a severe drought as wildfires rage through the mountains. The lack of rain has also impacted wildlife, outdoor recreation and agriculture in the region.
Fontana Lake looks more like a narrow river running through a canyon right now as drought conditions persist across the region.
A high water table wreaking havoc with aging septic systems that has left some residents in one Waynesville neighborhood seeking creative answers to nature’s call is finally drawing attention from the town, while at least one homeowner watches his pipe dream go down the drain.