Research indicates high levels of microplastics in WNC waters

Jason Love got interested in microplastics by way of mussels. 

A wildlife biologist by education and training, he’d long been interested in the reasons behind the decline of Southern Appalachian mussel species, and in particular that of the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe. He was interested while working in his previous position as site manager for Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, and he’s interested now in his new position as associate director of the Highlands Biological Station.

Working for the watershed: Clapp steps down after 14 years as WATR’s director

It’s been nearly four decades since Roger Clapp, then a math and science teacher for a middle school in Virginia, saw his life change course. 

“Earth Day happened, and it caught my imagination,” Clapp recalled. 

Watery restoration: Waynesville and partners restore stream flows, aquatic habitat

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.

Keeping the river clean: Adopt-a-Stream volunteers keep litter out of Haywood’s waterways

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.

Stocking the Pigeon: Trout stocking a team effort in Haywood

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.

Plotting Cullowhee Dam’s future: Organizations weigh environmental and financial costs of repair and removal

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.

The Naturalist's Corner: Rock Hill on the 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.

WNC’s deadliest waterfalls

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. 

ALSO: Herculean rescue effort at Yellowstone Falls highlights dangers of waterfall play

Under the Pigeon: Snorkeling workshop gives an up-close look at aquatic diversity

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 NC struggles with historic drought

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.

• Data-driven analysis drives modern weather forecasting
• Low water levels cut the season short
• Wildlife rides out the drought

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