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The Surprisingly Interesting Life of a Pool

Garth Brown |

In an effort to take full advantage of the various perks available to me on the farm I’ve been using a pool beneath the waterfall to cool off after chasing pigs and cows all over the place. Because it’s been such an unusually rainy year the stream has maintained a good flow this summer, and it’s only in the past couple weeks that it has slowed to anything like its typical August levels.

My frequent trips to this one particular place have let me make closer observations of the way it shifts, and I’m struck by the rapidity with which storms raise and lower the bottom by filling in or scooping out the small rocks that cover its bottom. In March the water level was above my bellybutton, but it’s now only halfway up my thigh. The lip of shale over which the stream runs into it has eroded over a foot. So much loose rock has been pushed up on its rim that there is no longer a visible outflow, which makes the pool look like some sort of illusion, water continuously gushing in without ever leaving or filling it up.

I’ve also made a study of the fauna that make their homes here. I've seen Leopard frog, water striders, crayfish, and countless weird squiggly larval bug things that would doubtless be very exciting to an entomologist. Then there are creek chub, blacknose dace that boldly nibble my toes, and some sort of madtom or other small catfish. I’m also convinced I’ve seen a brown trout the length of my hand lurking in there, but it’s far cagier than the other fish, and I can never get as good a look as I’d like.

How so many different species of fish have reached this pool is something of a mystery, since there are several points below it that should be impassible - how can a minnow traverse a drop of even a foot? Perhaps the answer lies in the observation I began with, that the form of the stream shifts more rapidly than I would expect, and so over the years populations have worked their way up from pool to pool, though this would not account for the presence of a single trout.

It would also be interesting to examine the species present above the waterfall itself. It’s too small to be much of a fishing stream, so I’d be shocked if anglers had released minnows up there, so their presence would indicate some more mysterious means of dispersal. But that’s a project for another day.

Garth Brown

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