Watershed News from the Perkiomen
Cover Image - Michael Reimer
Summer/Fall 2016 Issue No 1
The Ripple Effect...
In This Issue
2 The Ripple Effect 3 East Branch Education 4 Stream Clean-Up 5 Water Chestnut Warriors 6 Horseshoe Crab Heyday 7 Members Only 8 A Local View: Gyotaku 9 Perkiomen Waterpower 10 Perk to Pub 11 A Night for Conservation 12 Upcoming Events
About the Cover
Gyotaku printing of rock bass from the Skippack Creek. Caught and printed by Michael Reimer.
Welcome to the first issue of the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy’s biannual magazine, The Watershed. The Watershed is designed to provide our members with information about past and future projects and events at the Conservancy. This unique publication highlights the Conservancy’s work through articles and photos generated by our staff, interns, volunteers, board members, and members. I hope that you enjoy the magazine, and if you have an idea for a topic or are interested in contributing, please don’t hesitate to contact me. The Watershed is just one of the exciting additions to the Conservancy’s already inspiring lineup of workshops, walks, talks, projects, programs, and other events. Another exciting development is the creation of the Perkiomen Watershed Conservation Corps (PWCC). This conservation program strives to provide area youth with hands-on opportunities to learn about and positively impact their home environments. The PWCC has two unique but related tracks: a high school track and a college track. In each of these tracks, students work closely with our conservation team to complete projects and awareness campaigns throughout our 362 square mile watershed. Lastly, I would like to introduce the new Perkiomen Watershed Native Plant Nursery. The nursery project has three aims. First, the Conservancy is committed to incorporating our Montgomery County native plant species into our watershed restoration projects, bioswales, retention basins, and rain gardens. The nursery, along with our current native plant suppliers, will ensure that we have the species we need to create these watershed-enhancing projects. Second, the native plant nursery affords the opportunity for the Conservancy to invite its volunteers and members to participate in a weekly watershed improvement project. Third, the Conservancy hopes to conduct a native plant sale in May of 2017. The aim of this sale is to provide our community with information about unique ways to manage stormwater through native plantings. For more information about these projects or to learn how to get involved, feel free to email me at email@example.com, check out our website at www.perkiomenwatershed.org, or visit our YouTube Channel. See You Outside, Ryan Beltz Executive Director
Thank you to the Protectors of the Perkiomen
PCWIC The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy is dedicated to serving the people and communities of the Perkiomen Watershed by conserving and protecting land and water resources through commitment to and leadership in environmental education, watershed stewardship, and conservation programs.
East Branch Education . . .
This spring the Conservancyâ€™s education team was thrilled to have the opportunity to lead over one thousand students, teachers and parent chaperones to explore the community of the sparkling waters of the East Branch Creek. Following an old deer path that winds down through the riparian buffer of the creek, the visitors are introduced to many of our native wildflowers, vines, trees and shrubs. Spring beauties, mayapples, trout-lilies and Virginia bluebells enhance the beauty of the walk. Hikers enjoy the aromatic leaves of the spicebush and the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle. Visitors also learn about some of the invasive species like lesser celandine and Japanese stiltgrass that have so widely spread in the flood plain of the creek. Upon arriving at the gravel bar of the creek, visitors are amazed to see the natural beauty of this special place. An impressive rock wall both delights and explains the origin of the rocky bed of the East Branch Creek. Working in pairs the students wade into the waters of the creek, searching under the rocks for the many types of organisms that make up the macroinvertebrate population of the creek. Squeals of delight follow as the students begin to discover the rich diversity of organisms that make the creek their home. Mayfly nymphs, water pennies, caddisfly larvae, damselfly larvae, crayfish, snails, scuds, leeches and clams are found and brought back to a central collection bin where the organisms are identified and special adaptations are discussed. Many of these students have researched these organisms prior to arriving at the Conservancy and experience sheer joy in actually finding them in the creek. These students are making connections to the natural world that no textbook could ever give them. The importance of macroinvertebrates as community members is discussed, and the visitors are introduced to the concept of indicator organisms. The macroinvertebrates not only delight and amaze, but also inform about the water quality of the East Branch Creek. Highly pollution-sensitive macroinvertebrates, including mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae and water pennies, are routinely found in large numbers in the waters of the East Branch Creek, indicating a low level of pollutants in the water. On the climb back up the hill we never tire of listening to the excited chatter from the students about who caught the biggest crayfish, the fattest leech or the most water pennies, and we know that these students have made connections that they will not forget. The best reward comes from those students who tell us this was the best field trip ever! We are fortunate to have such a place to take students and to help build their connections with and respect for the natural world we all share.
Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Summer / Fall 2016
p U n Stream Clea
Jessica Kemper Each spring since 2004, the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy has organized a watershed-wide stream clean-up focused on removing trash, recyclables, tires, and scrap metal from our local streams, creeks and riparian areas. Over the years it has become one of the largest clean-up efforts in the area and one of the Conservancy’s biggest events, with hundreds of volunteers joining the effort. Removing this trash prevents toxins from leaching into the water which can affect our drinking water supply and poison stream life. Since the Perkiomen Creek eventually makes its way to the Delaware Bay and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean, our efforts have far-reaching beneficial effects. This massive clean-up would not be possible without the help of our dedicated and hardworking volunteers. Not only do we have large numbers of volunteers who remove trash from their assigned sites, but we also have pick-up crew volunteers who gather all the trash from each location and haul it to dumpsters located throughout the watershed. Despite all this hard, and usually dirty work, many of our volunteers return year after year to help us take on this important conservation effort. This year, however, we really put our volunteers to the test! With snow in the forecast for the Saturday of the stream clean-up, the event was pushed to the following day. Undeterred by the unexpected April snow storm and the last minute rescheduling, 288 volunteers came out to clean 44 sites throughout the watershed. They braved the unseasonably chilly weather and remaining snow to remove 289 bags of trash, 22 bags of recyclables, 60 tires and 1140 pounds of scrap metal from local waterways. The change of schedule caused a number of volunteers to miss out on the spring event, leaving several sites uncleaned. To ensure maximum removal of trash from our watershed, and to allow all interested parties the opportunity to be involved, the Conservancy will be holding a fall stream clean-up this year. It will take place on Saturday, September 24th from 9am-12pm and will focus on cleaning those sites that we didn’t get to in the spring. Additionally, we will concentrate on removing trash from the Perkiomen Creek itself with several canoe-based sites throughout the creek. We believe that this fall clean-up effort, in conjunction with our spring event, will result in our largest stream clean-up to date. Let’s just hope it doesn’t snow this time! Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Summer / Fall 2016
Water Chestnut Warriors! Elisabeth Myers
with thick mats of vegetation. EWC often leaves sections of waterways impassable and restricts recreational activities such as swimming and boating. The EWC’s sharp seeds can also harm swimmers with unprotected feet if stepped on. In addition to limiting recreational uses of local waterways, EWC also negatively impacts aquatic ecosystems by reducing the amount of sunlight penetrating the water, lowering levels of dissolved oxygen and outcompeting native plant species.
The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy’s mission is
to conserve and protect local land and water resources through environmental education, watershed stewardship and conservation programs. Since 1964 the Conservancy has reached thousands of individuals of all ages from the surrounding communities by offering educational classes, informative workshops, and outdoor activities that improve the ecological health of our environment. One of the Conservancy’s core philosophies is protecting water quality and promoting the engagement of individuals, students, families and corporate groups in core conservation issues. We accomplish this goal in many ways, but one of the central strategies is organizing volunteer work days to carry out our conservation projects. Creating volunteer and corporate group volunteer days is a great way to involve the community in the Conservancy’s work, educate them about the environment and allow individuals and families to connect with one another. Volunteers are crucial to our success; we would not be able to accomplish our projects without their support. One of the most important conservation projects for which the Conservancy utilizes volunteer and corporate group volunteer days is the removal of European water chestnuts.
Though EWC is a nasty invasive species which currently plagues the Perkiomen Watershed, the Conservancy, thanks in large part to the support of its corporate partners and hundreds of volunteers, is working to successfully manage the infestation. The Conservancy organizes a number of work days to allow members of the community and corporate groups to hand pull EWC from local waterways thereby greatly reducing the infestations impacting our watershed. Besides volunteering, community members can also fight EWC by becoming educated about this invasive species and by reporting new infestations to the Conservancy.
European water chestnut (EWC) is a highly invasive aquatic species that has been infesting the waterways of the Perkiomen Watershed since 2007. The EWC infestation came to the Conservancy’s attention in 2009, and we have been working to eradicate the species ever since. The plant is made up of a floating rosette and a long, often 12 to 15 foot, stem. The plant also produces up to 20 sharp, barbed seeds each season which are viable for up to 12 years. The large abundance of long-lasting seeds and the rapid growth of EWC makes it extremely difficult to eradicate once established. Once introduced into a body of water, particularly if the water is shallow and slow moving, EWC will flourish. The floating rosettes quickly cover the surface of the waterway Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Summer / Fall 2016
PWCC College Intern Program:
Horseshoe Crab Heyday Evan Hunt Horseshoe crabs have a strange reputation among beachgoers in the Mid-Atlantic States. Known mostly for their strange appearance and their habit of accidentally cutting open the feet of swimmers with their sharp tails, horseshoe crabs actually play a large role in the coastal ecology of the Eastern United States. On June 6, our Conservation Team made a trip to Pierces Point in Middle Township, New Jersey to help survey and tag the horseshoe crab population in the Delaware Bay. Appropriately, the Delaware Bay is where water from the Perkiomen ultimately drains into the Atlantic Ocean after traveling roughly 100 miles through the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. Surprisingly, the bay also contains the largest horseshoe crab population in the world. During the spring and summer a large portion of this population storms the beaches along the bay during high tide to mate. It’s on one of these beaches where our team met Quinn Whitesall. Quinn is a habitat restoration technician with the American Littoral Society where she organizes volunteers to help survey and tag horseshoe crabs. The American Littoral Society’s tagging program is the largest in the Delaware Bay and the second largest horseshoe crab tagging program in the world. The Littoral Society provides data for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Horseshoe Crab Tagging Program. As we set up our head-lamps (we decided to volunteer during the second high tide which occurred at 11:01 that night), Quinn gave us a tutorial on horseshoe crab anatomy and proper tagging techniques. During the lesson, Quinn told us that the Society’s program is in its third tagging season. They began tagging in 2014 when post-Hurricane Sandy beach restoration projects raised concerns for spawning horseshoe crabs. The population was already at an historic low after horseshoe crabs were overharvested in the mid-1990s for use as fishing bait and fertilizer. Fortunately, early data seems to indicate that horseshoe crabs prefer the newly restored beaches because they are larger and sandier than the unrestored beaches. This is good news for the coastal ecology of the Delaware Bay. Quinn explains that horseshoe crabs are extremely important to many species of migratory shorebirds. When these birds migrate through the Delaware Bay area in the spring on the way to their Arctic breeding grounds, they rely on horseshoe crab eggs as their main source of food. The bluish-green eggs also serve as a staple food for numerous species of fish. Since many species rely on the horseshoe crab, it is crucial that the population remain at a sustainable level. The tags we placed during that night of tagging will further develop a mark-recapture system. This system will allow scientists to better understand the size and distribution of horseshoe crab populations so they can be successfully managed in the future. Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Summer / Fall 2016
The rain held off as we crossed the road to look and listen, alongside a small lake that attracts a variety of birds and other wildlife, including beavers. The cloudy sky actually enhanced our ability to spot birds in trees that were just beginning to leaf, so all of us cheered when several Baltimore orioles flashed their signature orange feathers to greet us. A number of phoebes hovered just above the water or perched on rocks. Members also spotted an eastern kingbird, red-headed and pileated woodpeckers, a blackpoll warbler and a red-eyed vireo. Though notoriously difficult to actually see, several warblers did cheer us with their lively songs. Paul Guris, who got hooked on birding at age 12, made sure everyone got close-up views of several species through his powerful scope, while the Grecos used their smart phones to play birdsongs and show pictures to help us spot the songsters. The members ranged from experienced to novice bird watchers, but Guris noted that the “group was pretty homogeneous in enthusiasm. When the group is enthusiastic, the experience level doesn’t matter.” Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Photo: Steve Oehlert
Members Only Events
Rebecca Jaroff The skies threatened rain on Mother’s Day, as a dozen intrepid birdwatchers gathered at White’s Mill Park in Salford Township just after 7 in the morning. But gloomy weather did not deter us from participating in a wonderful Warbler Walk—the PWC’s inaugural members-only event. We were led by expert birder Paul Guris, with help from Joe and Jeff Greco, a father/son team, and PWC board member Andy Curtis, who helped organize the venture along with the PWC’s executive director Ryan Beltz.
Collette Trout joined the PWC in order to participate in the walk. An enthusiastic birder, she was not disappointed. “For my first event, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to be introduced to PWC activities,” Trout said, noting she looked forward to future members-only outings. Veteran birder Marcia Clouser concurred, stating the “PWC’s White’s Mill walk was a stand-out in my spring migration experience. It’s always a delight to learn of a new, really good birding site like this one. Outstanding!” These members-only events are new to the PWC. Executive Director Beltz says the purpose is “to provide our members with unique outdoor recreation or natural history opportunities,” and he hopes the events will help recruit new members, while offering “small group interactions that are focused on some detailed aspect of the natural world.” Future outings include a trip to Hawk Mountain in the fall, while Beltz and Guris are discussing a winter-time seabird walk at Barnegat Light State Park in New Jersey to view waterfowl, loons, grebes, and other shorebirds. Noting that the location is “nationally known to wildlife photographers because of the accessibility to and often amazing tameness of these birds,” Guris says possible sightings include “the gorgeous harlequin duck, long-tailed duck, purple sandpiper, and ruddy turnstone.” For more information on members-only events, please check our website, http://www.perkiomenwatershed.org/. We look forward to seeing you on our next adventure!
Summer / Fall 2016
A Local View: Michael Reimer &
I will have a detailed, mirror image of the fish when I lift the paper. After the ink dries, I sometimes dye the paper with a water-based dye. I then mount the paper to another piece of paper to remove the wrinkles. Painting the eye really brings life to the fish. Finally, I mat and frame the fish print.
(pronounced GHEE-OH-TAHKOO) is the art and technique of Japanese fish printing. In the winter of 2003, I was a fisherman looking on the internet for fish art. I typed ‘fish print’ into Google, hoping to find some reproductions of someone’s fish art when I ran across links about gyotaku. I was fascinated and started researching all I could about it.
I have been printing since 2003 and have been selling my work at art shows and online since then. For me as a fisherman, step one of fish printing has always involved catching the fish. To get a fish home safely, I usually fish as close to home as possible. Two of my favorite local streams are Perkiomen Creek and Skippack Creek.
I learned that the oldest record of a fish print is from the early 1860’s. Before photography, gyotaku was a practical way for Japanese anglers to record the size and species of fish they caught. They would make one quick print using black sumi ink and white rice paper and then record information about their catch onto the print.
I have caught and printed smallmouth bass, brown trout, rainbow trout, rock bass, redbreast sunfish and black crappie from Perkiomen and Skippack creeks. Having clean, healthy, publically accessible creeks in our area is not only important to me as a fish printer, but for the entire community.
Since then, gyotaku has evolved into an art form. I made my first fish print of a bluegill in my garage with my then 8 year old daughter. We used red acrylic ink and news print. Our first result was a fish-shaped blob of ink. Since then, I have refined my technique quite a bit. To make a gyotaku, I first catch a fish. I wash it off to remove any slime, position it in place and let it dry. I then apply an oil-based relief printing ink to the fish everywhere except the eye. Next, I carefully press rice paper onto the fish. If I have been careful enough, Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
For more information about gyotaku and to see examples of my work, visit:
Summer / Fall 2016
Waterpower in the Perkiomen Watershed
The township maps in Scott’s Combination Atlas Map of Montgomery County (1877) are dotted along many of the streams in the Perkiomen watershed with the cryptic notations: GM, SM, OM, PM. etc. These initials indicate the locations of about a dozen types of water-powered mills such as grist mills, saw mills, oil mills and powder mills. Today, visitors to these sites will find a few of the handsome old buildings still standing; however, in most locations only the ruins or foundations remain, and some are marked only by an old millrace, a millpond, or an historical marker. Only a small fraction of the mills that operated in the 18th and 19th centuries survive in the 21st century, but during the first 200 years of settlement in the watershed, the many types of water-powered mills were the economic and social centers of their communities. Bean, in his 1884 History of Montgomery County estimated that in 1795 almost 200 mills operated in the county. In that same time frame well over 60 mills were in service throughout the Perkiomen watershed. In addition to grist, saw, linseed oil and gunpowder mills, there were cider, hemp and paper mills. Fulling mills finished cloth, pug mills refined clay for potters, bark mills ground oak bark for tanners, clover mills threshed clover seed, plaster mills pulverized limestone for field use, and the trip hammers of foundry mills shaped iron. All of these goods were produced using the clean, renewable energy of water power. Edward Lane built the first grist mill in the watershed on Perkiomen Creek in 1705 just upstream from where the old stone bridge crosses the creek in Collegeville. In about 1720 Hans Hite erected a grist mill on the Perkiomen near the present-day town of Schwenksville. Peter Pennabacker bought the mill in 1747 and the site has been known as Pennypacker Mills since then. It is said that this mill provided flour for General Washington’s troops when they were camped nearby. Other early mills in the watershed included Henry Antes’s grist mill on Swamp Creek in Frederick Twp. (1730), and Samuel Schuber’s 1742 grist mill on Unami Creek (then known as East Swamp Creek). During the 18th and 19th centuries scores of mills were built along most tributaries of the Perkiomen. The East Branch of the Perkiomen, originating in Bucks County, and the West Branch, rising high in the hills of Hereford Township in Berks County both supplied waterpower for a variety of mills. Unami and Hosensack Creeks were especially suited to water-powered mills as they fall several hundred feet between their sources in Lehigh County and their confluence with the Perkiomen Creek, thus providing good sites for mills. Articles in future issues of The Watershed will explore in detail the water-powered mills throughout the watershed and their importance in shaping its economy and landscape. In the next issue, mills on Swamp Creek and its tributaries will be featured, with special focus on Sunrise Mill, one of the few mills in the area that survives nearly intact.
Historically - Hauseman’s Mill Present Day - Old Mill House Location at Plank Road Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Summer / Fall 2016
Perk to Pub:
A Perkiomen Trail bicycling adventure Like Bikes? Like Beer? How about both in the same event? On August 20, 2016, the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy is embarking upon a new type of adventure. This new adventure takes shape on two wheels, rolls on gravel, and tantalizes adventurers with a frothy golden treat at the end. If you like bikes, beer, and the Perkiomen Trail then this is the event for you. The Conservancy has teamed up with the Appalachian Brewing Company to bring you the Perk to Pub. In this new adventure, riders will bike their way from Green Lane Park in northwestern Montgomery County to the ABC brewpub in Collegeville. Riders will traverse the 13 miles between these two points on the Perkiomen Trail. For those of you unfamiliar with this trail, the Perkiomen Trail is a gravel path that extends from the Borough of Green Lane to Upper Providence Township where it joins with the Schuylkill River Trail. It traverses these 20 miles mostly via repurposed railway cuts and along the beautiful Perkiomen Creek. There are a number of ways to participate in this event. Your first stop should actually be at the ending point, the Appalachian Brewing Company in Collegeville. Here you’ll leave your car and either proceed to the start at Green Lane Park via our shuttle, via your own peddle-power, or via a drop-off from a friend. The ride will start promptly at 9:45 am at the Deep Creek Pavilion on Snyder Road, so be sure to have your pre-ride strategy figured out. Water and other amenities will be offered at the start and halfway through the ride at Tailwinds Bicycles along the trail in Schwenksville. At the end, you’ll be greeted with a frothy golden treat at the Appalachian Brewing Company. Also, a complimentary hors d’oeuvres bar and commemorative pint glass will be offered to all participants. The cost for the event is $30 for members and $45 for non-members. If you don’t have a bike, don’t worry. The Schuylkill River Heritage Association has offered their fleet of cruisers. The cost to borrow a bike for the event is $20. Grab your bike, grab a friend, and head out to experience the Perkiomen Trail. For more information or to sponsor the event, please contact Ryan Beltz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Summer / Fall 2016
A Night for Conservation: To Benefit the Perkiomen Watershed
The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy is proud to host a fundraising dinner every year celebrating the Perkiomen Creek Watershed! Formerly known as the Environmental Awards Banquet, this event has grown and changed over the years, and we felt it was time for a new name. “A Night for Conservation: To Benefit the Perkiomen Watershed” reflects our desire to engage everyone who would like to spend the evening celebrating the Conservancy’s accomplishments and ince 1969, the dinner has included an awards hard work in carrying out our mission of conserving and program recognizing individuals and organizations that protecting your land and water resources.
have committed their time, energy and resources to conserving the land and water of the Perkiomen Creek Watershed. This year’s categories include:
This is our major fundraiser of the year! Proceeds from ticket sales, raffles, silent auction purchases and donations all benefit the Conservancy. They support our environmental education classes for school groups from elementary through high school, stream clean-ups to remove trash and debris from your waterways, stream bank restorations to help reduce pollution from stormwater runoff and other important projects, programs and events.
Advocate of the Watershed: A non-profit, service organization or community group that has made a significant contribution to improving or preserving the Perkiomen Creek Watershed. Corporate: A corporation that has demonstrated a commitment to or improvement of the Perkiomen Creek Watershed by accomplishments such as exemplary corporate environmental management or outstanding support of community watershed activities or initiatives.
The Silent Auction portion of the evening offers fun and excitement with a great variety of items. Bid on a basket of local apple butters, craft beers or “Brunch for Two” at a local restaurant. See if you can win a round of golf for four or tennis lessons at a local club. Take home some hand crafted pottery, candle stands, wood sculptures and more.
Friend of the Watershed: An individual who has made a significant contribution to improving or preserving the Perkiomen Creek Watershed. Kids Making a Difference: An individual or group of individuals under 18 years of age who has made a significant contribution to the improving or preserving the Perkiomen Creek Watershed (e.g. Scouts, Environmental Club, Service Club).
Through community participation we can all help to keep the Perkiomen Watershed a wonderful place to live, work and play.
Land Use: An individual, organization or project that has contributed to improving or preserving the Perkiomen Creek Watershed and that exemplifies responsible land use and stewardship that protects water quality and the natural environment.
Join the Celebration!
Municipal: A municipality or municipal agency within the watershed that has made a significant contribution to improving or preserving the Perkiomen Creek Watershed. Teaching Excellence: A teacher who demonstrates a keen awareness of, understanding about and commitment to the natural world. Did someone come to mind who you feel should be recognized when you read through these categories? You may nominate them and others by filling out our online form or emailing email@example.com. Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy
Summer / Fall 2016
Tiki Scramble Geocache August 6, 2016: 2 to 4 pm Event @ Spring Mount Wildflower Walks Aug. 20, Sept. 17, Oct. 15: 9:30 am Check Website for Locations Botany by Boat Sept. 10, 2016: 9 to 12 pm Event @ Green Lane Park Stream Clean-up Sept. 24, 2016: 9 to 12 pm Event @ Watershed-Wide Bats October 27, 2016: 7:30 pm Talk @ Conservancy Snowy Owls November 10, 2016: 7:30 pm Talk @ Conservancy Leave No Trace December 8, 2016: 7:30 pm Talk @ Conservancy Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy 1 Skippack Pike Schwenksville, PA 19473
www.perkiomenwatershed.org Non-Profit Org. US Postage Paid Lansdale, PA Permit No. 719
On Recycled Paper
The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy's biannual magazine.