Is My Stream Healthy?

Stream flowing through a forest. Photo courtesy of RIldo Moura, Flickr.


Now that summer is upon us, I am reminded of childhood summers spent playing in a local stream. While I did not understand it at the time, it was a healthy stream. The stream meandered through forests and wetlands like a crystal clear thread. The stream was so clear you could easily see the rocks on the bottom and watch fish glide through the water. As my friends and I explored the stream, we discovered rocks covered with numerous bugs. Thanks to Cynthia Tait’s Why Care about Aquatic Macroinvertebrates, I now understand the importance of the bugs on those rocks. I also understand the relationship between healthy forests and streams that provide clean water, wildlife habitat and opportunities to relax and cool your feet on a hot day.

There are numerous resources available to help you better understand your stream and determine if it is healthy. Two good starting points are Amanda Subjin’s Protecting What You Drink and Jason Vogel’s Natural Stream Restoration: Streams in Nature. Dr. Vogel provides an overview of the importance of healthy streams and their key characteristics. Amanda discusses the numerous benefits of healthy streams and steps you can take to protect and enhance your stream.

County extension agents, conservation district staff, your forester and/or a state wildlife specialist can assess your streams condition. If needed, they can recommend steps to improve stream health. If you are daunted by working with more than one specialists, read Pam Wells’ Tailgate Tree Party. Pam enjoys working with her team of natural resource professionals. Each person brings unique skills and they partner to help her achieve her management goals.