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Cool, Clear Water of the Ozarks
Midwest Region, December 12, 2013
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Rainbow darter is common to the Ozark streams in Missouri.
Rainbow darter is common to the Ozark streams in Missouri. - Photo Credit: Jeff Finley, USFWS
A cranky looking banded sculpin found in cool waters of the Ozarks.
A cranky looking banded sculpin found in cool waters of the Ozarks. - Photo Credit: Jeff Finley, USFWS
Fisheries Technician Jordan Fox (L) and Fish Biologist Jeff Finley (R) identify crayfish on the banks of Noblett creek in Southern Missouri.
Fisheries Technician Jordan Fox (L) and Fish Biologist Jeff Finley (R) identify crayfish on the banks of Noblett creek in Southern Missouri. - Photo Credit: Heather Garrison, USFWS

While the state of Missouri boasts some of the most pristine streams in the MidwestRegion, the majority of work completed by the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office is on the turbid waters of the Big Muddy - the Missouri River. That is until recently. In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service’s, Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF) and the Columbia FWCO began working collaboratively to identify inhabitants of select priority streams in the Ozark Hills on MTNF. In an effort to fill data gaps and provide management recommendations, several streams would need to be inventoried for fish and other aquatic life. This began with Big and Little Barren creeks in Carter and Ripley Counties of Southeast Missouri.

Big and Little Barren Creeks

The only known data on Big Barren Creek was from a few seine hauls conducted in 1941, 1974 and 1994 cataloging only 20 fish species and there was no known data from Little Barren Creek. After a reconnaissance of the area we set mini-fyke nets, seined and sampled using a backpack electrofisher. Our survey revealed 45 species in the area to include several fish species of conservation concern; the Ozark Shiner and Pugnose Minnow.

While conducting our fish survey, we observed several fresh shells from Arkansas brokenray mussels. This prompted an additional SCUBA survey to catalog the mussel fauna of the Big Barren Creek Natural Area. This survey revealed eight species of mussels to include a robust population of several uncommon species including slippershell, Ouachita kidneyshell and Arkansas brokenray. SCUBA diving in the clear cool waters of this pristine location prompted me to write an article for the Meanders section in Eddies, our national fisheries publication http://www.fws.gov/eddies/, scheduled to be released soon.

Upon completing the Barren Creeks survey we met with MTNF to present our findings and look ahead into future partnership opportunities. Kelly Whitsett, USFS Forest Hydrologist and Theresa Davidson, USFS Forest Wildlife & Fisheries Program Manager, provided us with a list of several other streams in need of inventory. We agreed to focus on several streams in the Willow Springs Area of the Ava/Cassville Ranger District in 2013. A reconnaissance trip once again revealed working in cool clear waters of tributary streams in the Ozarks.

Willow Springs

We sampled fish from five streams, Noblett, Spring, Little Indian, Middle Indian and Indian Creeks, all tributaries to the North Fork River of the White River basin in Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. Noblett Creek is interrupted by a small dam constructed by the Civil Conservation Corps in 1938-40 to create a bathing beach and recreational reservoir. Noblett Creek eventually flows into Spring Creek before joining the North Fork. Spring Creek flows almost entirely through remote and isolated areas of the MTNF boasting the most preserved watershed we sampled. Indian Creek, and its two major tributaries (Middle and Little), meanders through a patchwork of private and public lands before flowing into the North Fork River.

We’ve just completed entering the data and will begin drafting our report this winter. It is refreshing to work in cool clear water, trading gillnets, trot lines and trawls for backpack electrofishers, dip nets and waders and handling sculpins, darters, shiners and madtoms instead of sturgeon, buffalo, catfish and carp. We are excited about the work we’ve already completed and are anxious to work in cool clear waters of Mark Twain National Forest in the future.


Contact Info: Jeff Finley, 573 234-2132 x .171, jeff_finley@fws.gov



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