After weeks of rain and one postponement of the trip due to high waters, the weather fully cooperated May 25 for the two dozen paddlers who plied the Opequon for a few peaceful hours. The group put in at Brucetown Bridge in Virginia, and from there floated, paddled, watched the riffles and wildlife, and chatted their way to the takeout at Steve and Deb Bauserman’s farm in Jefferson County, W.Va.
The birds must have known there were master naturalists from both states on the water that day, because they formed a veritable welcome party. One great blue heron hopscotched downstream a hundred yards at a time, hanging with the group for the better part of a mile. A pair of wood ducks took its place and performed the same front-guard routine for another mile. A barred owl watched from a limb, seemingly undisturbed by the laughter. A curious pileated woodpecker poked its head out of sycamore to see what all the fuss was about.
The trip was a kind of celebration of the merging of two groups focused on keeping Opequon Creek clean and its watershed healthy. The Opequon Watershed, Inc., was founded in 1992 to serve the entire watershed in Virginia and West Virginia. In 2005, the Opequon Creek Project Team was formed to take care of the West Virginia half of the creek and its tributaries. Now the two groups are joining forces.
Opequon Creek needs great storytellers, photographers, and interpreters to help share the watershed with the people who live and play within it. Who better for these that our local master naturalists? Members of the Potomac Valley and Shenandoah Master Naturalists joined the trip to learn about ways they might help with the effort to promote the understanding, protection and preservation of the Creek and its tributaries for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations.
After everyone was out of the water, the tired paddlers enjoyed a cookout at the Bauserman farm, with a few short talks about the history of the group and the incredible natural values of the Opequon — and what we must do to protect them.
Thanks to everyone who helped organize and host the event, and to everyone who came out for a good time.