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Chesapeake Bay News: Animals and Plants

May
26
2017

Photo of the Week: By any name, Chickies Rock provides spectacular views

The Susquehanna River flows past Chickies Rock County Park in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at sunset on May 16. Visitors to the roughly 400-acre park can take a short, half-mile hike to Chickies Rock, an overlook that towers 100 feet above the river and offers extensive views both upstream and downstream.

Chickies Rock is named after Chiques Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna that flows through the park. Despite their different spellings, the names “Chickies” and “Chiques” are pronounced the same, refer to the same area and are both found on roads, buildings and natural features throughout the region (at times causing confusion for non-locals).

The names are believed to come from a Susquehannock word meaning “place of crayfish,” which French and English settlers spelled as chiquesalunga or chickiswalungo. French explorers are believed to have arrived first, using the Chiques spelling; later, English settlers would use the Chickies spelling.

Manmade features like roads and buildings have tended to use the Chiques spelling, following in the footsteps of Chiques Church of the Brethren, which was founded in 1856. Natural areas like Chickies Rock, on the other hand, tend to use the alternate spelling. Until recently, Chiques Creek and its tributary, Little Chiques Creek, used the Chickies spelling as well. But in 2002, the Chiques Creek Watershed Alliance petitioned the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Board on Geographic Names to change the creek’s official spelling, citing their belief that the Chiques spelling predates Chickies.

No matter how you spell it, the park and surrounding area offer plenty of recreational opportunities for visitors. In addition to the Chickies Rock overlook, the area provides numerous trails and is home to a collection of historical features, including remnants of iron furnaces, rolling mills and trolley lines. The park also provides access to the Northwest Lancaster River Trail, a fourteen-mile paved trail that follows the Susquehanna River.

Learn more about Chickies Rock County Park.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



May
25
2017

Twenty-four new sites connect residents to the water

In 2016, Chesapeake Bay Program partners opened a total of 24 boat ramps, fishing piers and other sites that grant public access to creeks, streams and rivers in the region. With fourteen sites opened in Virginia, four each in Pennsylvania and Maryland and two in West Virginia, there are now 1,271 places in the Chesapeake Bay region that are open to fishing, boating, swimming and other recreational activities.

Since 2010, Bay Program partners have opened 132 sites, meeting 44 percent of our goal to open 300 sites by 2025. Strong partnerships and public initiatives at all levels of government and with nongovernmental organizations have been critical to our progress, as illustrated by the varied ownership of the sites opened last year: 13 of the new sites are owned by local governments, 10 are owned by state governments and one is jointly owned by state and local government. Funding for these public access sites is also varied, coming from local and state governments, nonprofit organizations and federal funding.

This new fishing pier and kayak launch allow locals at Sleepy Hole Park in Suffolk, Va., to access the Nansemond River.

As development continues across the Chesapeake Bay region, demand for places that allow the public to reach the water remains high. Public access to open space and waterways can improve health and quality of life, provide economic value through recreation and tourism and create citizen stewards who care for their local waterways.  

Increasing public access to open space and waterways not only allows for recreation, it also creates a shared sense of responsibility to protect these important natural environments. Through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, our partners committed to increasing public access as part of a larger effort to engage communities in conservation work.

“Having access to waterways and woodlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed and understanding the importance of this natural resource is essential to its protection and continued enjoyment,” said Chesapeake Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale in a media release. “We don’t value what we don’t know, and we won’t protect what we don’t value. There is much about the natural world that we don’t understand, yet it is vital to our well-being and survival.”

Get a closer look at four of the new sites, or learn more about our work to connect residents to their local waterways.

Photo by Will Parson



May
24
2017

Five endangered species that live in the Chesapeake Bay region

Since 1973, the Endangered Species Act has served as a way to protect plants and animals that are in danger of becoming extinct. More than 2,300 species are listed as endangered or threatened on the Endangered Species List, several of which depend on the unique habitats found in the Chesapeake Bay region to survive. In honor of Endangered Species Month, we’re highlighting a few of the local critters currently listed as endangered.

Image by Shenandoah National Park/Flickr

Shenandoah Salamander
This small, woodland amphibian is known to inhabit just three mountains, all of which—as evidenced by the salamander’s name—lie within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Once more widely distributed, competition with redback salamanders has confined the Shenandoah salamander to the steep, rocky, north-facing slopes of Hawksbill Mountain, The Pinnacles and Stony Man Mountain. The species’ small range and limited habitat led it to be federally listed as endangered in 1987. Experts are working to monitor the abundance of Shenandoah salamanders, minimize the effects park activities have on the amphibians and understand the potential impacts of warming temperatures on this high-elevation species.

Illustration by Dave Neely/Wikimedia Commons

Maryland Darter
Originally discovered in 1912, the Maryland darter has only ever been recorded in three streams in Harford County, Maryland: Swan Creek, Deer Creek and Gashey’s Run. The species’ scarcity led it to be federally listed as endangered in 1967. Through the late 1980s, the darter continued to be sighted in Deer Creek at irregular intervals, but the last recorded sighting of the Maryland darter was in 1988. Rapid development is thought to have degraded local water quality, decreasing the amount of habitat suitable for darters, which are dependent on clean, well-oxygenated, swiftly-flowing streams. Despite fears that the Maryland darter may be extinct, scientists have continued to search for the fish, although none have been found so far.

Image by Larisa Bishop-Boros/Flickr

Virginia Big-Eared Bat
Named for their distinctive ears, Virginia big-eared bats are found in small populations in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky. Beginning in the early 1950s, the number of Virginia big-eared bats began to drop dramatically, falling to an estimated 3,500 bats when the species was federally listed as endangered in 1979. Their decline has been primarily attributed to human disturbance; however, protection of cave roosts has helped big-eared bat numbers to increase. Today, the total population is estimated at around 20,000 bats. However, white nose syndrome—a disease estimated to have killed nearly six million bats since 2007—poses an emerging threat: in 2010, cases of white nose syndrome were found in West Virginia’s Hellhole Cave, which is home to almost half of all Virginia big-eared bats.

Image by Ethan Nedeau/Flickr

Dwarf Wedge Mussel
This small freshwater mussel lives along the bottoms of rivers and creeks ranging from New Hampshire to North Carolina. To survive, dwarf wedge mussels rely on healthy freshwater streams: minimal sediment, a stable stream bed and plenty of dissolved oxygen. However, rapid land development has led to degraded water quality in areas where the mussels live, causing populations to decline. Dwarf wedge mussels also rely on just a handful of host fish species for dispersal, which has limited their ability to relocate to healthier waterways. In 1990, the species was federally listed as endangered. Scientists continue to monitor populations of the mussels and their changing habitat conditions to aid in the species’ recovery.

Image by jack perks/Shutterstock

Sturgeon
Both the Atlantic sturgeon and the smaller shortnose sturgeon are native to the Chesapeake Bay, and both are federally listed as endangered species. Experts estimate these prehistoric fish have existed for more than 120 million years and have lived in the Bay region for at least 70 million years. Once an abundant source of food for local residents, harvest pressures, barriers to migration and poor water quality caused this sensitive species to become increasingly more rare. In recent years, however, researchers have observed more of the elusive fish in the Bay and are working to boost their knowledge of sturgeon behavior and habitat needs.

 

Despite the uncertain future that faces these and other endangered species, much work has been done to aid in the recovery of plants and animals on the Endangered Species List. The iconic bald eagle, for instance, recovered enough to be removed from the federal list of endangered species in 2007, and the reclusive Delmarva fox squirrel was removed from the list in 2015. Scientists and experts continue to work toward protecting and supporting these irreplaceable species.

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



May
19
2017

Fish, boat and enjoy the water at four new public access sites

As the weather warms, people across the region are getting out on the water, taking to boat ramps, fishing piers and other sites to fish, swim, paddle and more. Last year, our partners opened dozens of new public access sites as part of their goal to create more opportunities to put people in touch with the rivers, streams and open spaces that surround the Chesapeake Bay. Below, take a closer look at just a few of these new sites that you can enjoy.

1. Sleepy Hole Park in Suffolk, Virginia
On the outskirts of Suffolk, Virginia, sits Sleepy Hole Park, a 66-acre natural area that runs alongside the Nansemond River, a tributary of the James River. Visitors can walk along a nature trail that passes by a 30-acre freshwater lake before looping along the shore of the Nansemond. Last year, the City of Suffolk worked with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Land and Water Conservation Fund to open a 371-foot-long pier, complete with a fishing platform and floating canoe and kayak launch. The pier offers the first direct public access to the 20-mile-long Nansemond River since the closure of a previous boat ramp in downtown Suffolk several years ago.

2. Fort Hunter Park in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Located just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Fort Hunter Park is home to a historical mansion and settlement that includes buildings dating back to the early 1800s. The more than 40-acre park runs alongside the Susquehanna River and offers open fields, wooded areas and a riverside trail where visitors can take a nature walk, bird watch or simply enjoy the outdoors. In 2016, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission partnered with the National Park Service to provide access to the river at sites along the Susquehanna and on nearby Fishing Creek. The sites provide accessible canoe and kayak launch areas as well as opportunities for fishing and wildlife viewing.

3. Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena, Maryland
For years, the only public boat ramps in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, were at Sandy Point State Park, near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and Truxton Park in Annapolis. Last year, a third ramp was added, one of the largest boat ramps in the state and the first public boat ramp owned by the county. The ramp, located at Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena, offers access to the Patapsco River and joins the park’s other amenities, which include a 380-foot fishing pear, walking trails and beaches. Fort Smallwood Park also opened for public swimming last year—only the second public beach in the county that allows swimming—although visitors should be aware no lifeguards are assigned to the beach.

4. Keyser in Mineral County, West Virginia
Nestled among the mountains of West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands is Keyser, a small town bordered by the North Branch of the Potomac River and just across the water from Maryland. Straight through the middle of town runs U.S. Route 220, and below the Memorial Bridge where the highway passes over the river is a new launch for canoers and kayakers to access the water. Traveling the region by boat offers impressive scenery, with towering cliffs and abundant wildlife. For those who prefer to stay on shore, the Keyser site also provides fishing access in an area that boasts some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the Potomac.


Where is your favorite place to boat, swim or fish? Let us know in the comments! And make sure to visit the hundreds of new and existing public access sites to enjoy all the Bay and its rivers have to offer.

To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program's Flickr page.

Photos by Will Parson, Ft. Smallwood photo courtesy Karin Dodge/Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



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