Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stream Stomp At D&R Canal State Park

We went to the river, and what did we see? We saw little mayflies, at least two or three. We saw dozens and dozens of little green caddisflies that live in the water before they can fly.

We saw crayfish, small and larger, scuds that skid about on their sides like shrimp. We saw tiny leeches-a-plenty, and even a free-wheeling freshwater eel.

And how did that make us feel?

Well, fascinated, mostly, with all the slippery sublime that can be found beneath rocks and riffles in the Millstone River, a pebble's throw from Route 27 in Kingston.

For two hours, it made kids of us all, catching the river's mysteries in a net, spilling the contents into shallow dishes of water, and then peering at all the minutiae of river life.

There was some science involved, since each kind of creature can tolerate a different degree of stream pollution. The presence of mayflies, for instance, which have a low tolerance for pollution, speaks well for the river. Since the intake for Princeton's drinking water is twenty miles downstream, I like the idea that mayflies find the water clean enough to live in.

In the last photo, D&R Canal State Park naturalist Stephanie Fox shows us a stick that was half submerged next to the river bank. Hundreds of caddis fly larvae had climbed up the stick to get out of the water, then used the stick as a platform on which to grow their wings and launch into adult life. (This strategy is similar to that of the 17 year cicadas, who crawl out of the ground, climb the nearest tree or shrub, emerge from their old skins, grow wings and fly off.)

For more info on canal state park events, go to:


  1. It was a great afternoon in the Millstone! Thanks to the Park naturalist and all the stream stompers who helped reveal a parallel universe in a shallow stretch of flowing water.

  2. Steve, how grand of you to publicize the good work being done in Kingston to give people the experience of the richness of nature.