I should’ve brought the wall tent, century-old canvas and varnished wood poles that would’ve been loaded on a flat-bottomed jon boat with a couple sports from Saint Louis or Kansas City, maybe Omaha or Chicago, and sent down the river to catch black bass and walleye. I sped down paved two-lane past the derelict depot at the end of the line, where they would’ve disembarked onto horses and carts for a trip down to the river.
Early explorers filled letters and journals extolling the purity and transparency of these waters; I don’t stand a chance against wily creek smallmouth with a two year old lab in tow. So I swap rod and reel for mask and snorkel and do my exploring a different way.
Although west of the Mississippi, this is still one of the most biodiverse regions of North America- maybe forty fish species in a stream not much wider than a county highway, a handful of crayfish species, a hundred other aquatic invertebrates, at least. And eons of isolation from other upland areas allowed the region to develop its own, unique, endemic fauna.
It’s a different way of discovering streams, but rewarding nonetheless.