How To: Snorkel an Ozark Stream

By MDC | July 1, 2022
From Xplor: July/August 2022

You don’t have to explore a coral reef or visit an aquarium to find flashy fish. Strap on a diving mask, peer into a clear Ozark stream, and you’ll be amazed at the rainbow of life you find

Boy with a snorkel
Right to Use

Here’s What You Need

  • A face mask or goggles form a watertight seal around your eyes so you can see underwater.
  • A snorkel isn’t essential, but it allows you to breathe while your face is in the water.
  • Wearing a life jacket keeps you safe and makes it easier to swim.
  • Swim fins aren’t necessary, but they make it easier to swim against the current. If you go without flippers, a pair of old sneakers will protect your feet from sharp rocks.
  • A quick-drying, long-sleeved shirt and sunscreen protect you from sunburn.
  • Don’t forget a towel to dry off with when you’re done.

Here’s What You Do

  1. Find a grown-up to go with you.
  2. Before putting on your mask, rub spit on the inside glass then rinse it off in the stream. It sounds yucky, but this will keep the glass from fogging up. Wetting your face will help form a tight seal with the mask so water doesn’t leak inside.
  3. Swim from downstream to upstream so any pebbles or mud you stir up washes behind you and doesn’t cloud your view ahead. Move slowly and stop often to see what shows up.
  4. Be sure to explore a variety of habitats: swift-flowing riffles, calm pools, eddies behind boulders and cobbles. You’ll find different animals in each place.
  5. Heads up! Little sunfish may nip at the hair on your arms and legs. They’re completely harmless but may startle you when they pull your hair.

Here’s What You’ll see

Minnows, shiners, and sunfish of every color often school in the calm water behind boulders.

Keep your eyes peeled for animals hiding among the pebbles at the bottom of the stream.

If you spot a tiny puff of sand, don’t move a muscle — it might be a mussel. The clamlike animals lie half-buried at the bottoms of streams.


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This Issue's Staff

Artist - Alexis (AJ) Joyce
Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
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