Strap on your mask and snorkel! It’s time to explore a cool pool in a clear Ozark stream.
If you’re snorkeling and spot a slight movement in the gravel or 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. If you touch a live mussel, it will think you are a predator and quickly clamp its shells shut.
Peer into a pool, and you’ll be amazed at the rainbow of fish you find. Minnows, shiners, and darters of every color often school in the calm water behind boulders. How many of these fintastically flashy fish can you find?
When startled, female wood ducks squeal. If you surprise one while exploring a stream, listen for her shrill ooheek, ooh-eek, ooh-eek call as she flies away.
When exploring a stream, bring along a trash bag so you can pick up litter you see.
Inspect the rocks in a swift-flowing stream, and you may find some pennies. But they aren’t the kind you can spend. Water pennies are flat, copper-colored baby insects. They cling to rocks and feed on algae and microscopic creatures.
Water pennies are baby beetles. They live underwater as larvae but breathe air as adults. Finding a water penny is a good sign. It means the water is clear and clean.
Fishing spiders are so light they can walk on water! Sometimes they sail across the surface by lifting up two legs to catch the wind. They gather air bubbles on their hairy legs. This allows them to stay underwater for half an hour. Search the shoreline for these amazing arachnids.
Missouri’s most common swimming serpent — the northern watersnake — is harmless, but people often confuse it with the rarer but venomous western cottonmouth. Here’s how to tell them apart.
Northern Water Snake
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill