WATRline Past Events

Some of our events


WATR 5th Annual Tuckasegee Summer Picnic was held on Saturday, August 3, at Darnell Farms — We had a crowd of over 50, as kids and oldsters drifted in and out.

For the first time ever, WATR’s Summer Picnic takes place in Swain County! We started with a fun, down-home story by storyteller Tim Hall — followed by an all out attack on SUMPTUOUS food table.

Great to be on the banks of the Tuckasegee River as it enters Bryson City.  Thanks, Jeff, for a wonderful party.

The Party was also a CALL TO ACTION as we gear up for BIG SWEEP and chat with high school and college students about their environmental goals for 2013-14.





Sunny & Lil' Sister Janice

Sunny & Lil’ Sister Janice

WATR worked on removing pockets of exotic invasive plants along the Discovery Trails at Monteith Farm Park.   Under the direction of Sunny Himes, volunteers removed a small patch of kudzu on the north side of the park.  Kudzu can be killed by digging up the plant’s crowns. Grubbing tools such as pulaskis, hoes, pick axes, and shovels work best.  In upcoming “Invasives Removal Events,” please bring these tools (and work gloves) if you have them. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent contact with poison ivy.

Evil privet

Evil privet

Thanks everyone for your help!

Sunny Himes!







Job Corps Extends Discovery Trails


Job Corps

A dedicated crew from the Oconaluftee Job Corps Center extended the North Discovery Trail at Monteith Farmstead Park last Tuesday (6/4).   They made a new cut-through from the trail to the creek to give fisher-men and –women more access to the water.  The crew returns on Wednesday (6/12).   This work is coordinated through sponsorship by a Jackson County Grant.

In other news about MFP, we are talking with Dillsboro Alderman Tim Parris about a picnic shelter that will be built in August.  That will bring many more people to the park and to our Discovery Trails.  It will help us establish the park as one of the key places for conservation lessons in the Tuckasegee River Watershed.



The Cherokee Youth Council partners with WATR for the 4th Traditional Cherokee Fish Harvest

CYC members work on model of Cherokee village.

CYC members work on model of Cherokee village.

On Monday (6/17) we staged the 4th annual “Traditional Cherokee Fish Harvest.”  The Fish Harvest is held at the home of Jim and Kate Allman in Webster.  Next, the kids will be divided into groups that will circulate among hands-on aquatic lessons.   There will be sessions on stream aquatic insects, fish, imagining a Cherokee village, damage caused by erosion, and videos.  The main event is the traditional fish harvest.  A fish trap is placed in the weir and all the youth will attempt to corral the fish downstream and into the trap.  Youth Council members served as teaching assistants.   If you or your child is interested in participating in 2014, call the WATR office at 828 488-8418.

Thanks go to LTLT and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation for their support.




WATR MFP Team Cleans Up Scotts Creek on the First Wednesday


On Wednesdays during the summer, we did our the routine cleanup. Interested for the Fall? For more information, call Sae Smyrl (828) 506-1157 or saesmyrl@hotmail.com.

Some of our events from 2012

Watershed Film Series #3: “It’s Our Water”

WATRline 2012 Newsletter

“It’s Our Water” was  held on November 15 at the Bryson City United Methodist Church.  It was the third presentation of environmentally thought-provoking videos in our Watershed Film Series. Instead of one long film, the program included four snappy videos –  covering issues from litter to bottled water. There were  brief presentations about tap water in Bryson City and Sylva, and  a water taste test.  Learn more here.

Pictured left to right, Roger Clapp-WATR Director, Kayla Johnson, Anne Watkins–Club Advisor, and Dylan Rose.

Last month, members of the Swain High Environmentally Aware Club picked up trash downstream of the Governors Island Bridge as part of NC Big Sweep.

Friend event: Wild & Scenic Movie and more -4/17/12 Hinds Center, WCU.  Organized by the Tuckaseigee Chapter of the Alliance, WNCA, this event featured a great sequence of short, poignant films about a range of environmental problems and solutions that directly or indirectly touch us here in Western North Carolina.  Hats off to ‘Becca Berrgen and Ken Brown for organizing this event!  Our director, Roger, spoke about the clean water — fouled “I was so impressed by the plastic bottle film and the plastic bag film, too,” according to our director Roger Clapp.  He spoke at one of the breaks between films.  Tom Bolt, professor of Cherokee Studies, delivered a challenging talk describing the Cherokee vision of our land and landscape.

Green Fire —   Thurs. 4/19/12  7:00-8:30, free.  Smoky Mountain Community Theater, Bryson City.  Must-See conservation film. The life and legacy of Aldo Leopold – creator of the discipline of wildlife ecology and visionary.

Janice Inabinett was the lead organizeer.  Special thanks go to her, and panelists Susan Sachs (GSMNP education coordinator, Blair Allman (Leader, Swain High Env. Awareness Committee), Robert Hawk (Coop. Ext. Service agent – Swain & Jackson), and WATR’s Roger Clapp.   See blog!

The theme of  “a land ethic” resonates in our region — a compeling and challenging response to property rights.

Tuckaseegee River Cleanup

April 19, 2012 1-4 P.M.

Meeting Place: C.J. Harris Boat Launch — High water… It was postponed by a week.

Directions:  Click  here 

Savannah Creek Cleanup

Saturday April 21, 2012 9-11:30 A.M.

Meeting Place: Country Farms Rd, Rt 441

In support of the Annual WCU Tuckasegee Clean Up — WATR will have its own creek clean up.  Picked up bags of trash, old wire, an a small appliance unknown use.  Special thanks to Sunny Himes, Ken Brown, Rick Queen,

Greening Up The Mountains.  Sat. 4/28/12 from 10-5 pm.  Main Street, Sylva. WATR’s pavillion theme will be “The Creek is Alive” complete with macro invertebrate sorting.  Bring a kid who can earn a hands-on micro degree in Water Bugology!   Mandi Carringer did a superb job of showing off stream bugs caught hours earlier in Scotts Creek to kids and a few curious adults.  Over 60 folks signed in — a GUTM record for WATR.

Mountain Erosion Control – Swain Training


A record 31 contractors & excavators turned up for this training.  Goal of this training was to show WHY erosion control is so important for a healthy biological community in our creeks.  The lesson was a repeat of our “The Creek is Alive!” presentation, adapted for the front-end loader crowd.  Evaluation was our best ever with ratings of 5’s (the best) interspersed with just a few 4’s.

RTCAR's David Cozzo explains the benefits of river cane

RTCAR’s David Cozzo explains the benefits of river cane

WATR gets $9,500 river cane grant from Cherokees

As clay is to the potter and stone is to the sculptor, river cane is the vital raw material to the Cherokee basketmaker.

But it’s in short supply.

A Cherokee artisans group has provided a grant to WATR to locate cane stands along the river to provide a local supply for basketmakers.

With a revival of basketmaking in Cherokee, artisans are having to travel farther and farther from home to find cane suitable for their use, said David Cozzo,  director of RTCAR, for Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources.

It wasn’t long ago, said Cozzo, that the art of basketmaking had gone into decline to the point that there were only two Cherokee artisans making double-weave baskets. Supply of cane wasn’t a problem.

Then the Chrokee Preservation Foundation stepped in and started basketweaving classes. A revival ensued. Now, the craft is even taught in the Cherokee High School.

“With the cultural revival, the need for river cane has increased,” said Cozzo. His group is planning a trip soon to Barbourville, Ky., to harvest cane from a “really nice stand” there. And it is working with Sumter National Forest in South Carolina to find cane there for harvesting.

Cozzo is convinced that there is river cane enough in Jackson and Swain counties to provide an adequate local source –it just needs to be located and the owners persuaded to allow the harvesting.

That’s where the grant to WATR comes in. The grant is for $9,500 for the project, which will run through September, 2012.

Roger Clapp, WATR director, has issued a call for volunteers to help with the river cane hunt.

“This would be ideal for people who like to wander the mountain backroads, enjoying the scenery and plant life,” he said.

Volunteers or  owners of rivercane stands who are interested should contact  the WATR office in Bryson City at 488-8418.

Those interested in the project are invited to travel to Murphy to visit another water cane project on the Nantahala watershed. A caravan will leave from the WATR office in Bryson City at 9 a.m. Tuesday, No. 16. Bring a lunch.

Volunteers for the rivercane project will take part in a training program to learn how to recognize the plant and how to map the site using GPS coordinates. The training zsessions will also be used to set up the driving routes to prevent overlap and to make sure the area is covered. Once the stands are found, owners will be approached to see if they will allow harvesting of the cane.

Cozzo said a selective harvesting method would be employed. Cane must be of a certain size to be useful, and less mature cane will be left alone so that it can grow.

Clapp said that cane stands should be preserved and  broadened for the environmental benefits to the river. Cane provides excellent buffer for sediment runoff and improve riparian wildlife habitat.

Cozzo said his agency  likes to work with conservation groups, such as WATR, “because we’re all on the same page” – that the ecological and cultural benefits of the cane resources got hand-in-hand.

Both Clapp and Cozzo said that rivercane landowners who permit a harvest will know that they are playing a role in preserving the heritage and culture of the Cherokees and the mountains.

Some of our events from 2011

State of the Tuckasegee River Workshop

Watershed experts and citizens gathered to share data and their experiences concerning the health of the Tuckasegee River on Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at a one-day workshop.

WATR held this informal sharing of information as a stepping stone toward  periodic assessment of the Tuckasegee River system at the watershed scale.

According to Roger Clapp, WATR Executive Director, “This event could lead to a regular report updating the community about changes, positive and negative, in this vital resource.”

The workshop consisted of a series of short panel presentations and discussions covering water quality, sediment, biological testing, and experiences acquired by local agencies that affect the river.  Agencies included the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and county soil erosion inspection departments.

Some of the panelists included Anne Marie Traylor, of the Environmental Quality Institute and Ed Williams of the NC Division of Water Quality, Asheville, and Mike Lavoie, and Patrick Breedlove of the Cherokee Office of Environment and Natural Resources.  The Oconaluftee River which drains the Cherokee Qualla Boundary is the largest tributary to the Tuckasegee River.

David Kinner of the Geosciences Department, Western Carolina University, outlined research projects aimed at quantifying relevant water processes.  Ken Brown, chairman of the Tuckaseigee Chapter Alliance, discussed community actions, and Michelle Price of the Macon-Jackson Conservation Alliance moderated the erosion control section.  Gerald Green, head of Jackson County Planning Department, presented issues relevant to the river.

The workshop was held at the Whittier Community Center off of Rt 74, Exit 74, and across the river from the post office.


Macon board seeks to finish steep-slope work

Macon County’s commissioners want their planning board, if possible, to finish up work on a steep-slope ordinance. This after what Planning Board Chairman Lewis Penland wearily described as a long few weeks, in which members have drawn the ire and criticism of local anti-planning advocates.

Link to article

Homeowners win suit over shoddily built roads

Members of the Alarka Creek Properties Homeowners Association have won a $3 million lawsuit over roads that deteriorated in the subdivision. The court accepted the property owners’ claims that the roads were shoddily built on too-steep terrain and that the developer ignored appropriate erosion control measures.

Link to article

Gary Peeples talks to Swain student group

Gary Peeples talks to Swain student group

Swain High Students search for the endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel.

Cold water and the threat of rainfall did not stop the Swain High

Environmentally Aware Club from searching for the endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel in theTuckasegeeRiver.

On Tuesday, May 17, 2011, eleven members of the club traveled upstream of Dillsboro to start their search.  Under the guidance of Gary Peeples, outreach coordinator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, they used underwater view scopes to search the river bottom and try to locate the endangered animal.

The original plan was for the club to raft down the river and stop at various points to look for the mussel. With the bad weather, the group searched for mussels once and then rafted straight down to the take out point.

Tyler and George look for mussels.

Tyler and George look for mussels.

According to Roger Clapp, director of the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River, “Mussels belong to a group of animals called mollusks, and they look like salt-water clams.  They continuously filter stream water, and in the process they take out silts and clays and contaminants, thus improving water quality. Problems arise when there is too much silt and clay, and these sedentary animals get covered then smothered with sediments, and eventually they die.

The Appalachian elktoe mussel is found only in theTuckasegee River and about four other rivers in the region, according to Clapp. They are sensitive to pollution and habitat disruptions. “These particular mussels act like the ‘canary in the coal mine’, where declining Appalachian elktoe populations strongly suggest stream deterioration.”

Paige Tester, club president, said “I was surprised we found many more shells of the Asian clam than those of the Appalachian elktoe. The Asian clam is an invasive species that should not be here. So we have too many of the non-native kind of mussel and not enough of good mussel.”  She also commented on the bare-soil banks along the parts of the river which contribute unwanted sediment to the creek, probably being one cause of the decline of the Appalachian elktoe.

“There was also the problem of trash in the river; it was everywhere,” said Tester.

For many, the trip was a new adventure.  PJ Sweet said, “It was just fun getting into the fisherman’s waders and searching the river bottom with the view scopes.  We found many shells from the Asian Clam.” Tyler Willis found the lone example of the endangered mussel that day.

With cold weather, no one wanted to stop and do more exploring. Instead, the whole group rafted the two miles down to the waiting cars. The rafts were provided free of charge by Willdwater. Kevin Gibbs and Matt Cook, Wildwater guides, volunteered their time.

This gaggle of girls were among the volunteers from Francis Baptist Church that helped to install the first set of stairs for the Buffer Trail at Monteith Farmstead Park last summer.

This gaggle of girls were among the volunteers from Francis Baptist Church that helped to install the first set of stairs for the Buffer Trail at Monteith Farmstead Park last summer.

Monica Fortner said she enjoyed getting their raft stuck and then unstuck on the river rocks.  Many were amused when Clapp, the trip organizer, flipped his canoe.

Others in the group were Jonah Winchester, Morgan Green, Marley Simmons, Blair Allman, Athena Arkansas, George Helmer, and Kaitlin Roberts, and Ms. Anne Watkins, the club’s faculty advisor. Partway down the river, Dr. Karen Kandl, a Western Carolina University biology instructor joined the group.  She has extensive experience with freshwater mussels.

A chilled, but more ecologically informed group of students agreed that this hands-on search for an endangered animal was a worthwhile adventure. And they might like to extend the investigation next year.

There may be a real possibility for more involvement. WATR recently submitted a proposal to the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. Among several tasks, a start-up initiative in mussel monitoring, to be led by Dr. Kandl, is called for in the application.

If the proposal is accepted, students, as well as parents and other adults, could participate in science and help protect our aquatic resources.  Contact the WATR office at 828-488-8418 if you are interested. WATR’s involvement in the field trip was supported by a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

WATR receives funding but less than amount sought.

The whole group from the Francis Baptist Church of Palatka, Florida will be funded by Resourceful Communities, a program of The Conservation Fund headquartered in Chapel Hill.

The whole group from the Francis Baptist Church of Palatka, Florida will be funded by Resourceful Communities, a program of The Conservation Fund headquartered in Chapel Hill.

WATR recently learned that its proposed project, “Experiential Environmental Education in Dillsboro, Jackson County,” was accepted, and it

The good news is that WATR will receive funding, the challenging news is that we asked for $15,000 and we have been awarded only $5000.

The grant has two objectives:

First, we will create an interpretive Buffer Trail at Montieth Farmstead Park in the natural area next to Scotts Creek.  Why is this so important?  Stream ecology is really protected by stream-side buffers for many reasons, and builders and landowners, by and large, do not know these reasons.

Second, WATR will complete a feasibility study for a Watershed Activity and Discovery Experience (WADE) Center – a hands-on learning center focused on our mountain watersheds.  Dr. Dan Perlmutter is leading this part of the grant.  He has already convened the first of several brain-storming workshops.

So the challenge is how to do much of what is promised with less resources.  The only way is to depend more on volunteer help.  Free construction by crews from the Oconaluftee Job Corps is central, but we may have to look for donations to cover material expenses.  Watch for a planning session at MFP in the near future.