Despite being neighbors, the North Fork watershed and the Beaver Creek watershed are quite different in character and temperament. With its high elevation and low gradient, Beaver Creek quietly glides through a maze of wetlands that one would expect to find in Canada, while the North Fork (often loudly) rages down the Blackwater Canyon.
After nearly 18 months of freezing water, countless ticks, and the occasional beaver-caused flooding, FOB has completed its initial monitoring of the Beaver Creek watershed – and we found that the streams differ in other interesting ways as well.
On the plus side, typical pH values recorded on Beaver Creek were greater than 6, unlike in the North Fork, where we routinely see values below 5. Even in the headwater tributaries where sub-5 pH values were common, the areas were also characterized by low specific conductivity; a common natural scenario in watersheds dominated by acidic bogs and wetlands. With the extent of acid mine drainage seemingly more manageable, we are hopeful that small improvements will yield big results.
On the down side, the sources of degradation in Beaver Creek extend beyond just acid mine drainage. Over the decades, the spruce-dominated forest cover was largely replaced by a herbaceous shrub-like ecosystem. This has led to channelization, sedimentation, and temperature concerns that will require a more diverse set of solutions. Thankfully, our local partner the Canaan Valley Institute is an expert in this realm, and we are grateful to have their support and guidance.
As we move forward with our partners in developing a watershed-based plan for Beaver Creek, FOB would like to thank all the volunteers and donors whose generosity made the monitoring project – and all that is to come – possible. Y’all are great!
The maps below show the average pH and conductivity in different sections of the Beaver Creek watershed.