I wrote this post last night, but through a series of stupid keystrokes lost it... So here it goes again.
We spent Saturday at the Walls of Jericho property. Jennifer, Christian and Andrew joined me to meet land steward Nick Sharp who graciously drove us in via the hellacious road. I was hoping to find blotchside logperch and flame chubs in Hurricane Creek, and try to make the 2 km hike from the main campground area along the creek to the famous Walls of Jericho for which the property is named.
We actually did find one juvenile flame chub, and I think we could have caught more. They were in an unusual feature, what looked to be a natural ditch alongside the creekbed. I suspect this ditch is fed by a slow spring seep, since the water was clear and cool (the creek itself was 12 degrees C, quite a drop from July). Several other fish we caught all turned out to be juvenile creek chubs when I looked closely and saw that they had a black dorsal spot rather than the red blaze typical of flame chubs. Below is a photo of this "ditch" feature, visible in the left-middle of the picture as a circular shadow:
We netted lots of rainbow, black and Tennessee snubnose darters, and a single redline. No blotchside, not even any greenside, logperch or speckled darters which are also present. I'm now convinced that both black and Tennessee snubs are present. It's unusual to find sympatric species of snubnose darters, but it's true in Hurricane Creek. Some of the male black darters we netted were some of the biggest I've ever seen. I showed a ziplock baggie of darters to some hikers from a local conservation group, and blew their minds with the male rainbows and the redline. Even knowledgeable outdoors people usually have no idea that such colorful fishes exist in local streams. Below is a photo of, left to right, Andrew, Christian and Jennifer at our first seining site downstream from the campground/trailcrossing.
After lunch we started a hike to the Walls of Jericho. This is a striking geological feature, a limestone bowl being scooped out by gushing springs between 500 meter tall sandstone ridges. Limestone is much softer than sandstone, so a deepcut valley with Turkey Creek running over limestone debris runs down into Hurricane Creek. It's one of those things you have to see to fully appreciate. The trail into it is narrow, muddy, and lifethreatening, hugging the base of the sandstone cliff on the south side of the canyon. Christian had to give up not even halfway in because she was wearing flipflops(!). Once we made it in to the flowing springs, we immediately noticed that there were fish in the pools, apparently some kind of cyprinid minnows. But we had no nets so we made no real effort to snag any. Next time... And Nick told me that there are fish in a small creek that flows over the lip of the head of the limestone bowl. I've posted one picture below that gives some idea of what the place looks like. It's looking up the head of the bowl, with the lip in the middle with a tree trunk stuck in it from an earlier flood event. The sandstone cliffs rise to the left and right. The whole setting is more primeval than anything I expected to find in modern Alabama. Really, you gotta go!