COOL, CLEAR WATER
Soon after discovering Shabomekaw, I began driving to “Trail’s End” on a
narrow, winding back-road out of Maysville that paralleled Kinniconick, up in its head-waters. At one point the road was within a stone’s throw of the creek. Most of my weekend trips back then commenced on Friday, and having left the office in Cincinnati at six o’clock or so, it was dark when the Creek came into view.
Oh, how important it was to get that first glimpse of clear water tumbling over the little riffle, and through the darkness of twilight or the beaming of the moon, one could see that the stream was in perfect condition. The weekend was guaranteed to be another marvelous commune with nature, the beautiful creek flowing through the wooded valley, framed by Kentucky mountains. Cool, clear water was a hallmark of Kinney. Early in the Spring the color was a brilliant turquoise and in Summer it was emerald green.
My life has always revolved around the pursuit of wilderness and wild, clear water. Fate gave me so many opportunities to see and to feel and taste water, in many far-off places: I drank from lakes in Canada and from trout streams in Michigan, North Carolina and Wyoming. On the flats in the back bay of Florida I watched tarpon take my fly in water clear as gin. Once, on Norris Lake in Tennessee not long after it was impounded, my Dad and I fished in a place called Brassfield Bend and big bass were visible way down deep in ultra-clear water.
Recently the director of the Sierra Club wrote about Waldo Lake, one of the clearest and purest lakes in the world. He trekked into the Cascade Range in Oregon and kayaked on Waldo, and he says that visibility is over 100 feet. Now he is trying to save it from development.
It isn’t too late to save our water, but time is growing short. Fracking for natural gas has poisoned water deep in the earth. Careless pumping has drained aquifers and lowered lake levels. Fertilizers and weed killers pollute our rivers and creeks, and pristine lakes turn an ugly gray-brown. Salt water intrusion is becoming dangerous along our coasts. Climate change may turn vast green regions into dust. Offshore drilling and oil spills, horrid dumping of waste, destruction of seabeds: it must stop if we have any chance of saving the waters of the world.
Several years ago, the state of Kentucky designated Kinniconick an “Outstanding Water Resource” and in 2012 a federal grant was awarded to develop a watershed plan. Officials pointed out that “current land practices have led to degradation through increased sedimentation and bank erosion, causing turbidity” and that the health of the stream was at risk. I say thank you to the State and the Federal Government for at long last recognizing the unique quality of this stream. One day its waters will run cool and clear again.
Many years ago (gosh, maybe 75 years ago) my family gathered by the radio in the evening, and I remember hearing an old cowboy ballad sung by Hank Williams. It told the story of a feller and his mule, lost on some western desert, dying of thirst. The mule’s name was Dan.
“Say, Dan, can’t you see that big green tree,
where the water’s runnin’ free ?
It’s waiting there for you and me…
Water. Cool, clear water.”
Dan and the old cowboy saw a distant mirage out there on the barren sands. All of their memories of clear, clean water filled their dreams of shimmering lakes and rushing streams.
One day earth’s creatures everywhere may wish for a place “where the water’s runnin’ free”.
Photo of Kinniconick by Sharmon Davidson