Field notes by Jeff Cantrell, photos courtesy of the MO Dept Conservation

Ozark lore tells us traditional thong trees (fashioned by First Nation’s People) often gave directions to springs and fresh water. Today’s naturalists still look for trees like sycamores, alders, willows and American hornbeam to know the water table is close by. Rivers and streams have a fascinating history with Native American stories, and later with European explorers and frontiersmen settling by the moving waters. Braided rivers are more common north and west of our region; however, our waterways change courses often, forming oxbow lakes and sloughs alongside them. Channelized streams lead to disaster for aquatic life both up and downstream, and if a waterway could “want,” they would desire their natural course back to perhaps historical times. Natural cycles of flooding and erosion potentially return waterways to their meandering ways.

Today’s society has learned expensive lessons on the life of our watery environments. Clean, healthy waters are a common concern for public drinking waters and the needs for all aquatic plant and animal life cycles. The old saying, “dilution is the solution to pollution” no longer applies. Luckily, lots of people, including volunteers, professionals and students, work for thriving water systems, including our connections to the oceans. We have reasons to celebrate our water resource victories and our many uses of ground and surface water.

Locally, The Wildcat Glades Friends Group initiated an annual Shoal Creek Water Festival held every August. The friends group embraces conservation and water industry partners; Wildcat Park south of Joplin transforms into fun learning and recreation for all. Come visit us! Enjoy and appreciate the water. Help us share the good word! Drop by the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center on top of the hill to find out what programs are coming up for youth, and be sure to get our free kids’ magazine, XPlor. We all work hard and volunteer a lot of time to protect, appreciate and enjoy our water resources. We honor those before us and their time-honored respect for the resources, and it makes us feel conservation pride to witness these strides moving forward. Hope to see you there!  – Jeff

Shoal Creek Water Festival

Saturday, August 13

Creekside of Wildcat Park, Joplin

Drop by anytime from 9 am-2 pm

See Wildcat Glades Friends Facebook for schedule of events.