Keeping Our Streams Healthy

North Carolina’s streams and rivers are invaluable resources. Not only do they provide a source of fresh water for fish and wildlife, they provide humans with water for drinking, irrigation, power production, transportation, fishing, boating, swimming, and much more.

You, your family and your friends can all become “streamkeepers” by monitoring the health of the streams near you. By doing so, you help protect and restore fish populations, wildlife habitat and water quality.

Here are some simple ways to help your streams:

  • Don’t move the rocks ~ Rocks serve as hiding places and homes for many animals, including macroinvertebrates, mollusks and salamanders.
  • Keep stream habitat intact ~ Native stream-side vegetation, including grasses, shrubs and trees provide good habitat for wildlife, as well as a nutrient source for stream animals. Vegetation also helps prevent erosion.
  • Safely pick up as much litter as you can ~ Trash that breaks down in the water may be eaten by fish and other wildlife, and could possibly alter the water chemistry. Stream litter can also travel all the way to the ocean!
  • Report any activities that may harm a stream, such as dumping garbage, tires or motor oil.
  • Clean up after your pets ~ Be sure to keep pet scat out of the streams.

Stream Species in the Spotlight: Southern Appalachian Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)

A member of the salmonidae family, this trout is the only native trout in N.C. and is limited to the cold streams in the western region of our state.

Download the following resources:

How to identify trout species (PDF)>

Fantastic Fungus: Turkey Tail

This fantastic fungus can be found year round, but it is most fun to talk about it near “turkey day.” The turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is a very common polypore mushroom found all over the world, and is know as a “bracket fungus” because of the way it fans out as it grows on tree trunks and logs.

The species name versicolor means “of several colors”; you can find it in many shades of brown, gray, yellow, and the bright fall colors you see in the photo above. Its common name, “turkey tail,” is fairly obvious because it looks VERY similar to the fanned feather display of a male wild turkey.

In recent years, this humble fungus has gained lots of attention for its medicinal qualities. It has been used in Asia for centuries as a booster for the immune system. Today, multiple universities and the National Institutes of Health continue to research this mushroom as a treatment for cancer.

While turkey tail is considered an edible mushroom, it’s not very tasty, so humans usually don’t cook with it. However, certain caterpillars and insects LOVE to chomp on it! On your next fall hike through the woods, see if you can track down this beautiful, beneficial fungus.

All About Eastern Bluebirds

The colorful eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis), a year round resident in the High Country, was once a common songbird throughout our state. That was until bluebirds lost much of their natural nesting habitat. Bluebirds are “cavity-nesters” and like to build nests in tree holes. As we began to cut down dying and dead trees rather than let them fall naturally, and began replacing wooden fenceposts with other materials to fence in farms and pastures, the eastern bluebird population began to decline dramatically.

Today, the bluebird population is beginning to rebound, thanks to the conservation efforts of many people and organizations who are committed to creating new habitat and human-made nesting cavities in the form of bluebird nesting boxes. Want to help bluebirds? Install a bluebird box before next spring! Head over to for more information, and download the full Carolina Explorers article on eastern bluebirds (link below).

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