Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Saving the Brook Trout in Lynn Camp Prong

Since the rest of the week will be devoted to the condo closing and moving, we wanted to take advantage of today for a hike.  Gene also wanted to wash the car and we needed to make a quick run to Walmart, so we selected something short and close by.  We decided on something in the Tremont area again, but today we drove past West Prong Trail and the Institute and all the way to the end of the gravel road to Middle Prong trailhead.

The gravel road ends at a large parking area which includes a circular turn around for the convenience of those towing large horse trailers.  Middle Prong Trail begins by crossing a footbridge over the confluence of Thunderhead Prong and Lynn Camp Prong which form Middle Prong of the Little River.  The trail follows Lynn Camp Prong for the entire length of the trail some 4 miles from the trailhead.  We didn’t go that far.  We stopped after 2.3 miles at the junction with Panther Creek Trail.

The trail is along an old railroad bed left over from the logging days before the park was established.  At one place we could see an old rail exposed in the trail.  Another relic from those days was a rusted out shell of a car.  The guidebook states that it was a cadillac which belonged to the Middle Prong CCC camp supervisor.  When it quit running they just pushed it off to the side of the road and left it there.

Lynn Camp Prong is a beautiful stream with several sharp drops creating short falls and cascades.  There are also a few deep pools perfect for a cool swim on a hot day.  A few years ago we saw a river otter in one of the deeper pools.  This is also a popular spot for fly fishermen, but the stream is closed to fishing right now. More on that later.

We strolled along enjoying the cool morning temperatures and beauty of the rushing water.  There were only a couple of cars in the parking lot and we didn’t see anyone along our hike.  I was beginning to think we were the only ones out this morning.

We were very surprised to find a work crew at the junction with Panther Creek Trail.  It was a large crew, perhaps 10 or 12.  We were hoping they were installing a bridge over Lynn Camp Prong which has to be crossed to access Panther Creek Trail.  That wasn’t the case.  It turned out to be a group of seasonal park employees funded by Trout Unlimited and a three volunteers from Trout Unlimited.  They were in the process of counting and weighing the brook trout in Lynn Camp Prong.  They let us watch and explained the process to Gene.

These guys were basically doing an inventory of the brook trout--counting, weighing, measuring and examining to see how healthy they were.  To do that they were shocking the water to stun the fish so they could be gathered and examined.  This has been a multiyear project to restore the brook trout in the Smokies.

The brook trout have been jeopardized by the presence of rainbow trout.  Rainbow trout are not native to the park, but were introduced for some reason sometime in the past.  Rainbows are larger and more aggressive and the poor little brook trout could hardly survive.  The rainbow trout have been removed and now the brook trout are making a comeback.  According to the crew, this project has been successful in other streams in the park and they are confident it will be in Lynn Camp Prong as well.

It was a great lesson and we’re glad we were there this morning.

After watching these guys for a while we headed back to the car.  On the return trip we saw a family on horseback and several other hikers.  The parking lot was nearly full when we got there.  We were really lucky to have had the trail all to ourselves for so long.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

1 comment:

  1. What a great opportunity to run into them while they were surveying the brook trout. I love learning about invasive species and reintroduction of native species when we go places. When we were in Moab it was all about attempts at biocontrol of the Tamarisk, while in Yellowstone it was the smaller native cutthroat trout being eradicated by the larger non-native lake trout. Congratulations on your new home!