Snorkeling Rivers and Streams: An Aquatic Guide to Underwater Discovery and Adventure, by Keith Williams, Stackpole Books, Guilford, Connecticut. Release date March 1, 2020. 224 pages. ISBN-10: 0811738450 ISBN-13: 978-0811738453. Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches.
When you see a river or stream, do you want to explore it? Do you wonder what lives there? Do you feel the river calling to you to get wet? If you answered yes, to any of these questions, then I have a book for you. Snorkeling Rivers and Streams: An Aquatic Guide to Underwater Discovery and Adventure, by Keith Williams, is an invitation to explore the many secrets that lie beneath the water's surface.
Keith Williams is executive director of NorthBay, an outdoor educational program. He has snorkeled extensively in rivers across the United States, has developed river snorkeling-based science curriculum, and works with the U.S. Forest Service to develop river snorkeling programs. This new book helps you to understand how to see beneath the water surface with a mask and snorkel. There are twelve chapters, ten about specific fish you may encounter via snorkeling, and one chapter on frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, and gators, and one chapter on benthic macroinvertebrates. The reader will learn about many types of animals seen when snorkeling. However, the book must leave out many fishes in order to keep the book reasonable short and accessible. I found a broad and national representation of fish groups so the reader will not be bored. Salmon, lamprey, eels, darters, minnows, tomcods, sculpins, herring, quillback, shad, sunfish, and bass are dominant fishes described in the book. These provide ample opportunities for fish watching and specific issues and people related to the conservation and restoration of these fish. You meet many people on snorkeling adventures. One that Keith Williams met was Elmer Crow, a Nez Perce elder who shared his philosophy— “We are the circle. That’s what life is about. So when one of us is in trouble, that’s when the rest of us need to step in.”
The introduction uses a story of Keith instructing a young student to find and identify a small fish. After seeing and identifying a new species for the first time, she stops and asks “How can we conserve something if we don’t know it’s there?” The introduction illustrates that the focus on this book is educational. This student quickly got the message and understood that in order to protect a stream, we need to know and appreciate and love it. Watching and experiencing aquatic animals means we must watch and experience their life in its habitat. The introduction provides thorough descriptions of gear, safety, snorkel etiquette, and where to go, before providing a message for conservation. Throughout the book, it’s clear that conservation starts with snorkeling.
Each of the chapters provides useful information on where to go and how to observe the fish or other animal in its habitat. Specific locations for planning your next underwater adventures are described and illustrated with photos. In addition, specific directions on how to get to the access site are provided. Lack of public access may deter many would-be snorkelers. I error checked the directions for some rivers and find the information complete and accurate. The reader will find much useful information on where to go and how to observe the fish or other animal in its habitat. Specific locations for planning your next underwater adventures are described and illustrated with photos. In addition, specific directions on how to get to the access site are provided. Lack of public access may deter many would-be snorkelers. I error checked the directions for my local rivers and found then accurate and complete.
|Kate Meyer surveying the South Fork of McKenzie River. Photo by Keith Williams.|
|Spawning Brook Lamprey. Photo by Keith Williams.|
This book is written for anyone and everyone. You don’t have to be an aquatic ecologist to read and apply what is learned. The only requirement is a desire to “get your face wet and appreciate underwater life right in your backyard.” My favorite parts of the book were the many snorkeling experiences described and illustrated with color photos. I felt as though I was underwater with Keith Williams, surreptitiously experiencing the same places and unique aquatic animals.
|Iridescent metallic scales make river herring one of our most beautiful fish. Photo by Keith Williams.|
Is it the best book on subject? It’s the only book on the subject that has a national perspective. If you want to explore rivers and streams, you will find this book very helpful for your first trip and all subsequent ones. One regional guide Snorkeling the Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia includes descriptions of 7 snorkeling sites and how to find others. This guide also explores safety, proper gear, species encountered, and environmental concerns and contains outstanding photos by Casper Cox, Jeremy Monroe, and Dave Herasimtschuk. This is for sale on here.
|Large stonefly nymph. Photo by Keith Williams.|
You will be ready to jump right in before finishing the book. In the closing chapter on benthic invertebrates, Keith Williams calls us to “stick your face in the water, and get to know those unknown species—on their own terms underwater. Settle into the creek to just watch and learn and admire the beauty and intricacy of even the smallest freshwater lifeforms.” The book and the similar regional Snorkeling the Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia confirm that snorkeling streams and rivers is a legitimate and growing outdoor educational activity.
I expect the book will help the activity to expand. What comes next is anyone’s guess. Jim Herrig, a longtime Fisheries Biologist on the Cherokee National Forest began programs to get youth groups to snorkel in creeks on the National Forest. Keith Williams has worked with the U.S. Forest Service and other to develop a freshwater snorkeling curriculum. If you wish to expand your own underwater adventures with youth groups, consider the snorkeling toolkit and curriculum available here.
Jim Herrig, of the Cherokee National Forest, started public snorkeling programs in the Conasauga River basin as a way to connect people with the incredible diversity of aquatic life in Southern Appalachian streams. Photo by Tom Martin, public domain. Flickr