Title: Snorkeling the Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia: A Photographic Snorkel Guide to Sites, Species, and Gear. Freshwaters Illustrated, East Tennessee. 71pp.
Author: Casper Cox
Photographers: Jeremy Monroe, David Herasimtschuk, Casper Cox
This is a one-of-a-kind snorkel guide by Casper Cox, aka the Snorkelmiester. It’s a how-to guide that also tells you where to go to learn all about the fishes and mussels of the hidden rivers of southern Appalachia. These hidden rivers are a recognized biodiversity hotspot—that is, a region that has a biologically rich-yet-threatened flora and fauna. The Southern Appalachians are a globally relevant biodiversity hotspot where aquatic biodiversity is declining faster than terrestrial biodiversity. Many groups of organisms, such as salamanders, trees, mosses, fungi, lichens, spiders, snails, beetles, crayfish, and fish reach high levels of diversity in the Southern Appalachians. Over 550 North American freshwater fishes (79%) are found in the Southeast (Page and Burr 2011). Because little land is under protection, watersheds in this biologically rich area are undergoing land conversion to urbanization (Terando et al. 2014; Elkins et al. 2019). More than half of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive of some part of the Appalachians (Ford 2015). Yet, because of access and remoteness, the treasures of the many rivers remain hidden from many of us.
The purpose of this guide it to introduce the reader to these hidden rivers by learning to use a mask and snorkel to look below the surface. The snorkel guide is an outgrowth of the feature film, Hidden Rivers: Discover America’s Richest Waters, produced by Freshwater Illustrated. As I read the guide, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mary Oliver’s poem “Sometimes” (Oliver 2008):
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
On each and every page, Casper Cox tells about his experiences snorkeling in some very special places and shares his techniques, advice, and experiences. Casper’s rich knowledge of the rivers and aquatic ecosystems of this region are evident on each page. Clear and healthy waters may be found in this region and many of them are suited for exploring with a mask and snorkel. If we “pay attention” we will be amazed and astonished by the diversity of life below the surface.
The layout of the snorkel guide is very effective. The pages are on heavy duty paper and are spiral bound so you can lay the guide flat or fold it over. Each page has color photographs or a color map to guide the reader to snorkel sites. Each fish watching site is described so you can plan your visit, find nearby camping, and drive or hike to access sites. Underwater photos of many fishes will astonish you and motivate you to plan your next snorkel trip and bring along friends. David Herasimtschuk is a professional photographer who also dons a mask and snorkel in order to capture the rare moments and motivate one to explore these special waters. Explore one of his underwater excursions here for a sample of his work.
Snorkeling is an economical activity that every nature lover should try. "Have snorkel, will travel" is the mantra of Christopher Scharpf and this snorkel guide facilitates developing more snorkeling trails. The snorkel guide provides essential advice about snorkel gear, equipment, and tips for getting comfortable in the water and being safe. When you begin your explorations you will see examples of poor land management and road building. Many local organizations participate in local stream clean ups. In addition to connection to aquatic life, the guide pays homage to important institutions in the region. Conservation Fisheries Inc., The Tennessee Aquarium, and the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute are engaged in conservation activities to make sure you can "get below the surface for the real show" now and into the future.
Purchase this snorkel guide. I liked it so much, I gave my first copy away and then bought more copies in order to "tell about it." With this snorkel guide and Williams (2020) more readers will be motivated to safely explore local rivers and streams and tell about it. Snorkeling exposes us to aquatic life in their natural habitats. "In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum 1968.)
Elkins, D., S.C. Sweat, B.R. Kuhajda, A.L. George, K.S. Hill, and S.J. Wenger. 2019. Illuminating hotspots of imperiled aquatic biodiversity in the southeastern US. Global Ecology and Conservation 19 300654 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00654
Ford, T.R. 2015. The Southern Appalachian Region: A Survey. University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, Kentucky.
Oliver, M. 2008. Red Bird. Beacon Press. Boston, Massachusetts.
Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY
Terando, A.J., J. Costanza, C. Belyea, R.R. Dunn, A. McKerrow, and J.A. Collazo. 2014. The Southern Megalopolis: Using the Past to Predict the Future of Urban Sprawl in the Southeast U.S. PLoS ONE 2014, 9.
Williams, K. 2020. Snorkeling Rivers and Streams: An Aquatic Guide to Underwater Discovery and Adventure. Stackpole Books, Guilford, Connecticut. 224 pages.