A community treasure
Asked what discoveries await modern-day explorers of French Creek, “You’ve got fascinating history — both geological and human history,” Washousky said. “And then you’ve got this great ecology. You’ve got one of those rare gems that has not been polluted — that never lost its native species.”
For example, “We’re up to four federally endangered mussel species in French Creek — and a fifth may be on the way,” he explained. “While they’ve been reduced or missing or gone from other streams and rivers in Pennsylvania and nationally, here in French Creek they’re still thriving. This is one of the last places in the world that you can still find some of these species. Altogether, there are 27 species of freshwater mussels in French Creek, while the entire continent of Europe only has eight.”
The guides include relevant access information for the creek, including latitudes, longitudes and GPS coordinates. Riffles and obstructions are identified along with points of interest and available amenities.
“If you pick up this guide and want to come here to paddle, it will give you everything you need to know about where to get gas, where to stay overnight, where to eat,” Washousky said. “It’s important for people coming into the area to use French Creek to know where to go to spend a little money in our community.”
The guide is also designed to serve as an educational tool.
“The history. The ecology. All that information is in here,” Washousky said. “We want people to use the creek, but we also want people to be educated — and become the best stewards of the creek.”
Get out and have some fun
With its first French Creek Summer Solstice Sojourn — two days on the river complete with overnight camping — completed in late June, the conservancy is now turning its attention to its next big attraction.
On Sept. 7, the first Saturday after Labor Day, the 2013 French Creek Cleanup will offer a free opportunity for participants to not only do a very good thing for the creek but also receive a T-shirt, goodie bag and picnic. Also, everyone can compete for cash prizes, including $1,000 for the educational group with the most participants. Sign up now on the conservancy website.
Participants, however, should be warned.
“Shopping carts are propagating on the creek,” Washousky said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “Their breeding population is growing. You can get rid of them, but they’re like an invasive species. They keep coming back.”