I've tried a lot things in my life, but snorkeling the White Clay was not on my bucket list. However, I was intrigued. What would we see? I've snorkeled in Florida, scuba dived along the coral reefs in the Keys, and took the plunge in a quarry in central Pennsylvania, but creek snorkeling that was something new to experience. Martha Narvaez, Policy Scientist at University of Delaware Water Resources Agency, and my partner in crime, was also up to the challenge. So along with our leader, Keith Williams of Northbay Adventure, and two other brave souls interested in seeing the creek from a new vantage point, we donned our wetsuits and took an early spring swim in the White Clay.
We hoped to see schools of American shad swimming past us, but we also knew that removing the first obstacle to their migration, the Byrnes Dam (Dam 1), was an important step and that it would take some time for the fisheries to fully recover. We expected to see the impacts of human development; tires, litter, golf balls, unidentified objects, and lots of sediment (soil washed off the landscape), but we were still hopeful to see some life in the creek. And we did. We just didn't swim with the shad, or if we did, we couldn't see them. There was one measure of assurance, our astute tour guide found a glimmering scale of an American shad, a shining speck of hope, evidence that they were indeed there.
Despite our efforts to locate shad, Jerry Kauffman, Director of the Water Resources Agency at the University of Delaware, had some very good news to share. One day prior to our snorkeling adventure, he reported seeing schools of shad swimming up the White Clay in the vicinity of where we had snorkeled the very next day and he didn't even have to get in the chilly water!
Would I do it again? Absolutely. When you are immersed in the creek, not viewing from the landscape, you get to see it from a totally new perspective. Next time, and there will be a next time, we will swim with the shad.