River Talk: Trees Helping Keep the River Picture Perfect and Healthy

By Brett Martin | bmartin@kolr10.com

Published 06/27 2014 06:05AM

Updated 06/27 2014 09:21AM

NIXA, Mo. – When it comes to rivers and streams in the Ozarks, everything around it helps bring out the outdoor feeling, including rocks and trees. KOLR10’s Brett Martin found out how trees also keep the river healthy for fish and other organisms.

KOLR10’s Brett Martin and director of the James River Basin Partnership, Joe Pitts, spent time on the James River outside of Nixa near one of the most popular recreational spaces upstream.

"This water is moving a lot of faster than what we've seen so far, why is that?" asks Martin.

"Today we are seeing the effects of the recent rains that we've had. The river has not gone to what we call the flood stage. That’s partly because we were so far below on annual rainfall when all this rain started."

"A good deal of it is being soaked up by the soils. When you look at the forested banks along here, there's a big layer of leaf litter that acts like a sponge. It soaks up the water and detains it and lets it go out slowly into the river," explains Pitts.

He says the shaded area and the dark color of the river near Shelvin Rock makes a perfect atmosphere for small mouth bass fishing.

"Actually a day like today would be a good day to fish on the river because there’s a little color, the fish bite really good."

Pitts explains the towering trees along the James River do more than make a perfect picture.

"One of the reasons why I really wanted to come to this spot is because its a perfect example of a very good riparian, as we call it. Now, riparian is a big, fancy word that just means its the edge of the river from where the water is during normal flow up to about 150 feet away from the river on either side."

Pitts explains how the riparian zone benefits the water and fish living in it.

"The riparian area does so many different things for the river its very hard to list them all but of the ones that are really important; trees are vertical filters for Nitrogen. Nitrogen is one of the nutrients of concern here in the James River."

For recreational purposes, "They also, we are sitting in a shaded area, we were just out in the sun and you know how warm it felt out in the sun, its about 10 degrees cooler here. Even on a very hot day, 100 degrees, you will find it very much cooler here."

"If you are river organism, you need that shade because the water temperatures get pretty high out in the sun. So the riparian zone helps the water mix its temperatures, keep a constant temperature or fairly stable temperature. Its normal for the water in the James to get warmer as the summer progresses," says Pitts. 

"Not only does it do that, its a perfect backdrop for all the things people want to do, we are even looking at some people putting in a kayak now."

"As an organization, the James River Basin Partnership, encourages people to get back in touch with their river. The James River has had a reputation in the past of being the ‘Dirty Old James’, it isn’t that any more. Its a very, excellent recreational stream, its a legendary small mouth bass stream." 

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