As you drive home from a seasonal hike or camping trip, you more than likely cross a bridge with a stream or river running beneath it. Have you ever slowed down to catch a glimpse of the creek, tapping nature just a tiny bit? I always do. Connecting with your river can be such a rewarding opportunity to help you better understand what happens to water right where you live.
From Watershed to Faucet
Ultimately, your drinking water comes from that creek. Most of the United States actually gets their water supply either from aquifers (water reserves underground) or lakes that are connected to rivers. Because the land surrounding any body of water—be it a lake, wetland, river, or the ocean—is connected to that body of water, this land is its watershed. Small rivers flow into larger rivers and eventually make their way into the ocean. Watersheds are divided by hills, and the lowest part of a watershed is its main body of water.
On the other end of this natural cycle, the water that runs off your roof from a spring rain and into the ground in your yard will eventually make its way to your river.
Discover Your Watershed
Most creeks are listed on maps, so discovering the name of your watershed shouldn’t be hard. Discerning its size and shape, however, is a bit harder: watersheds are rarely drawn on road maps, come in many sizes, and usually transcend political boundaries such as cities, states, or even counties. Multiple communities can feel the effects of a watershed’s pollution, according to International Rivers, and each one can help to take care of it.
A few tools online can help you discover more about your watershed, the most comprehensive of which are from the US EPA, called Surf Your Watershed and River Network’s RiverMaps. One of the best features of these tools is that they’ll also tell you if there is a stream club or a watershed group involved in cleanup, protection, or otherwise maintenance within your creek. You can get involved with such a group by volunteering, becoming a member, learning more about it, and connecting with your river.
Get in Touch with Your River
So what are some ways to get to know that creek you drive over, other than stopping at the bridge? Start by asking the staff at your watershed group if they have a favorite spot to visit or a watershed tour for the public. Seek out trails that meander along the banks of the river through your local park district—these lands adjacent to the river are called riparian areas, and are very important to the health of the stream and surrounding wildlife. Of course, kayaking or canoeing gets you right into the water. To keep connecting with your river, visit your new favorite spot many times a year, during different seasons. Take photos from the same vantage point to see how the creek changes throughout the year.
And tell others what you’ve learned. Invite your neighbors to join you during your river visits. They live in the same watershed, too; they just might not know it yet.
I find it very comforting knowing that watershed groups are working to protect and restore rivers. Tom’s of Maine has supported many of these groups through grants and sponsorships, and has partnered with River Network on a number of occasions in celebration of their efforts to connect with nature. Even though you’re probably not giving out grants yourself, you can do a lot to make a difference in your home creek. What have you discovered? How have you connected with your river?
Image source: Maureen Wise | Babette C. Gowda, Tinker’s Creek Watershed
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.