OHIO OUTDOOR NOTEBOOK
By Laura Jones, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Call it river, creek or run, a stream by any name is a wondrous thing
More than 60,000 miles of streams flow through Ohios landscape, making ours a state rich in water and water-based recreation. Streams, and the lakes they feed, provide drinking water and crucial habitat for a host of plant and wildlife species. Opportunities for enjoying the outdoors are also abundant on and around our streams, where Ohioans enjoy fishing, kayaking, hiking and biking.
For the sake of this discussion, I use the word stream to apply to all flowing bodies of water, from dozens of local Goose Runs and Tinkers Creeks to the one-and-only Ohio River, which flows 451 miles along the states eastern and southern border.
Look at any good map of Ohio and you'll discover that stream names almost always include two words. The first word is the descriptor, such as owl, honey and yellow; and the second helps denote a streams size. Ninety percent of Ohio streams are considered small to medium. Smaller streams often end with the word run, fork or brook; medium-sized streams usually end with creek; and our largest streams, at least 100 miles in length, are known as rivers. Ironically, the most often used descriptor for Ohio streams (according to the Ohio Gazetteer) is the word dry. And, more streams in our state 1,589 of them end with the word run, while creek comes in second by completing the name of 1,207 Ohio streams.
All streams are part of a watershed an area of land from which surface water drains into a common outlet, such as a river, lake or wetland. Streams act like funnels, draining everything that is poured into their watersheds. In fact, your local watershed begins at home, with everything that goes down your drain or runs off your driveway and lawn.
Streams in the northern third of the state including the Cuyahoga and Maumee rivers are part of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence watershed. Their waters flow into Lake Erie and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. Streams in the southern two-thirds of the state including the Scioto, Miami and Muskingum rivers flow into the Ohio River watershed and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico, through the Mississippi River.
Two-thirds of the earths surface is covered with water. Of that, 97 percent is in our oceans. Only 3 percent of the earths water is fresh or salt free and most of that is frozen. Incredibly, streams and lakes hold less than 0.02 percent of the earths freshwater supply.
All of this adds up to one important point: Streams are one of Ohios most valuable natural resources and its vital that each of us do our part to keep them clean and healthy.
Think twice before pouring chemicals down the drain. Act responsibly when discarding television sets or personal computers. They can leak lead, mercury and other substances into our waterways. And, property owners should consider restoring or maintaining a corridor of trees along any streams running through their property. Trees planted along our streams are the most effective way to keep waterways clean and healthy as they help filter run-off pollution and provide habitat for wildlife.
What we do to streams, we do to ourselves everything is connected and we all live downstream. So, lets be good stewards, if we protect our water quality and habitat, streams and their wildlife will take care of themselves.
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