Kids in the Creek Students Get a Surprise Visitor!

Kids in the Creek Students Get a Surprise Visitor!

Kids in the Creek Students Get a Surprise Visitor!

On the last school day before Spring Break, dozens of Rugby Middle School students got a rare treat. Instead of staring out the classroom window and counting the hours until Summer vacation, the 8th graders were out in the early spring sunshine at the annual Kids in the Creek event learning about river ecosystems and water quality.

MountainTrue’s Water Quality Administrator, Jack Henderson, joined representatives from the 12 other organizations to staff the three-day event, and was there on the last day when something amazing happened. A group of students were in the river, carefully turning over rocks to find aquatic insects and other critters — usually tiny larvae of stoneflies, dragonflies and an occasional small minnow. One of the students yelled out to the group “I found a salamander!”, holding up a bucket, but no one was expecting what he had found. It was indeed a salamander, but not one of the small, common ones. He had found a young Eastern Hellbender, the exceedingly rare giant salamander that lives in clear, healthy streams of the Southern Appalachians and can grow up to 2.5 feet in length! Though this one was smaller than the size of a hand.

This is the furthest downstream that a Hellbender has been spotted in the Mills River. Photo credit: Haley Smith, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

This is the furthest downstream that a Hellbender has been spotted in the Mills River. Photo credit: Haley Smith, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

The experts on site were shocked and excited to see a Hellbender at that location. It was the furthest downstream that a Hellbender has been documented in the Mills River. The fact that a Hellbender is thriving in the main branch of the Mills is a testament to the decades of work by MountainTrue and many others in the area to protect water quality from pollution threats.

The kids thought it was pretty cool too, and likely won’t soon to forget their rare sighting of a creature few in these mountains ever get to lay eyes on.

In total, almost 300 students visited six different stations where they had hands-on opportunities to test the chemical parameters of the river, survey the stream and collect aquatic life, properly identify macroinvertebrates, test soil samples, learn more about the process of water filtration for drinking water, and even play a game where students were able to “be” aquatic life.

Kids in the creek sampling the river's macro-invertebrates.

Kids in the Creek sampling macro-invertebrates. Photo credit: Micaela Hyams of RiverLink.

The event was made possible by volunteers who gave over 250 hours of service and all the event partners: Henderson County Soil & Water Conservation District, NC Wildlife Commission, City of Hendersonville, City of Asheville, Mills River Parks and Recreation, MountainTrue, Mills River Partnership, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Rugby Middle School, Riverlink, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and Mountain Horticulture Research Station.

After everyone got a chance to see the Hellbender, it was released back to the Mills River where we hope it will grow and thrive. If you want to help protect its habitat and the waters we all need and love, consider donating or volunteering to support MountainTrue’s water quality work today!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Announces Green Riverkeeper at 11th Annual Spring Green Bash

MountainTrue Announces Green Riverkeeper at 11th Annual Spring Green Bash

MountainTrue Announces Green Riverkeeper at 11th Annual Spring Green Bash

Saluda’s favorite river and block party is May 6; river, zipline and rappelling trips to benefit new Green Riverkeeper

Saluda, NC — MountainTrue is pleased to announce that Gray Jernigan, MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Director, is now also the new Green Riverkeeper and will serve as a fundamental protector of the Green River watershed. MountainTrue’s Riverkeeper programs are key to our endeavors to monitor and protect the quality of our region’s waterways.

MountainTrue is one of the few organizations in the nation with four Waterkeeper Alliance programs, also hosting the French Broad Riverkeeper, the Watauga Riverkeeper and the Broad River Alliance.

“Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have Gray Jernigan to be the eyes, ears, and voice for this vital watershed and community,” says Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Every community deserves to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water, and Gray is the right leader to fight for clean water in the region.”

Gray Jernigan has extensive experience in environmental law, policy, and advocacy and has worked on land and water conservation issues across the state. He adds his Green Riverkeeper responsibilities to his ongoing role as MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Director, serving Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties. Gray received his undergraduate degrees from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a master’s degree and a law degree from Vermont Law School.

The Green Riverkeeper got a head start on April 8 by partnering with the Green River paddling community on a clean-up effort covering the Upper, Narrows and Lower Green sections. Over 50 people turned out to clear trash and debris from the river and its banks. Car tires, a home water heater, and assorted trash and litter were enough to overflow a dumpster, not including recyclables that were separated!

Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan showing off the trophies and prizes for volunteers participating in the Green River Spring Cleaning on April 8.

Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan showing off the trophies and prizes for volunteers participating in the Green River Spring Cleaning on April 8.

Gray will be present to meet the community at the 11th Annual Spring Green River Bash at Green River Adventures in Saluda on Saturday, May 6. Fifty percent of the ticket price for river, zipline, and rappelling trips booked for the day of the festival will be donated by Green River Adventures and The Gorge to help fund the work of the Green Riverkeeper. Book your trip for May 6 at greenriveradventures.com with the code: GREENRIVERKEEPER

Event Details:
What: 11th Annual Spring Green Bash
Who: presented by Green River Adventures and sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewery, Prestige Subaru, WNCW and Liquidlogic Kayaks. Music by the Honeycutters. A portion of proceeds benefit MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper.
Where: Green River Adventures, 111 E. Main Street, Saluda, NC
When: Saturday, May 6, 5:30-9 p.m.

“I’m thrilled to get such a warm welcome to the community from Green River Adventures and all the generous sponsors of the Green Spring Bash, including Oskar Blues, Prestige Subaru, WNCW and Liquidlogic Kayaks,” says Gray Jernigan, the Green Riverkeeper. “We have a lot of great activities and programs planned for the year ahead; I’m looking forward to meeting some folks and getting people involved in protecting the Green River.”

“MountainTrue is proud of our partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance,” says Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue. “Our Riverkeepers fight for safe and healthy waterways for all citizens of their watersheds by bringing together and empowering local residents and communities to identify pollution sources, advocate for and enforce environmental laws, and engage in restoration. We’re thrilled to be bringing this program to our Green River communities.

“Gray will have an incredibly important job. Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water, from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible government officials, says Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters, and the will to enforce the law, there will always be a great need for people like Gray to fight for our right to clean water.”

Upcoming Riverkeeper Projects and Events:

  • May 27 – Big Hungry River clean-up
  • July 5 – Come help clean up Lake Summit
    For more information on Green Riverkeeper programs and events: mountaintrue.org

About MoutainTrue:
MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all residents of WNC. MountainTrue is home to the Broad River Alliance, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper and Watauga Riverkeeper — the protectors and defenders of their respective watersheds. www.mountaintrue.org

About Waterkeeper Alliance:
Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates around the world, focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect over 2.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. For more information please visit: www.waterkeeper.org


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Saving our Rivers and Streams, One Live Stake at a Time

Saving our Rivers and Streams, One Live Stake at a Time

Saving our Rivers and Streams, One Live Stake at a Time

Have you ever been out on your favorite river, gliding by a beautiful green and mossy bank, and noticed what looked like a big bare dirt scar? Chunks of the bank are falling into the water like icebergs, and not even a blade of grass can hold onto the quickly eroding soil.

A lot of factors can contribute to such erosion, but the end result is the same, Sediment — the number one problem pollutant impacting our rivers. Sediment is oftentimes not thought of as a pollutant, mainly because it’s not a human-made substance.  In reality, it can be severely detrimental to our streams and rivers— smothering aquatic habitats, transporting harmful toxins and raising water temperatures.

For the past four months, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper team has been hard at work helping to prevent sediment by planting trees along eroded river banks. Certain tree species — silky dogwood, elderberry, silky willow, black willow, and ninebark — can be cut into two-foot “live stakes” and planted near riverbanks.

Live staking, as we call it, is a cost-effective and efficient method to mitigate the effects of sediment erosion. The stakes will soon grow into mature shrubs and trees whose root systems will hold their riverbanks in place. In addition to stabilizing the riverbank, these stakes will increase the riparian buffer, helping to slow down stormwater runoff and filter out pollutants.  

Such a cool project is hindered by only one thing— weather.  Stakes can only be planted while the plant is still in it’s winter dormant state. Our over 200 volunteers have braved cold weather and even colder water to hammer almost 10,000 stakes into the ground. We typically cruise the river in canoes to plant our stakes in highly eroded areas, because accessibility by road is not an option. Wintertime paddling can be tricky because of the colder temperatures, so MountainTrue staff watch the weather and cancel if the temperatures get too low. Because this year’s winter was fairly mild, we only had to cancel a few of our scheduled dates.   

Most work occurred on Cane and Hominy Creeks, but several hundred stakes were also planted on the main stem of the French Broad River near Rosman.  Each site was documented with GPS so that we can follow up and accurately guage our success.  Budding will start this spring, and we’re excited to paddle by and see our work in progress.

Sign up to learn more about volunteer opportunities if you’d like to get involved with planting next year’s live stakes, or any of the other awesome programs protecting the places we share!

Assistant French Broad Riverkeeper, Anna Alsobrook, braves the cold!

One of our dedicated live-staking volunteers braves the cold!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Tell Congress to Take AmeriCorps Off the Chopping Block

Tell Congress to Take AmeriCorps Off the Chopping Block

Tell Congress to Take AmeriCorps Off the Chopping Block

Meet Laura McPherson, Mary Kate Dodge and Jack Henderson, MountainTrue’s hardworking and dedicated AmeriCorps.

 

IMG_0582

Mary Kate Dodge (L) and Laura McPherson (R)

Laura McPherson is our Forest Keeper. She combats non-native invasive plant species and restores native plant habitats by coordinating and leading volunteer work days and invasive species educational programs. Mary Kate Dodge is our Outings and Outreach Coordinator; she helps organize our educational events and helps us raise awareness about the work we do protecting Western North Carolina’s environment. Jack Henderson is our Water Quality Administrator and runs our river cleanups and water testing and monitoring programs.

Their work is critical to our mission.

Each year, AmeriCorps Project Conserve places more than three dozen dedicated members with local environmental nonprofits. Since its inception, 268 members have served 455,600 hours, increasing community understanding of conservation and the environment and creating sustainable improvements to at-risk ecosystems in our communities.

Jack Henderson (center) with a group of volunteers after a river cleanup.

Jack Henderson (center) with a group of volunteers after a river cleanup.

The federal agency that supports the AmeriCorps service program — The Corporation for National & Community Service — is at risk! It is one of 18 agencies that are recommended for elimination in the White House’s recent budget proposal.

Please take a moment to call your Congress members and let them know that AmeriCorps is making a difference in our community.

NC Senator Richard Burr (202) 224-3154
NC Senator Thom Tillis (202) 224-6342
NC Representative Mark Meadows (202) 225-6401
NC Representative Patrick McHenry (202) 225-2576
Click here to find your Senator: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/senators_cfm.cfm
Click here to find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Photos from Our SMIE Water Quality Training in Henderson Co.

Photos from Our SMIE Water Quality Training in Henderson Co.

SMIE 1On Saturday, March 11, MountainTrue held our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) bio-monitoring training at Blue Ridge Community College.

MountainTrue volunteers monitor stream health throughout Henderson County and go out into the field to do bio-monitoring twice per year, in April and October. Through the SMIE bio-monitoring program, we sample aquatic macro-invertebrates, or aquatic insects, as indicators of water quality. Bugs tell us a lot about the health and vitality of our rivers and streams.

Participants learned basic stream ecology, how to identify aquatic macro-invertebrates, why macro-invertebrates are terrific indicators of water quality, and the sampling protocol. The event was led by MountainTrue Water Quality Administrator Jack Henderson and volunteer members of the Clean Water Team.

After a morning classroom session, the class headed out to the Big Hungry River field side, where participants got to put their newly learned sampling methods and identification knowledge to practice.

Thank you to Blue Ridge Community College for hosting!



Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

New Riverkeeper Report: Dead in the Water

New Riverkeeper Report: Dead in the Water

New Riverkeeper Report: Dead in the Water

The North Carolina Riverkeepers have released a new report: Dead in the Water: Environmental Enforcement in North Carolina. This the first comprehensive report that details the work of Riverkeepers across North Carolina.

Dead in the waterOur state has a proud history of environmental protection. However, 2016 was a year of vast devastation and increased pollution, from storms, the burgeoning hog and chicken industries, coal ash and other chemicals and abuses. Contributing to the problem were environmental officials who turned a blind eye to the problems and were slow to respond to issues. Combine this with State government that attempted to roll back protections and you have a state where Riverkeepers had to work harder than ever to protect our waters.

Read all about their work by clicking here.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.