We recently wrapped up the fifth year of our watershed tours and wanted to take the time to reflect on another successful year of this program. We held ten tours across the Ausable watershed and beyond this year, focusing on diverse topics. Tours included the return of popular programs from years past, as well as some new additions based on requests from past years.
Our first three tours of 2023 (Riverwalking, Aquatic Plant Paddle, and Nature Paddle on Lake Everest) are described in this blog written a few months ago.
The fourth tour of the year was the return of our incredibly popular mushroom walk, led by guest naturalist Susan Hopkins. During this program, Susan identified dozens of fungal species for participants and discussed the important role of fungi in the watershed.
Guest naturalist Susan Hopkins identifying and describing specimens of fungi to tour participants.
For our next summer tour, we traveled throughout the Ausable Watershed for a tour of our river restoration projects led by Executive Director Kelley Tucker and Stream Restoration Manager Gary Henry. This was the first public tour of our projects and participants on this tour were excited for the opportunity to get an inside look into our restoration work, especially our active construction project in Upper Jay.
AsRA Executive Director, Kelley Tucker, describes restoration work along the West Branch of the Ausable “Dream Mile” to tour participants.
Our summer tours wrapped up with a birding walk at Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area led by guest naturalist Derek Rogers. Ausable Marsh provides excellent birding opportunities and increased accessibility with flat, paved trails. During the program, Derek led participants through numerous habitat types on the property, from marshland to forest to lake front, and helped participants identify birds by sight and sound.
Guest naturalist Derek Rogers identifies birds in a wetland for tour participants.
For our first fall tour, we held a nature walk at John Brown Farm State Historic Site led by guest naturalist Elizabeth Lee. During this program, Elizabeth led participants along the trails at John Brown Farm while describing the seasonal changes on the land in the upper reaches of the watershed that contribute to the river’s health in the following year. She also helped participants identify many of the plants seen from the trails.
Guest naturalist Elizabeth Lee helps participants identify a plant.
For our second fall tour, we offered a walk through an Old Growth Forest led by guest naturalist Dan Spada. During this program, Dan led participants to and through one of the largest remaining tracts of old growth forest in New York State and discussed the unique and important ecology of these forests.
Guest Naturalist Dan Spada measures and describes an old growth tree to the group.
For our last fall tour, we held a moss identification walk led by local naturalist Ray Curran at the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC). Ray guided participants through the VIC trails and taught them how to identify six key moss species abundant in the area. Participants learned about the kinds of conditions these species rely on, the importance of water to mosses, the different moss classifications and characteristics for the species identified, and how they fit more broadly into boreal ecosystems.
Guest naturalist Ray Curran helping participants use moss guides to identify mosses along the VIC trails.
For our winter tour, which was also the last tour of 2023, we held a winter tree identification walk led by local naturalist Ed Kanze. Participants meandered along the forest trail, learning how to identify trees without relying upon their leaves. Ed provided additional information on each species, such as the origin of their names , common misconceptions, and how each species fits into the larger ecosystem. Participants even enjoyed a climactic vista lookout, which many experienced for the first time.
Guest naturalist Ed Kanze describing how to identify a tree along the trail.
A big thank you to our 100+ participants who joined us for this year’s tours! Your enthusiasm for developing connections to the watershed and curiosity are what makes these tours so special. Special thanks as well to the guest naturalists who share their wealth of knowledge with our tour participants. And finally, our sincere gratitude to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, NEIWPCC, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program who help fund AsRA’s Guided Watershed Tour Program.
We look forward to bringing you another great line up of tours in 2024.
Interested in learning more about our Guided Watershed Tours Program? Check out our tours webpage, or our other blogs about the program (2020 Wrap Up, 2021 Wrap Up, Journey to a Lake’s Past, How to see the Forest for the Trees (and Other Plants and Fungi)).
Story written by Carolyn Koestner, GIS and Science Communications Fellow. Sign-up for our e-newsletter to get weekly updates on the latest stories from the Ausable River Association.
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