The caretakers of Medix Run
By Ray Hunt
The Sun Gods were smiling down upon two dozen members of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Habitat Unlimited (PWHU) group for the annual Medix Run Adopt-a-Stream Project. Every year since 1990, this small but dedicated group of PA conservationists convenes streamside at Medix Run to restore and reinforce sections of this beautiful sanctuary. Flows on the Run vary by season – affected by hikers, campers, fishers, seasonal weather, and the growth of streamside vegetation – and they are regularly monitored by PWHU. “Trout dams” were originally built as a way to ensure the healthy flow of water and to maximize trout habitat on this beautiful central Pennsylvania treasure located near Benezette in the Elk Country Landscape. Making sure they are working efficiently is the reason the group is here.
PWHU’s involvement as both catalyst and caretaker of Medix Run in the PA Wilds began over thirty years ago when a group of volunteers, led by long-time member and trustee Don Schmidt, joined forces with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to begin restoring sections of the stream. The work involved clearing areas in and around a four-mile stretch, and building and restoring “jack dams” along its path. The jack dams are deflection devices that help ensure an efficient flow of Medix Run and the habitat of the stream ecosystem. By maintaining these dam structures, stream sections are reinforced, helping it to flow efficiently while decreasing erosion and allowing stream species to thrive. The force of water flowing over the dam “spillways” helps to create pools that are essential safe spots for trout.
Dam “wings” are sections of timber and rocks that add stability to the spillways, located both upstream and down on the jack dams. Rocks collected from the stream are piled and layered along these wings for strong reinforcement against the effects of heavy spring runoff. The team’s work involves clearing stream sections of rocks and boulders to use for dam bolstering. Since the start of the Adopt-a-Stream initiative, 25 structures have been installed. Today, 20 are still functional.
Photo by Ray Hunt
This sheer power of Mother Nature in the PA Wilds is easily seen now during summer as stream currents and the water level are down significantly. This makes the work of spotting rocks and clearing debris much easier than the arduous task of moving them out of the water to areas along the banks and around jack dams. The stones are “layered” to reinforce Medix Run against the increased flows caused by winter and spring rains and the major erosion they create. It’s a lot of work relocating thousands of pounds of rock to help make deeper pools for the trout and keep the stream cleared!
After completing work on four different sections on Medix Run, the crew of two dozen convened streamside for some much-needed lunch and socializing. Pizza and wings were generously provided by Buck’s Pizza of DuBois.
PWHU also is the lead non-profit in the “Adopt-a-Highway” project along with PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation). Each spring and fall, volunteers meet to clear a 3-mile eastern section along US Highway 322 near Rockton Mountain in Clearfield County.
And beginning in 2021, the “Adopt-a-Dam” project involves PWHU working with PA DCNR (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) providing manpower and resources for Wood Duck and Bluebird nesting box maintenance and repairs at Beaver Run (Elk County) and Shaggers Inn Pond (Clearfield County), as well as financial and manpower support for the Mud Run Habitat Food Plot, along with DCNR and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Photo by Ray Hunt
The mission of Pennsylvania Wildlife Habitat Unlimited is “Dedicated to Protect and Improve Wildlife Habitat for the Future.” For more information on PWHU, membership, events, and opportunities to volunteer, visit their Facebook page – PWHU (PA Wildlife Habitat Unlimited) – or email email@example.com. Do it today!
Ray Hunt is a freelance writer and avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys fly fishing, mountain biking, hiking and other outdoor activities in the Wild. He is a member of the Diablo Fly Fishing Club, Trout Unlimited, and lives in Clearfield County and works in the media industry.
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