Coal Creek Health Day 2008
and the hunt for
Rainbow Darters

31 October 2008

See lots more photos below!

The 8th annual Coal Creek Health Day had bug hunts, fish surveys, fly tying, casting lessons, and the search for Rainbow Darters!!  

Bioassays conducted by Briceville students show that Coal Creek rates as good in its diversity of aquatic insects, but only fair in its diversity of native fish species.  Insects can fly to repopulate Coal Creek as water quality has improved, but not fish.  The cold water of the Clinch River tailwater below Norris Dam appears to impede the natural recruitment of some missing warm-water species including rainbow darters. 

Last year, Briceville students assisted UT’s Erin Schiding and others from UT, TVA, and TDEC in releasing tagged rainbow darters to Coal Creek as shown at

Our goal at Health Day 2008 was to find untagged rainbow darters, indicative of natural reproduction, and we achieved our goal!

According to Erin, “We (found) rainbow darters just upstream of the large pool area we were searching with the kids.  We found a large adult male with no tag (so reproduction from the first year) and two young darters (reproduction from this past spring). So, we are very excited and are going to continue to look in the coming months.”

With the hefty smallmouth bass found in the large pools by the school, it’s no wonder that the rainbow darters stay farther upstream.

Fish species found today include:

Striped Shiner
Bluntnose Minnow
Rock Bass
Large Scale Stoneroller
Northern Hog Sucker
Northern Studfish
Sand Shiner
Bigeye Chub
Snubnose Darter
Smallmouth Bass
Greenside Darter
Black Redhorse
Redline Darter
Spotfin Shiner
Rainbow Darter

With so many activities taking place at once, we worried about having enough volunteers.  As always, the Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited stepped up to the plate, along with our friends from TVA, and UT.

It was "camouflage" or "orange" day at the school, so lots of the kids were wearing their favorite camouflage or orange clothing. 

The creek that gives the area its name, Coal Creek, runs right beside Briceville School.  It's a living laboratory!!  Tables were set up at the creek to display fish and critters collected by the students.  The lessons taught the kids how the health of the creek is assessed by studying what lives in it. 

Thanks so much to Briceville School Principal Karen Cupples for allowing us the pleasure of spending the day with her students, and thanks to the teachers and Tonya Roldan for coordinating their classes and having such well mannered students.  And, don't forget the cafeteria ladies who fed us lunch and Kippie Leinart who kept us straight.

Click on the images below to get a glimpse of the fun we had!

See list of the great volunteers who made the day so educational and fun!



Buffington, Buzz, TU
Coombs, Dr. Joyce, UT
Eagleton, Savannah, Coal Creek resident
Foster, Tiffany, TVA
Hedden, Heather, ARCADIS
Jenkins, Bob, TU
Jenkins, Mary Jo, TU
Moore, Carol, TU & CCWF
Oates, Frances, TU & Clinton Courier News
Saylor, Charlie, TVA
Schiding, Erin, UT
Swisher, Bob, Premium Coal Company
Dennis -- Premium Coal Company
Thacker, Barry, TU & CCWF








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