Despite our best intentions, it is impossible to successfully Leave No Trace if you do not plan ahead and prepare. Without knowing ahead of time what sort of impacts to watch out for, it’s hard to avoid those impacts.
Most of the Roaming Parkers’ readers are in and around Pike County Mississippi, and the most popular river destination by far in this area is the Bogue Chitto River.
Did you know that the Bogue Chitto (and Pearl River for our neighbors to the east and southeast) is home to at least two endangered species – the Gulf Sturgeon and the Ringed Sawback turtle!
Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus desotoi)
The Gulf sturgeon is a large, prehistoric-looking fish, with rows of bony, yellow-brown plates and a long upturned snout with whiskers and a sucker-like mouth. Notice that the top of the tail fin is a lot longer than the bottom. These fish can grow to 6-8 feet in length and more than 400 pounds – and they spawn in the Bogue Chitto in Pike County right where you like to go canoeing and tubing!
Note that the photo above is of a Gulf Sturgeon that was captured by some biologists at USM, tagged, and released. There are also some photos, like the one to the left, of sturgeons that were caught near Jackson, and if I remember correctly, a mounted Gulf Sturgeon that was caught in Pike County resides in the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson.
The moral of this story is, if you see one of these (or heaven forbid, actually hook one), do your best to avoid interfering with it, and call the Natural Science Museum, because they’ll probably want to know about it!
Ringed Sawback (Graptemys oculifera)
The Ringed Sawback is a smallish turtle (about the size of your hand) that looks a bit like the red-eared sliders that we are all used to seeing. The two distinguishing features of the Ringed Sawback are the bright yellow or orange circles on the sides of the shell, and a ridge of spiny protrusions down the center of the back of the shell.
These guys are totally cute and all – but they make a much better wild turtle than a pet turtle so if you see colorful water turtles with spines and rings – leave them be!
And next time someone suggests channelizing or desnagging the Bogue Chitto, you might think twice before modifying these guys’ habitat further than it already has been!