First there was the Nautilus. Then there was the Seaview. And who can forget the Yellow Submarine? Well, now there’s the S. S. Haldeman, and today we celebrated her shakedown cruise and maiden voyage. The Haldeman is powered by spent fuel that first saw light of day near Conewago Falls at a dismantled site that presently amounts to nothing more than an electrical substation. Though antique in appearance, the vessel discharges few emissions, provided there aren’t any burps or hiccups while underway. So, climb aboard as we take a cruise up the Susquehanna at periscope depth to have a quick look around!
Brunner Island as seen from the east channel.
Close-in approach to emergent Water Willow growing on an alluvial Island.
The approach to York Haven Dam and Conewago Falls from the west channel.
A pair of Powdered Dancers on a midriver log.
Watertight and working fine. Let’s flood the tanks and have a peek at the benthos. Dive, all dive!
American Eelgrass, also known as Tapegrass, looks to be growing well in the channels. Historically, vast mats of this plant were the primary food source for the thousands of Canvasback ducks that once visited the lower Susquehanna each autumn.
As is Water Stargrass (Heteranthera dubia). When mature, both of these native plants provide excellent cover for young fish. Note the abundance of shells from deceased Asiatic Clams (Corbicula fluminea) covering the substrate.
A three-tailed mayfly (Ephemeroptera) nymph and a several exoskeletons cling to the downstream side of a rock.
This hollowed-out stick may be a portable protective shelter belonging to a Comb-lipped Casemaker Caddisfly larva (Calamoceratidae). The larva itself appears to be extending from the end of the “case” in the upper right of the image. Heteroplectron americanum, a species known for such behavior, is a possibility.
In the Susquehanna and its tributaries, the Rusty Crayfish (Faxonius rusticus) is an introduced invasive species. It has little difficulty displacing native species due to its size and aggressiveness.
A Rusty Crayfish.
Summers with conditions that promote eelgrass and stargrass growth tend to be big years for Virginian River Horn Snails (Elimia virginica). 2022 appears to be one of those years. They’re abundant and they’re everywhere on the rocks and gravel substrate in midriver. Feeding almost incessantly on algae and detritus, these snails are an essential component of the riverine ecosystem, breaking down organic matter for final decomposition by bacteria and fungi.
Bits of debris suspended in the flowing water streak by this Virginian River Horn Snail. The spire-shaped shell is a streamlining adaptation for maneuvering and holding fast in the strong current.
A young Virginian River Horn Snail following a mature adult. Note the green algae growing among the decaying plant and animal remains that blanket the river bottom.
Two of a population that may presently include millions of Virginian River Horn Snails living downstream of Conewago Falls.
Virginian River Horn Snails with Lesser Mystery Snails (Campeloma decisum), another native species commonly encountered at Conewago Falls and in surrounding waters.
A River Snail (Leptoxis carinata), also known as a Crested Mudalia, hitching a ride on a Virginian River Horn Snail. The two species are frequently found together.
A River Snail cleaning the shell of a native freshwater Unionidae mussel, Lampsilis cariosa, commonly called the Yellow Lampmussel or Carried Lampmussel. Because of their general decline in abundance and range, all Unionidae mussels are protected in Pennsylvania.
The Banded Darter (Etheostoma zonale) is a member of the perch family (Percidae).
A Smallmouth Bass in strong current.
Along the edge of an alluvial island at midriver, Cyprinella (Spotfin or Satinfin) Shiners gather in the cover of an emergent stand of Water Willow. The closely related Spotfin Shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera) and Satinfin Shiner (Cyprinella analostanus) are nearly impossible to differentiate in the field.
A breeding condition male Cyprinella (Spotfin or Satinfin) Shiner.
A juvenile Channel Catfish.
We’re finding that a sonar “pinger” isn’t very useful while running in shallow water. Instead, we should consider bringing along a set of Pings—for the more than a dozen golf balls seen on the river bottom. It appears they’ve been here for a while, having rolled in from the links upstream during the floods. Interestingly, several aquatic species were making use of them.
River Snail cleaning a golf ball.
A golf ball used as an anchor point for silk cases woven by Net-spinning Caddisfly (Hydropsychidae) larvae to snare food from the water column.
A Creeping Ancylid (Ferrissia species), a tiny gastropod also known as a Coolie Hat Snail, River Limpet, or Brook Freshwater Limpet, inhabits the dimple on a “Top Flight”.
A closeup view of the Creeping Ancylid. The shell sits atop the snail’s body like a helmet.
We now know why your golf balls always end up in the drink, it’s where they go to have their young.
Well, it looks like the skipper’s tired and grumpy, so that’s all for now. Until next time, bon voyage!