Up a Creek

By Taryn Samuels on August 7, 2023 in Blog

Three photos showing different youth exploring creeks.

I have two daughters, ages six and ten, who are particularly drawn to mud and water. Creek walking is one of our favorite outdoor activities. They are encouraged to touch, smell, listen and notice all that is around them. These adventures in nature fuel their sense of wonder, grow awareness and appreciation and build autonomy.  

The growing accumulation of muck on their boots and the promise of finding the makings for a perfect potion are powerful incentives to make the hike to the creek. This expansive outdoor classroom also instills a sense of being part of their environment. Olivia says going to the creek makes her happy. Finley says the opportunity to be outside is a time for her to express her feelings and helps her calm down after a long day. Creek walking is a big part of why they feel secure outside. 

There are good lessons to be learned in the mud. What lives under that rock; where does the creek start; why is the water so much colder than the air. To see something’s value you really need to experience it — including all the mucky parts. 

Luckily, this particular outdoor activity requires little preparation. If you don’t have a nearby creek, try the edge of a pond or even a puddle — just find mud! Start small and don’t overthink it. You don’t have to plan a day-long trip and get bogged down with supplies like nets or buckets (you can, of course). Often the most memorable adventures are unplanned and fed by curiosity and spontaneity. 

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Take your creek walking a step further with these additions. For the tech-savvy, download the free Creek Critters app created by the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Izaak Walton League of America. The app offers step-by-step instructions to collect and identify water invertebrates. The app will share a stream health score scored based on your found critters. 

If you and your family are bookworms, check-out the children’s book “Creekfinding: A True Story” written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Iowa City resident Claudia McGeHee. It features a landowner’s story of restoring a creek in north eastern Iowa. INHF holds a conservation easement on the property.