Logan County’s famous Buffalo Creek is one of the Mountain State’s most historic, southern coalfields waterways. In recent years, a brand new chapter in its long and tragic history has been written.
That history book’s cover might very well feature a fanciful and leaping rainbow trout. For Buffalo Creek has “regained its fins,” so to speak. Today the creek boasts not only ample trout fishing but a local organization dedicated to its preservation.
Many will recall the coal slurry dam disaster on Buffalo Creek in February 1972. One of the worst disasters in West Virginia history, it took 125 lives and left thousands injured and homeless.
Local resident Perry Harvey distinctly remembers fishing for golden trout near his home along the creek the day before the 1972 dam failure.
Harvey’s residence was spared, but more than 500 others were destroyed.
Though now retired, Harvey is nonetheless working hard with the local Buffalo Creek Watershed Association, a consortium of individuals and organizations dedicated to restoring and preserving Buffalo Creek and the recreational opportunities there. Joining Harvey are Johnny Doss and Eddie Adkins, who are cut from the same fishing mold as he is. Plenty of others have also joined the association and contributed to the effort.
The Buffalo Creek Watershed Association, with a colorful rainbow trout as its logo, has also garnered the strong support of local businesses and several state and local government agencies, including the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection (DEP), WVDNR, the Town of Man and the Logan County Commission.
At its regular meetings the group features guest speakers, who provide additional insight and recommendations for improving the waterway.
It also helps that WVDNR conservation officer Larry Harvey no relation to Perry, a Buffalo Creek native, is stationed at his hometown hollow.
With his assistance, frequent clean-up projects and other activities to promote a litter-free waterway have come to the forefront.
In February 2006, amid great fanfare, Buffalo Creek was returned to the official WVDNR spring time put-and-take trout stocking list after a 34-year hiatus. This designation did not involve merely throwing fish into the creek.
It took years of hard work to regain stock list status. Over the years, many local, state, and federal initiatives contributed to the improvement in water quality at Buffalo Creek.
Sanitary sewer and road improvements and several major Abandoned Mine Lands gob pile reclamation projects which all contribute toward better water quality.
Prior to the creek’s return to the trout stock list, WVDNR and the DEP worked together on experimental fingerling trout stockings.
Follow-up creek surveys and angler feedback revealed that some of the trout hung in there.
This information was helpful and bode well for the official, catchable-size trout stockings that came later.
The surveys also revealed a number of sassy, good-sized smallmouth and rock bass in the creek.
Citizens, businesses, and the Logan County Commission have also teamed up with the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation time and again over the years.
Together they conducted private, catchable-size trout stockings and youth fishing days in the spring.
The annual Youth (Spring Break) Trout Fishing Day is the biggest event of the year for the watershed association.
Fishing gear, tackle, and refreshments are distributed free of charge to youngsters for this sometimes chilly and always memorable outing.
Some 300 folks attended the 2009 Trout Fishing Day, anxiously casting their lines, hoping for the electric feeling of a hard-fighting rainbow trout on the other end.
Watershed association member Eddie Adkins beamed with pride as he panned the crowd of smiling young people with their adult friends and families. However, Adkins is still frustrated by some folks who persist in littering. But, he noted with a broad grin, one recent litterbug accidentally tossed out a 50-dollar bill!
Talk about poetic justice. Perhaps this is just one of the many signs of the watershed group’s growing good fortune.
Their future likely holds more natural stream restoration work, as well as fish structure and habitat improvement projects.
A multitude of small improvements continue to add up and make a distinct difference. Along the way, those who prize Buffalo Creek must remain vigilant.
Small and simple actions include basic litter control and the peer pressure to prevent it. In addition, small and large streamside landowners can plant native trees and shrubs such as willow, alder, sycamore, box elder, red oak, and river birch.
Tree and shrub growth will increase the in-stream food chain base and provide shade and streamside stability via root anchoring.
This is a time to celebrate every person’s contribution to the successes at Buffalo Creek, from those who picked up litter, to those who threw a dollar in a jar to buy gear for the youth fishing day, to those who enacted or enforced laws to protect the creek. But we can’t rest on our “trout laurels.”
There’s still plenty of work to be done at Buffalo Creek and at a lot of other streams in the state.
This spring, if you call the WVDNR Trout Hotline (304.558.3399) to check on the daily stockings, you’ll hear the sweet tune “Buffalo Creek of Guyandotte River.”
Celebrate with the folks of Buffalo Creek and GO FISH! You might even catch a leaping, rod-bending rainbow trout, just like the one in the Buffalo Creek Watershed Association logo.
Youth Fishing Day 2010 — The annual Buffalo Creek Youth Fishing Day was held Monday, April 5, at 11 a.m. at McCoy Memorial Park at Latrobe. There is be plenty of fishing gear and refreshments for youngsters. For more information, call the Buffalo Creek Watershed Association at 304-583-6073.