by Lisa Tome
Keith Williams doesn't need a tropical location to explore the waters.
He goes snorkeling in his own backyard.
Williams of Conowingo, who is the Director of Education at North Bay, is a creek snorkeler, and has been for a half dozen years. He said the pastime is just taking off and more people are being drawn to it.
He first started snorkeling the local waters after his curiosity got the best of him. "I was on the banks of the Elk River and I wondered what was under the surface. It was a whole new world," said Williams, who was already an avid fisherman and kayaker.
His adventures have taken him near and far. One trip had him snorkeling in the Cherokee National Forest. He also has taken trips to Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia for creek snorkeling.
But close to home works just fine.
"It gives you an amazing, beautiful view. We live in a pretty cool place. The fish here provide a huge colorful show," he said.
Creek snorkeling can be done by most anyone. The best conditions are when the water is knee deep or less. All that is needed this time of year is a mask, snorkel, and old shoes.
Once suited up, you may see a wide variety of fish including lamprey eels, common shiner, black nose dace, crayfish, northern hog sucker, and more.
"Sometimes, it's just the architecture of the stream. Sometimes there are insects. Fish watching is similar to bird watching," he said.
Locally, He snorkels at Deer Creek, in Susquehanna State Park, at Basin Run at the mouth of the Octoraro, and in the Susquehanna River. "Stony Run is a phenomenal little creek. You don't have to go far," he said.
His love for it has pushed Williams to share it with school children.
He started with a group of Rising Sun Middle School children. He led a group of about 20 students with cameras into the Octoraro Creek to study there. He enjoys "connecting people with the streams they think they know."
Other schools signed on and he has taught those from Elkton High, Conowingo Elementary, North East Middle School, and will start at Rising Sun Elementary this school year. He has also taught students at parochial schools in Baltimore and in Prince George's County.
"It's a whole new world right in our own backyard," he said. In addition to finding a connection with the stream, he hopes students are also learning STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). He said the education is STEM-based and those snorkeling can learn to do research, ask good questions, and develop a natural curiosity.
But while Williams has mostly good things to say about snorkeling, he can think of at least one drawback. "I've had 911 called a couple times. Because people thought I was a body floating. That restored my faith in humanity," he said.
He said that even beginners can give it a try since it's fairly inexpensive. A mask and snorkel costs in the $20 range.
"It's kind of like a nature hike under water," he said.
He also said the biggest threat is water. He recommends that beginning snorkelers stay away from water falls and swift moving water.
His passion has also spawned a business. He now owns Creek Snorkeling Adventures.
For more information about creek snorkeling or river snorkeling contact him on the website creeksnorkelingadventures.com or read his blog at www.creeksnorkeling.blogspot.com.