We enjoyed another field trip this week. This time, we went to the Barrett Fishway in Holyoke for a look at how people are helping anadromous fish make their way upriver to spawning sites. Our interpreter was a retired early childhood expert and she did an amazing job of presenting a developmentally appropriate program for us to learn with. The children reported at the end of the day, “Good news! Our field trip was awesome!”
Two kindergarten classes participated in the first general presentations. Then we moved on as separate groups.
We learned about the different kinds of fishes that are migrating in the water of the Connecticut River at this time of year. Our focus was on the American Shad. It is incredibly abundant right now.
They have a forked tail. There are also Sea Lampreys and an occasional Atlantic Salmon.
We moved inside and heard the turbines generating power from the rushing water of the river. It sounded very loud. The outside platform gave us a great spot to watch the fish lift in operation.
Then we went back out to the tent for a cool interactive presentation. We learned that the fish can smell the river they were spawned in and they migrate back to it as adults with their sense of smell. Unlike some species, the shad can make this trip a few years in a row before dying off. The females are bigger than the males as a rule. We used scents in film canisters and tried to match them with the correct river – Merrimack or Connecticut. The parent helpers each had the “home river” scent in canisters, not actual river smells but unique scents. The children smelled their own and then tried to match the mother scent.
The freshet is over now and the river is somewhat lower. That means that the pond of water used for generating electricity is holding more water back. The water is not going over the dam. The Fish Lift helps the fish over the dam so they can continue on their way. See the diagram at the beginning of this post.
Finally, we went back inside to view the fish through the viewing windows. There were lots and lots of fish. We also saw Sea Lampreys which have 3 eyes but are nearly blind at this stage and bump into lots of things.
The Barrett Fishway (aka the Hadley Falls Fish Lift) is operated by the Holyoke Gas & Electric and owned by the municipality. It is open to the public from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day each year.