Water Problems: Envirothon’s Trip to the Verde River

By Amanda Bertsch
PRESCOTT, AZ- On Tuesday, November 12th, Envirothon took a trip to the head of the Verde River. Eight students and two teachers hiked and learned about the Verde River habitat. They were accompanied by a Prescott College student, who made the experience fun with a variety of activities.
When the students first arrived, they walked to an overhang to view a large piece of the Verde. After a few moments in silence, they discussed their observations. Then they backtracked to the cars and took a different trail which the guide had planted fossils, tracks, a snake skin, and feathers along the first portion of. Though the group had difficulty finding the well-hidden items, they observed many rocks and plants during their search.
The expedition took a rocky trial to Granite Creek. There they tested the water’s dissolved oxygen, phosphate and nitrate levels as well as the pH. After getting thoroughly wet, they found that the stream was healthy but had a shockingly low level of dissolved oxygen. Briefly leaving science behind, they crossed the stream by hopping across precariously rotten logs for a talk on the past civilizations that had lived there.
The group hiked to a view of the Verde next. Along the way they sampled the four-winged saltbush, which tastes much like the name describes. They avoided from sampling the poisonous silver nightshade berries and enjoyed identifying other plants. They also sighted a blue heron in the water.
Envirothon continued on, stopping to examine a cow carcass and resting at the bottom of a rocky incline. They pointed out petroglyphs and speculated on their meaning before breaking for lunch. Then the group reformed and began the trek back.
They stopped at a marshy section of the Verde for one final activity. A tarp with a map of the area was placed down and made three-dimensional by propping backpacks underneath. Students fetched water in spray bottles and modeled the monsoon rains to show how water collects in certain areas. The activity was repeated with clods of dirt added to symbolize vegetation. This led into a discussion on aquifers and water conservation.
Running low on time, the group headed back to the van. They hurried back to the area that had items planted. At this point, they slowed to try and catch more of the hidden pieces. They discovered a feather and some more tracks, but were unable to find the fossils.
When the group finished their hike, they thanked the guide profusely. On the way back, they talked about how good the guide was and how much fun the trip was. The teachers, Mrs. Muchna and Ms. Schaibly, also seemed positive about the trip.
Mrs. Muchna reported she plans to take her almost eighty freshmen on a similar trip in the spring, dividing them into several groups. They will do similar activities. The people that attended this trip will likely be helpers for future expeditions as well.

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