When Cub Scouts go out to Camp Falling Rock in northeastern Licking County, of all the activities they enjoy (and there are many out there out in the wild), “creeking” is near the top of the list.

Under proper supervision, in a well established location with a fairly level and stable surface below the surface of Rocky Fork Creek, the girls and boys are invited to clamber down the bank and walk right out into the watercourse.

Rocky Fork is a clean and clear creek, with few farms upstream to add to the nutrient load with fertilizer runoff. So when the Cubs are told to turn over some of the stones along the banks, they get to meet some freshwater creatures that are miniature monsters with a positive story to tell.

Biggest and easiest to see are the crayfish and salamanders, though the salamanders run off just at the vibrations of everyone getting into the water, so we see few of them. Smaller, but even more amazing to scrutinize than the mini-lobster crayfish, are larvae: of mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, and the accurately named water penny beetle.

Bristling with antennae, forked tails, and tufted gills branching out below, they’re creatures out of science fiction, but real and swimming around you if only a few millimeters in length. And their existence in profusion are a healthy sign of clean water, just as their absence is a warning of even invisible pollutants.

Meanwhile, the shouting, splashing Cub Scouts are learning about their environment, even as they’re searching for mini-monsters.

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