This article is adapted with permission from the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District's Ripple Effect newsletter, September 16, 2013.
We don't often get to look beneath the surface of our lakes and streams. But Maddy Jackson, a freshman in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota, did just that. She shares her peek at Snail Lake from a different perspective.
"I’ve had the good fortune to grow up on Snail Lake," says Maddy, "and I’m sure it has contributed to my interest in biology. One day in July, my dad had a strange idea. He wanted to go snorkeling in Snail Lake! At first I thought he was kidding. How nasty would it be to go snorkeling in a lake that’s full of weeds and muck? But, it was roasty toasty outside, and I was up for a little adventure."
"At first, I avoided touching the weeds as much as possible. The way they slithered on my leg was simply unpleasant. But when I opened my eyes, it was as if I could finally see the lake for what it really was. The plants looked absolutely beautiful as they swayed back and forth with the waves. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing the whole time."
Photos by Maddy Jackson.
Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District staff also spent some time checking out the underwater plant communities in Snail Lake.
Water plants are important indicators of the health of a lake. Many are important sources of food for wildlife, too.
One of the most abundant plants found in Snail is wild celery, (Vallisneria americana) also known as eel grass. Wild celery is a rooted aquatic plant with tape-like leaves that undulate with the waves. In the late summer this plant sends a stalk spiraling up to water’s surface, eventually producing a small creamy flower. This slippery plant is an important wildlife food source.
Northern water nymph (Najas flexilis) is another common Snail Lake plant that is important to wildlife – ducks will eat the entire plant. This water nymph is a bushy, short-leaved plant often found in sandy areas 3 feet or more deep.
Broad-leaved pondweeds (Potamogeton amplifolius, P. illinoensis & P. richardsonii) were found in deeper waters. These plants are commonly called ‘muskie cabbage’ or ‘bass weed’ and the name pretty much describes their importance; they are marvelous habitat for fish. Staff were happy to not see any invasive aquatic plants.
Although not accounted for in the plant survey, district staff also spotted nine egrets all fishing the shallows on the north end of the lake. "The overall report is a happy one; we found a diverse, healthy native submersed plant community thriving in a lovely lake!"
For more information
More information about the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District.
To find information about the MPCA's monitoring program activities, visit the MPCA’s water quality condition monitoring webpage.