|What is the reach? A wadeable stream reach is defined as a section of stream no deeper than waist deep (except pools); most of the reach are at depths between the thigh and the waist or shallower. Streams from first through fourth orders most commonly fall into this category. Some higher order streams may have wadeable sections.
The sampling locations on a stream should be a minimum of 50-yards upstream from a road or bridge crossing. Being upstream of these or other types of human encroachments minimizes the effects on stream velocity, channel shape and size, and overall habitat quality. In other words your reach should be as representative as possible of the natural characteristics of the stream. Additionally, no major tributaries (2nd order or higher) should be discharging within the reach.
Once the station is established the length of the reach is determined. WDEP's Watershed Branch uses 100-meters. Volunteers are encouraged to use the same length but other lengths are acceptable. Most hardware or home stores sell open-reel tape measures of up to 300-feet (100-meter open-reel tape measures are usually available from engineering supply companies). The 300-foot distance is allowable for the maximum reach length. In some cases younger volunteers may be monitoring so it is best to keep them within your line-of-sight. Note: Certain stream-types may meander and have thick vegetation so the entire length of the reach may not be visible. Under these circumstances the length of the reach can be reduced as a safety precaution. The recommended minimum length is 150-feet. The reach should have at least one or more of the typical channel features.
Riffles have shallow, fast moving water broken on the surface by the presence of coarse substrate such as stacked gravel, cobble and boulders. Its channel shape is variable and often has portion of incline and decline. Runs are deeper than a riffle with a fast to moderate current and usually no breaks in the surface. The channel shape is relatively consistent with only a slight incline or decline. The substrate is variable but is mostly coarser materials. Pools have deep, slow moving water. The channel shape is generally bowl like and often some of the bottom substrates consist of finer sediments such as sand and silt. In steep-gradient mountain streams, pools are often deep but may have many areas of very fast velocity and larger substrate. These types of pools are often referred to as steps.
Determine the average width and depth of the features. Once the length is determined and set it should remain the same throughout the life of the station. Use flagging or natural features to mark the upper and lower boundaries of the reach. For the first few visits it is a good practice to measure the length of the reach by laying an open-reel tape measure along the banks (not in the stream). The tape measure provides you with many points of reference along the length and is very useful for marking the location of pebble count transects and other notable habitat features such as point bars, islands, or eroding banks that may occur within the reach. The latitude and longitude (X-site) of your reach is determined at the downstream end of the reach. If you are using a GPS and cannot get a reading at the downstream end, do not move your tape measure once it is in place. Walk up stream until a signal is received and then indicate the location of the signal on your survey data sheet (i.e. middle reach, upper reach etc.). WV Save Our Streams prefers latitude and longitude readings in the degrees-minutes-seconds format.