French Creek is one place I could play forever and ever on. This waterway has a lot of history, history all the way back to the ice age. It has always been very important to this area since very early times.
My MOST favorite way to fish involves this creek on a warm August day. Shorts, an old work shirt, a hat, a pair of old tennis shoes, a fishing rod, a shirt pocket full of top lures, a sandwich and a pack of gum in my back pocket, a net bag tied to my belt that floats next to my shin with two ice cold 16 ounce bottles of local beer, waiting for the perfect moment to pop one open and just stand and feel the water move around you, after you catch a few feisty Smallmouth Bass of course. BANG, they do hit hard and fast!
The Seneca name for this creek was "Nungash" and was later modified to the word Venango, which was a large native town here at one time. Nungash may have derived from the Seneca word Onenga, which is their word for mink. There is also evidence of a Delaware word for mink also attached to the name for this creek. Mink are still common around here. French Creek was also called The Venango River at one time.
In 1753, George Washington went from Virginia all the way to Lake Erie to see the French at Fort Le Boeuf and to tell them to scram. The French called this creek the River of Beef and there has always been a debate on what beef really meant, wild eastern bison or cattle. The history of this journey and the party of natives and colonials working together to chase out the French is a fascinating read into our earliest records of colonial Western Pennsylvania and American and Native history.
Well it seems George was perhaps the first to call this waterway French Creek because of his mission to the French.
French Creek is rated as one of the 6 most biologically diverse streams in the Northeastern United States. There is an important historical reason for this and it goes back a long time ago. 15,000 years ago French Creek traveled north towards the Great Lakes. But glaciers blocked this route and French Creek eventually diverted into the Ohio Basin. This is why French Creek has such a diverse environment, it has two shared watershed environments.
This waterway has over 80 species of fish and 26 species of freshwater clams. So let's do the game fishing list for A Mac first.
Smallmouth bass are the best fishing in the creek because you can see them dart out of these little holes at your top lure (the devils horse lure is the best) and there are some big ones all over the 117 miles of it. In some areas the holes are very deep and you will find monster muskies, northern pike and walleye. And there is also the assorted panfish, suckers and catfish here and there. Anywhere you go you will catch fish. Most of the tributaries are stocked every year with rainbow and brown trout and some brookies.
So here are some partial lists of the rare and wonderful species we all look for here because of this unique water.
The Hellbender, The American Giant Salamander can get up to 29 inches long and 5 pounds in weight. I have seen two over the years. They are amazing creatures.
Two rare orchids, The Showy Lady's Slipper Orchid and the Whorled Pagonia. I have seen neither yet. But we do have another rare orchid growing right here on the farm, Lady's Tresses.
15 species of darters, 8 listed as endangered or threatened. I have seen two. The Longhead Darter and the Spotted Darter.
And the 26 species of freshwater clams, I have found 5 of them. 1 rare and 5 common.
379 species of birds have been recorded living and nesting along the banks of French Creek.
Plant life is astounding here, you never know what you will run into, large stands of wild Turk's Cap lily, big stands of wild Ginsing, Dutchman's Britches and Squirrelcorn and every kind of fern in the Eastern United States.
This part of Pennsylvania is 'transitional forest', two forest environments meet here so the diversity of tree species is also an interesting factor that I enjoy.
Since 1995 there has been a concerted effort by Federal, State and Local authorities to save and protect this waterway. Millions of Americans use and enjoy this creek and millions more who may never get here help protect it for all of us. Thanks for that America.
I feel very lucky to live right near French Creek. It feels like I am just a small a part of a very long history that I hope will live onward.