Kara Helton
A panoramic view looking down the creek’s banks, near Village Creek State Park's Big Ben Nature Trail

Located in northeast Arkansas on Crowley’s Ridge, Village Creek State Park encompasses nearly 7,000 acres with steep forested hills and creek-fed valleys. Part of our mission is to protect the park’s natural resources, and one way for park staff to do that is to monitor the biodiversity of our creeks.  

Since our creeks provide water to most of the park, when it is time to check on their status, we want to see them teeming with a variety of life. A healthy creek will have many different types of organisms living in and around it, while a polluted creek will not.  

Knowing what some of these organisms are, and do, is vital to understanding what condition our creeks are in. So, in this photo essay, join in on this creek crawl as we meet some of the organisms that call this place home! We can all work together to keep creeks healthy for your park now and for the future. 

Green algae on submerged rocks in clear, flowing creek water 

Having a little bit of algae on rocks and submerged tree limbs is a positive sign, since it helps to cycle nutrients and oxygen in the water. Algae can also be a source of food or even a place to hide for small critters escaping predators.  

Mating dragonflies hanging from scouring rush plant 

Seeing dragonflies near our creeks is a fantastic sign of creek health, because dragonflies are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. They spend the first part of their lives in the water. Having mating pairs present means that conditions are just right to start laying eggs in the creek.  

Green-blue colored damselfly resting on a bright green plant on the creek bank

Often mistaken for a dragonfly, the damselfly also spends the first part of its life in the water, and their presence means the creek is relatively free of pollutants. As it grows, the damselfly feeds on small invertebrates, like mosquito larvae. Once it fully develops into an adult, the damselfly lives around the creeks to feed on flying insects in the area.  

A spider resting on a partially submerged rock with clear creek water surrounding it 

Spiders can often be seen scurrying across the banks of the park’s creeks. They may be hunting down their next meal or making webs on tree limbs hanging over the water. You might even see a spider surf on the gentle flowing water’s current since they are so light they do not break the surface tension and sink. With predators like spiders present around out creeks, it means the creek is healthy enough to support thriving populations of prey, like insects and even small species of fish, to feed on.  

Rainbow darter fish guarding its space from other darters, with creek rocks and water surrounding it 

Different species of fish can thrive in the park’s creeks if there are plentiful sources of nutrients as well as places available for them to hide. So, it is especially exciting to see species like this rainbow darter (not quite in full mating colors yet). In east Arkansas, these fish are only found in creeks here at Village Creek State Park.  

A panoramic view looking down the creek’s banks, near the park’s Big Ben Nature Trail 

It is vital for us to monitor the biodiversity in our park’s creeks, like this one that can be viewed from the Big Ben Nature Trail. So many species rely on the creeks as a resource for water, food, and even shelter. If we notice a lack of any of the organisms covered above, or others not seen in this photo essay, it is our responsibility to find out why and then figure out how to handle the problem.  

A plastic water bottle, candy wrapper, and plastic bag laying in a creek 

You too can aid us with our mission of protecting the park’s natural resources by helping us keep our creeks healthy! If you visit our park and see litter like this, please collect it and dispose of it into the proper trash receptacle. Anything you bring with you into the park should not be left behind. We want to see a lot of different organisms in the creek, but not litter. That way these creeks can remain healthy for your park now and its future.  

A view of the creek near the visitor center after a heavy spring rain 

In our busy day-to-day lives it can be easy to overlook a creek, viewing it as nothing more than a source of running water. But if we take the time to stop and look, we discover that creeks are so much more:  

  • They are hunting grounds.  

  • They are hiding places.  

  • They are nurseries.  

  • They are homes.  

They are the park’s veins, swiftly delivering water and nutrients to other organisms living here.  

When we check our creeks’ status, we want them to have healthy populations of the various organisms mentioned above as well as many others. If they do not, then we must uncover why and find out how to take care of the problem. 

The next time you visit Village Creek State Park, I challenge you to take at least five minutes to stop and appreciate one of our creeks. You might make a game of how many different organisms you can spot, or, use those five minutes to listen to the sounds the creek and wildlife and just relax.