Hidden Rivers

Chub nest
Chub nest.

A film and photography exhibit celebrating the freshwater life of Southern Appalachia

Story and photos by David Herasimtschuk

A true spectacle of biodiversity, freshwater hosts a teeming collage of colors, shapes and behaviors. These flowing waters are essential to life. Yet, as a society dependent upon this vital resource, how often do we look beneath the water’s surface? Over the last ten years, Freshwaters Illustrated has worked to document the vibrancy and wonder of life found in the rivers and streams of Southern Appalachia, North America’s most biologically-rich waters. This unique region harbors the world’s richest temperate fish fauna and is home to the highest diversity of freshwater mussels, snails, crayfish and salamanders on the planet. Highlighting this great variety, Freshwaters Illustrated created its newest feature film, Hidden Rivers, which follows the work of conservation biologists and explorers throughout the region and reveals both the beauty and vulnerability of these ecosystems.

Hellbender, a species of giant salamander.
Hellbender, a species of giant salamander.

With the potential to help build a growing community of river stewards, creek cleaners and fish watchers, Hidden Rivers was premiered this past April at Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium. The film and photo exhibit are currently on tour in Southeastern US with more screenings being scheduled for Fall of 2019 and Spring 2020.

A school of Dace, a fresh- or brackish-water fish commonly found in rivers and streams.
A school of Dace, a fresh- or brackish-water fish commonly found in rivers and streams.

Thanks in part to the help and support of the North American Nature Photography Association, through the Phillip Hyde Environmental Grant, the Hidden Rivers photography exhibit was created to provide an immersive look into the seldom seen diversity of life that inhabit the rivers and creeks of Southern Appalachia. Already seen by thousands, the exhibit aims to share imagery that not only captures the public’s imagination, but also helps motivate a new discourse in the way we value rivers, encouraging everyone to get out and explore their local rivers.

From the Editor: David Herasimtschuk received the 2014 Philip Hyde Environmental Grant. In this article, he updates us on his project. Have an idea for your own grant-worthy project? Applications for this year’s Philip Hyde Environmental Grant and the Janie Moore Green Scholarship Grant are accepted from September 1 through October 31, 2019. Click on the links for all the details and the application forms. These grant programs are managed by the NANPA Foundation.
Several Gar, a species of ray-finned fresh-water fish.
Several Gar, a species of ray-finned fresh-water fish.

Photography from this project has also been shared by a number of publications and outlets, including the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year, in which two images received recognition. Photos from the project have also appeared National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, National Wildlife, and are continually being used by partners in the region to help bolster their conservation initiatives. Our next large initiative for the project is to create a curriculum for local schools so that teachers can use the imagery to teach kids about these incredible ecosystems, educating students on ways they can become more river friendly and responsible.  

To lean more about the Hidden Rivers project and find out where to see the film and photography exhibit please visit www.hiddenrivers.org. See also the National Geographic article.