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Pat Whalen

"Lakeside Oaks" photo by Pat Whalen

Pat Whalen has lived close to the Blue River most of his life. He remembers as a young teenager going to the river to hang out, fish and relax. Years later, while walking in the river, he found an arrowhead. He knew the Santa Fe trail crossed the Blue River, so he always looked for artifacts. He couldn’t believe his luck to find one in the gravel. Later when he lived near Woodland, a neighbor who was an older gentleman showed him colored pictures of his family’s houseboat. He shared that his family lived on the boat in the summer near the confluence with the Missouri River. Pat couldn’t believe how blue the water was.

One of the first times Pat worked on the Blue was when fisheries did a day on the river. He was an education consultant at Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) at the time. In pursuit of his interest in nature photography, Pat took pictures of the glades at Blue Valley Park. He remembers seeing native plants growing out of the Bethany limestone rocks. When he returned to take similar pictures many years later, he couldn’t believe how much it had changed. The invasive honeysuckle is doing its best to take over the glade and the river.

Recently Pat took about 30 young teens from the MDC summer camp for a day on the river. They hiked the paths around the river, searched for macroinvertebrates and enjoyed learning how to skip rocks across the water. Pat helped them drill holes in the rocks and add some string to make pendants. They were also surprised by the raccoon jaw they found. The river was relatively clear that day and the water level was pretty normal. The group enjoyed splashing around. Unfortunately, they had to be reminded not to drink the water or even get it near their face due to the pollution.

As Pat thinks about what he wishes for the Blue River, he would like to see it be blue again and to stop the honeysuckle from taking over.

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