When you think of Shenandoah’s wildlife, what comes to mind? Black bear, deer, songbirds for sure. Now you can add eel to that list.
Eight years after the Army Corps of Engineers breached the Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River, eels are returning to Shenandoah’s waters. These long, skinny fish spawn in the Sargasso Sea east of Bermuda, but they like to grow and mature in fresh water, including creeks in our park. American eel populations have been on the decline for decades, so park biologists are excited to see their numbers rising in Shenandoah.
“This highlights the fact that ecosystems in the park extend far outside park boundaries and that downstream conservation can have important upstream benefits,” says Jeb Wofford, Shenandoah National Park Biologist. Shad, herring and striped bass populations in the Rappahannock River also have been rebounding since the dam removal.
The Ember Dam provided hydroelectric power to Fredericksburg from 1910 to the 1960s. It was removed in part due to concerns about fish populations.