TU Family Field Trip: Take a Headwaters Hike

Explore the headwaters of a stream near you and learn the importance of protected and connected waters within a watershed.

Editor’s Note: Students across America are unexpectedly home due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Trout Unlimited wants to help families make the most of the unexpected time together by providing some fun, educational and social distancing-friendly activities in the outdoors. We will be sharing a collection of activities as part of the TU Family Field Trip series. Our first priority is to keep all of our members and friends safe and healthy, so please consider the following article in light of your current state or local government recommendations for activity. If the time isn’t right for you or your family to engage in this activity, save it as an idea for a future date when things have settled and there is a better sense of what lays ahead.

We all live downstream — and what happens in the headwaters of our watersheds impacts the quality of our drinking water supply, the health of the local ecosystems, and the quality of life we enjoy.

One of the best ways to bring the concept of a watershed to life for youth is by literally tracing the path of the water that flows through your community. Take a Headwaters Hike with your kids and teach them where the rivers start and why it matters to protect them!

You can start at the river closest to your house and drive along it, noting the development and man-made impacts to the land around the river. Follow one of the larger tributaries upstream, noticing how more developed land turns to rural, agricultural, or forested land.

When you hit the start of the headwaters, take to the trail and hike along a tumbling brook or stream up into preserved and protected landscapes. Note the colder, cleaner water, the healthy sand and gravel in the bottom of the stream, and the variety of life in and along the river.

  • Ask your children questions throughout the hike.
  • Let them tell you what they are thinking before giving them the answer.
  • Ask them to stop and see what they hear, see and smell.
  • What do they notice that is different about this part of the watershed?

The following resources are great for pre-reading and watching with your children: