Collecting Rocks from the Creek

handful of creek rocks

I’ve always loved creek rocks. I’d like to think Chitter inherited her love of the creek from me, but I don’t think that’s true. The waterways of Appalachia have a tendency of weaving theirselves around your heart whether they be rushing bold streams or small branches.

As a child I would try to find the perfect rock every time I visited the creek. The ones I thought were extra special I’d store in my window sill. Over the years as I began to out grow playing in the creek I moved my collection to one of my old jewelry boxes and weeded out the ones I thought I could part with.

When the girls were babies I found my old stash of treasure in a ballerina jewelry box I’d brought home from Granny and Pap’s.

I took the rocks and other small bits and put them in a glass jar in the bathroom. They’re still there.

All these years later I still love to handle the rocks in the creek every chance I get. But these days, instead of bringing them home to admire I build small piles of my favorites by the creek and leave them.

I like thinking about a random coon or other animal coming to drink and knocking over my creation. Or maybe they stand and admire it 🙂

Sometimes I wonder if any of my stacks stay erect until ample rain strains the banks of Stamey Creek. I like to think about rushing waters dispersing the rocks back to where I found them in the creek bed that’s always made me feel at home.


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  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    August 22, 2021 at 9:49 pm

    When I was a child my main source of entertainment was fishing in the creek near our house and roaming around in the woods. That gave me a love for being outdoors that has lasted all my life. I enjoyed watching you and Matt cooking over a camp fire. We did not have a gnat fire when I was growing up. There were so many gnats in the sandhills of South Carolina that we just made peace with them; that is why everyone was constantly fanning with something.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2021 at 11:34 am

    My wife had some creek rocks from long ago that had her and her friends names on them from a creek in the Smokeys. I was able to glue them to a painting I did of a mountain stream. One of the friends had passed and have the memories.

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    August 19, 2021 at 11:17 pm

    I have two rocks from the foundation of my maternal grandparents house built in the late 1800s. I have two rocks from the Big Thompson creek in CO brought home in my suitcase. The X-ray person said: “is that rocks I see?” My friend brought me a pebble from Norway. Rocks are “friendly!”

  • Reply
    Sue simmons Ritchie
    August 18, 2021 at 8:37 pm

    Loved your rock story, I love rocks all shapes and sizes, I would love to grow rocks all shapes and sizes if it was possible. A rock farmer LOL

  • Reply
    Donald Wells
    August 18, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    Thank You Tipper, for sharing your love for Stamey Creek and its beautiful display of her gorgeous rocks.Thank You Katie for making it possible that we can all have a little bit of Stamey Creeks Treasures in our own lives and hearts.Thank You Ladies most of all for being such a Great Steward of God’s Creation,and if Stamey Creek could talk,She would Thank You Too.

  • Reply
    Jane ODell
    August 18, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    I love this! I think holding a stone from Stamey Creek helps you feel connected with the land. I know I love holding a stone or a shell (from NC beach where my Grandparents had a place for many years) it makes me feel connected to family and our past. It also reminds me how creative God is and how much He loves each one of us and is interested in blessing each of us through His creation.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    I too collect small, heart-shaped stones. I also found a small white stone with a natural hole in the middle; my grandma told me that if there was a ghost nearby I would be able to see it through the stone. I have never tried it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 18, 2021 at 1:10 pm

    I love seeing yall’s creek. I grew up in West TN where nearly every creek has a sandy or muddy bottom but I do remember one rocky creek near where we were working some rented land. It was shallow & beautifully shaded with a foot log–something I was not familiar with. My brothers & I spent every possible moment at the creek!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    Tipper. I have a rock that I’ve had for years and I have it in my kitchen window . It shaped and looks just like a heart. I will keep it always. My grandson gave it to me. Loved your post today. I guess mentioning of the creek and running water over the rocks, it’s just so peaceful.

  • Reply
    Pat Wilson
    August 18, 2021 at 11:51 am

    Geologist and rock/creek lover here … I have loved rocks, especially creek rocks, since I was a very small child. My academic education in geology and the Bible have given me a perspective of the immensity of time. Men have been piling up rocks on the earth’s surface for centuries. Tourists visit many of the big piles – the stone henges of the British Isles, the ziggurats of the Middle East, the pyramids of Egypt and Central America, Machu Pichu. Piling stone on stone may just be part of our nature. The rounded rocks that feel so nice in our hands are a testament to the power of running water. That power, in the form of spring rains, will likely topple any kid’s rock pile. I doubt that kids playing in creeks have any lasting impact on the ecology of a stream system. I wish that every child could play in a creek! It is a soul-nourishing activity.

    BTW, quartz and mica are minerals. Limestone, sandstone, and schist are rock types.

    • Reply
      Ron Stephens
      August 18, 2021 at 3:32 pm

      You prove my point about what I don’t know. Now I know more than I did though. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    August 18, 2021 at 10:15 am

    Pretty rocks are everywhere. I saw the signs in Maine that said…Don’t Take The Rocks…but a few of those amazing rounded ones had to come back to Virginia with me.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    August 18, 2021 at 9:38 am

    I love your videos where you show the creek. So calming and peaceful!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2021 at 9:13 am

    It sounds like Chitter inherited her love of the creek and rocks from you and Miss Cindy and that’s a good thing. My oldest daughter took after me when it comes to playing in the creek. Years ago, she found a rock that looked identical to a Hershey’s Kiss. It was tucked away in a jewelry box all these years until I gave it to her son who had quiet a rock collection of his own. I treasure my flower bed I built thirty years ago with creek rocks that are embellished by nature. I never get tired of looking at the fossils as I pass by the rocks right outside my back door.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    August 18, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Tipper and her family are not alone in their love of rocks and their joy in creating things from them. I believe we should have a healthy respect for nature, but at the same time enjoy it and preserve it for others. Creations by Chitter are a living example of how she’s uncovered beauty from Stamey Creek and other places and enhanced it considerably. Those of us who love rocks and make them a part of our culture join the ancient orientals who have revered them since forever.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2021 at 9:05 am

    This was beautifully written, Tipper. I can tell that every word came from your heart.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    August 18, 2021 at 9:02 am

    Here in southern WV we sit atop Marcellus shale like you wouldn’t believe. I find it quite interesting and lovely. All my life, I have picked up and kept rocks, stones, feathers etc that caught my eye. I just like them and it’s as simple as that. I liked how you said maybe a raccoon would enjoy your rock pile. I’m sure one probably did and maybe his kin as well! The older I get I think rich and well to do are all in the enrichment of life’s simple experiences. Somehow children know this and then the world creeps in and steals away the wonder and beauty of GOD’S creation. What if I told you once there were trees so enormous that when the great flood came, they were toppled and are the Marcellus shale and mountains we walk upon now?! Big jutting rocks are you guessed it- ancient tree stumps! History has been hidden and truth buried.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 18, 2021 at 8:27 am

    Tipper, I think you might enjoy a thought from Isaac Newton. (I do not recall where I first saw it and I won’t remember it word for word.) For one with so many amazing accomplishments, he said of himself something very like this, ‘I was as a child on a beach, picking up one brightly-colored pebble after another while the great ocean lay all undiscovered before me.’ I think you are much like that, constantly noticing and discovering but also always mindful there is so much more to discover. That is the way I have always thought about nature and me in it.

    I have long wished I could identify minerals. There are very few I can; sandstone, some limestone, quartz and mica schist. But as I expect Chitter knows there are many, many variations of mineral content in those broad classes. In other words it is another of those more-to-know-than-I-will-ever-know things. That doesn’t stop me looking though.

    Along that line, I was once over at Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia and noticed little dark pea-sized nodules in the sand. I happened to have a magnet that day for some odd reason and I picked up 80 of those little rocks then tested to see if the magnet would pick up any and if so how many. Turned out it picked up 20% of them. I have not done it but I would like to walk a stony creek with a black light flashlight and see if anything glowed. North Carolina is, I think, especially rich in different kinds of minerals. I have seen a wall mural at a NC interstate rest stop made entirely of polished NC stone and it is very colorful.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 18, 2021 at 7:55 am

    When I was little we moved several times and to several different states. The first thing I did with every move was look for the creek there was almost always a creek. That was where I spent my time. I loved the water, I felt the peace of the water. I gathered rocks there are always rocks in the creek and I would gather the pretty ones and take them home with me. Somewhere in an old album there is a picture of me from the back with all my pockets bulging with rocks I took home with me to keep because they were so pretty.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    August 18, 2021 at 7:26 am

    Mountain streams of any size have always fascinated me. I love the sights and sounds of that life giving water coursing it’s way through a mosaic of rocks shaped by untold years of flowing water.

  • Reply
    Lee Thompson
    August 18, 2021 at 7:13 am

    hey Good Morning Tipper,
    After reading the last post about rocks, I wanted to let you know about what stacking rocks can do. this is from the friends of the Smokey’s website. the Blog is great.

    But what you may not realize is that stacking river rocks is doing serious damage to the delicate river ecosystem. And it’s not just cairns, the same goes for moving rocks and creating dams to make chutes or pools in a stream for tubing. Aquatic plants and animals make their homes on, under, and around these rocks. Some of the 68 species of fish in the park build their nests in small cavities under rocks. When people move the rocks, the nest is destroyed and the eggs and young fish die.Algae play a vital role in the river ecosystem as a food source for fish and other aquatic animals, as well as providing oxygen to the stream — you know, the stuff that animals need to breathe. Algae also help purify the water, absorbing nutrients and heavy metals from streams and rivers. But when rocks with algae are removed from the river, an important part of the whole system goes missing.

    Aquatic insects need rocks for cover as well. Some aquatic insects can drift off or move when disturbed, but many species attach themselves to the rock and cannot move. When a rock is moved, aquatic insects fall, are crushed by the movement, or dry out and die when the rock is placed out of water.

    Salamanders like the Eastern hellbender, which can grow up to 2 feet in length, live in spaces and crevices under river rocks. These amazing creatures have been on this planet for 65 million years but are now listed as Near Threatened in large part due to habitat loss.

    • Reply
      August 18, 2021 at 7:39 am

      Lee-thank you for sharing that information. I’m a real believer in experiencing things and noticing things 🙂 Youngins have been building little towers of rocks in our creek since I was a small child as well as daming up the water for a swimming hole. Actually prior to me being a child the creek was used in the same way as well and even for washing clothes and bodies 🙂 There’s also been many a spring lizard caught for fishing in days gone by. Yet the creek is still full of all sorts of life—from aquatic insects to small fish, you could say the environment of the creek is booming 🙂 I’ve read other accounts that fly fishing or any sort of fishing actually is very harmful to mountain streams, but again I know my family have harvested fish to put on the table for generations and the ones living today are still doing it—in those very same waterways that should have been destroyed from playing and fishing years ago.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      August 18, 2021 at 12:47 pm

      I wonder if The Friends of the Smokies ever thought about what percentage of the damage to species is done by babies playing in creeks compared to that caused by torrential flooding that is and always has been part of the nature of the Appalachians and most of the Earth’s mountain ranges. I daresay it is so small a fraction that it is barely discernible.
      The Club itself was created to help The National Park Service preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I am all for that. But to extent its reaches to Stamey Creek is a stretch.
      The only way to eliminate human impact on nature is to eliminate humans. We are part of nature and of course have an impact on it. Those who set themselves up as protectors rather that participants in it are in effect declaring themselves above nature. They are, in my humble opinion, declaring themselves gods. That is scary! They are stepping on some mighty big toes. Some Almighty big toes!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2021 at 7:00 am

    A I was reading this morning, my mind started wondering back to the many trips to the mountain creeks fishing around home as I grew up. I can see your attachment to your treasures from your visits. The creek is ongoing and everchanging as time passes.

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