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Visual Survey Site Description
The visual survey site should examine a 300-foot long section of stream that contains at least one riffle. Surveys should extend up any tributaries that enter the stream in this area. Survey sites should be typical of the entire stream segment being monitored. The location of these sites should be considered permanent monitoring sites to allow the group to develop several years of data at the same location.

Frequency
The visual survey should be conducted twice per year. Once in the winter/early spring when the foliage is off the plants, and once during the summer/early fall, when the foliage is still on the plant.

Visual Survey Protocol
When conducting a visual survey the following observations should be made and recorded on the Visual Survey Data Form in the field. This form should be brought back for online data entry.

1. STREAM NAME, COUNTY, and STATE.
List the name of the stream as it appears on a USGS map. Locating your site on a map also ensures you the appropriate county.

2. LOCATION OF SITE.
Record the Longitude and latitude of the sample site. This can be accomplished by using a GPS unit or by using a 7.5 minute quadrangle map and a meter stick. Global Position Satellite units may be borrowed from PathFinder Science to determine the position of your sampling site. Record which method you used to determine the site location. If you used a quadrangle map, record the name of the quadrangle map. The Gazetteer have online maps that may also be helpful in determining the Lat/Long of your sample site.

3. DATE and TIME
Use military time. (2:00 P.M. = 14:00 hours)

4. WEATHER.
Check the appropriate description of current weather from the choices on the data sheet.

  • clear
  • partly cloudy
  • overcast
  • intermittent rain
  • rain
  • snow

5. RAINFALL FOR THE PREVIOUS WEEK.
Possibilities for obtaining this information are maintaining a rain gauge near the site,a local weather archive, the newspaper or using the local weather station. The data should be for a station as close to the sampling site as possible.

6. FLOOD PLAIN LAND USE.
List the dominant (majority of the area)land uses adjoining the stream sampling site.

  • industrial
  • commercial
  • residential
  • pasture or hayfields
  • row crops
  • woods
  • other (specify)

7. RIPARIAN COVER.
For the purposes of this checklist, the riparian zone is the area extending from the top of each stream bank away from the stream for a distance of 100 feet. Estimate the percent of this area which is covered by the various categories listed.

  • trees
  • grasses or weeds
  • bare ground
  • parking lots or streets
  • buildings
  • other (specify)

8. STREAM BANK CONDITIONS.
Estimate the percent of the area between the top of the stream bank and the wetted portion of the channel which is covered by each of the various categories listed.

  • trees
  • grasses or weeds
  • bare ground (dirt)
  • bedrock
  • pavement or rip rap
  • other (specify)

9. BED COMPOSITION OF RIFFLE.
A riffle is an area of shallow, rapidly flowing water within a stream. If there are no riffles in your sampling area, use the nearest riffle outside your segment. Estimate the percent of stream bed within the riffle that is covered by the following sized sediments:

  • sit or mud
  • sand
  • gravel
  • cobbles (rocks 2-10 inches in size)
  • boulders (rocks larger than 10 inches)

10. BOTTOM DEPOSITS.
Estimate the percent of the stream bottom covered by:

  • trash (note what kind of trash is most common)
  • sewage sludge
  • lime sludge
  • iron precipitates
  • other, please describe
11. ALGAE.
Estimate the percent of the stream bottom covered by visible algae. Of the any algae cover, what percent is:
  • close growing
  • filamentous (strands longer than 2 inches)

12. WATER COLOR.
Describe the color, if any, of the water in your stream sampling area.

13. WATER ODOR.
If any odor is present, please describe

14. SIGNS OF HUMAN USE.
Describe any observed human uses in your segment. For example, fishing, boating, swimming, water intake or outflows.

15. OTHER COMMENTS. Presence of drainpipes, ditches and other water conveyances, their location and any impact they may be having on the stream. Any other observations you think are important.

16. CHANGES FROM LAST SURVEY.
Describe and significant changes to the sampling area.

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