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Freestone vs. Limestone

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2010/12/25 19:47
From Marietta, PA
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How in the heck do you tell the difference? I am under the impression that Limestone Creek temperatures are pretty consistent throughout the year. Also, limestone creeks contain more food for the trout. I also think that limestone creeks are harder to fish due to the abundance of food contained therein. But how in the heck can
you tell the difference???? Don't all creeks have "stones"? Argh!

Posted on: 2011/11/28 20:19


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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From Bozeman
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http://www.troutnut.com/topic/805/Freestone-vs-Limestone

That should clear it up a bit for you.

Posted on: 2011/11/28 20:23


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone
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Unforgiven,
Your points about freestone vs limestone are correct. And yes, both have rocks. As a very general rule, limestone streams in PA are characterized by slower flows, small gravel, and lots of underwater weeds. Freestone streams have bigger rocks, faster flows, and few if any weeds. Although not visible to the eye, limestone streams are different chemically in that they tend to be much more alkaline whereas freestoners are more acidic.
Many streams in PA are "blends" between freestone and limestone and they're much harder to differentiate. Overall, freestone streams are much more common across the state. Limestone streams are also more common in certain parts of the state, mostly in the central and eastern sections. Here in Adams County there are virtually no limestone streams.

For example, if you look at my avatar, this is an image of Letort Creek, a famous and typical limestoner: very weedy with few large rocks. If you scroll up to the top of this page, the long photo with the Paflyfish logo is a good example of a larger freestone stream typical of what is common here in PA.

Posted on: 2011/11/28 21:22

Edited by Fishidiot on 2011/11/29 8:50:39


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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Perfect. Thank you Bozeman and Fishidiot.

Posted on: 2011/11/28 21:23


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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From Pretty much everywhere at some point, Thorndale today.
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All of the above is true, but like anything else, it's complicated.

The base definition has to do with water chemistry. Limestone streams flow over or through limestone bedrock, which is water soluble. Thus, the water itself has a very high mineral content, and typically a very high alkalinity. Alkalinity is not pH, rather, it is the resistance to change of the pH. Spring water is typically on the basic side of the pH range, and thus, limestone streams will typically be basic and consistent in their pH.

Also, because limestone is soluble, caves form easily, and streams often flow underground for long distances. This results in LARGE springs in the deepest valleys. With any stream, the closer you are to the springs, the cooler it'll be in the summer, the warmer in the winter. In a limestoner, a sizable stream can be very close to its source springs, and temperature can be more consistent year round. That said, after emergence, they too flow above ground, and as you get farther downstream from the springs the temperature can start to vary like a freestoner.

It is a myth that freestoners are solely composed of runoff. Both limestoners and freestoners have source springs, and runoff can affect both.

However, freestoners flow over non-soluble bedrock. Thus, groundwater runs through soil, not bedrock. And the result is that the springs are much smaller and more numerous, typically higher on the mountainsides instead of down in the valley. This is why smaller freestoners are generally faster/higher gradient, and it's also why freestoners are more prone to a boom/bust flow; the time between rain and coming out in a spring is greatly reduced. But the easy (and proper) way to think of it is that in freestoners, the stream is on the surface much farther up into the headwaters. In limestoners, most of the headwaters are often underground, and the whole stream emerges as one somewhere downstream.

As far as water chemistry, freestoners have far fewer minerals and lower alkalinity. pH can be anywhere from basic to acidic, but it changes easily, so a stream may run basic but then a rainstorm will cause an acid spike. Streams start small and grow slowly, so they travel a long distance before becoming sizable. And because of that, a lower % of the flow at any given point is near to its source springs, causing temperature to vary more. Such streams usually have a "size" cutoff, where streams smaller than a certain size stay cool enough to support trout, but above a certain size warm too much in the summertime for wild trout. In PA, rarely do larger freestoners stay cool enough year-round, thus wild trout fishing is confined to smaller waters.

Sorry if that was too in depth....

Posted on: 2011/11/29 8:44


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone
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Jay, good link, this answer and those that agree and elaborate comes closest to my thinking:


GONZO
June 10th, 2007, 7:30 pm
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"Bear Swamp," PA
Posts: 1636

Shawn,

In angling terms (especially here in PA), the distinction is often a loose one. Some PA streams are easy to classify as one or the other, and some have both characters within their watershed or within the course of the stream. Here in PA, limestone underlies much of what is known as the Great Valley, a long valley that curves southward alongside the Kittatinny Ridge. (The Cumberland Valley is in the southern part of the Great Valley in PA.) Belts of limestone or marble also exist in a number of other locations around the state.

Typically, PA freestones originate on mountainsides and are feed by seeps and hardrock springs. They tend to be more acidic and the hardrock base offers little buffering capacity, making them much more vulnerable to acid rain. They often have waterfalls and extensive pocketwater in areas with a steep drop, or a classic pool-and-riffle configuration. Because of low alkalinity, they are less fertile than the limestoners, but can have a greater variety of aquatic inverts (when healthy).

PA limestone streams might be loosely grouped into three categories: limestone spring creeks, freestone streams that are significantly influenced by limestone tributaries, and freestone streams that flow over a limestone base for part of their length. Of these, limestone spring creeks are the exemplars, and some of these emerge full-blown from high-volume springs that issue from limestone caverns. These caverns or sinkholes can also appear in the course of the stream, causing some to go underground at points along their course.

Classic limestone spring creeks, like the Letort, derive most of their volume from the headwater springs, often have a flat meadow character, host abundant weed growth, and have a more consistent temperature than freestones. Other true limestone spring creeks may have similar origins, but develop an atypical character due to terrain or the influence of non-limestone tribs. Penn's Creek has classic limestone origins, but picks up freestone and limestone tribs along its course and flows through varied terrain, giving it a diverse appearance and very diverse population of inverts. Big Fishing Creek is similarly diverse in terrain and critters. Spring Creek is more classic and has a less diverse assortment of water types and critters. (Some of the lack of critter diversity is also due to pollution, but even in perfect health, it still would not display the diversity of Penn's and Fishing.)

Some of the other streams we call "limestoners" here in PA come by the name through less direct means. These streams are basically freestone in origin, but are changed by the influence of significant limestone feeders or by flowing for some distance over exposed limestone belts. Such streams fit into the limestone category by degrees, and depending upon where you are on the stream, they may or may not display a limestone character.

Posted on: 2011/11/29 8:56
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Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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2011/5/3 12:22
From South Lebanon Township, PA
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Best thread on this subject I've read anywhere. Good info guys.

Posted on: 2011/11/29 9:22


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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From Marietta, PA
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Incredible depth of knowledge, but I think I need to read these
posts another 2 or 3 times :) Thanks!!

Posted on: 2011/11/29 19:05


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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Jack,

I was just going to direct him to that specific post, glad you posted it as I was not sure if I could. That is a great post that sums it up rather nicely with not only differences between limestone and freestone but limstoners and limestone influenced.

Posted on: 2011/11/30 0:03


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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There's a book on Limestone Streams of Pennsylvania by Joseph Armstrong that you might want to check out.


Posted on: 2011/11/30 17:21


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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Quote:

troutbert wrote:
There's a book on Limestone Streams of Pennsylvania by Joseph Armstrong that you might want to check out.



Isn't it damn near impossible to find?

Posted on: 2011/11/30 19:31


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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I got a used copy for like $2 on amazon.

Posted on: 2011/11/30 19:33


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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From Eastern PA
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Quote:

jayL wrote:
I got a used copy for like $2 on amazon.


I did as well. Currently $12 plus $4 shipping used on Amazon.

I don't think the book is that great. You can pull up the info on PFBC website where they give ph, etc.

Posted on: 2011/12/1 0:08


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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From Pretty much everywhere at some point, Thorndale today.
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Quote:
You can pull up the info on PFBC website where they give ph, etc.


I don't know where you get pH, and that'd change so much anyway even if they provided it. I know on the Class A list they give alkalinity. Last category, listed as T_Alk.

It doesn't help you much for non class A streams, but if it's class A, you can deduce quite a bit from that alone.

"Pure" limestoners are generally around 200, and anything even approaching 100 has significant limestone influence.

"Pure" freestoners are all pretty much below 40. But keep in mind that 30-40 is very fertile for a freestoner and often involves a fair bit of farmland and valley soils, even approaching 20 is fairly fertile. In the mountainous/forested areas, the vast majority of freestoners are under 20, and the smaller, higher gradient streams are often in the single digits.

Posted on: 2011/12/1 7:51


Re: Freestone vs. Limestone

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Quote:

jayL wrote:
I got a used copy for like $2 on amazon.


You can get the book through Amazon by clicking the "Fly Fishing Books" link towards the upper right of this website. That brings a little money in for paflyfish.

Posted on: 2011/12/1 16:28



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