hellbenders rock

Hellbender Home Wrecker? Not Me!


An Eastern Hellbender.
Photo credit: Twan Leenders

Hellbender Homewreckers

You may be a hellbender home wrecker and not even know it. But first what the hell is a hellbender, also affectionately called snot otters?  This saga begins as a love story.  A what?

Last fall, my sister Corrie Woods, who happens to be the marketing brilliance behind Lichty Guitars, posted a photo on Facebook. When hiking in one of our North Carolina National Forests, she came across stacks of rocks in a river. After posting a picture of the rock stacks, Nancy MacDonald, a friend of ours, commented on why she and her husband stopped stacking stones. Not only did her comment catch our attention but she included a link to a video which knocked our rocks off.  You’ll see a stone sculptor theme throughout our blogs. Catchy, yes?

Hellbender home wrecking by rock stacking

Hellbender home wrecker? Stacking rocks can be a death sentence for a hellbender. Photo: Corrie Woods


The video, “The Last Dragons-Protecting Appalachia’s Hellbenders” introduced us to an incredible prehistoric salamander, the hellbender,  which lives in our rivers along the East coast of the US. Growing to over 2 feet long, their populations have significantly declined for a number of reasons, one of which is stone stacking. You see, hellbenders live under rocks in rivers. And they love their rock homes and rarely stray far. Move their rock, they can literally die. (see Did You Know Hellbenders for more info).

 Falling in Love

But back to the video, one look, very much like the first time Dale and I met, was all it took. We were in love! Then we discovered the WNC Nature Center in Asheville has a live one and of course, we had to go see him. And yes, we confirmed it is a him. Next thing we knew, Dale was looking at a big, old piece of alabaster he had in his rock pile and announced: “there is a hellbender in there”.

A hellbender home

A very cute hellbender carved by Dale.

After several months of stone chiseling, grinding, sanding and a lot of stone dust, here he is. And by the way, we named it “Hellbenders Rock”. How fitting!

Save my Hellbender Home!

 So if you happen to be hiking, the hellbenders politely request you not move their rocks. You really don’t want to be labeled a  home wrecker, do you? And if you happen to be visiting a nature center or zoo, see if they have hellbenders. You will definitely impress your neighbors with photos of this cool looking animal.