All about the Alabama River Basin

The Alabama River is considered the heart river of the state. The Alabama is the state’s longest river, flowing for 315 miles and draining 11% of the state in 18 counties. The Alabama River is formed by the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers just north of Montgomery. The mighty river begins at the Fall Line, an imaginary line demarcating the area of Alabama’s ancient coastline. The Alabama River serves as the unifier of Alabama’s Eastern Rivers, the Coosa and Tallapoosa and her western rivers, the Cahaba, Black Warrior and Tombigbee.

Free-flowing, or un-impounded, sections of the river show many high bluffs formed as the chalky soils of the Black Belt were carved away. Pictured above is Hatcher Bluff (estimated to be 350 feet high in 1925) along the Blackwell Bend of the main stem of the Alabama River near Sardis, AL.

NOTABLE TRIBUTARIES

AUTAUGA CREEK

Autauga Creek runs through Prattville, Alabama, home to the Daniel Pratt Gin Factory founded by the famous Alabamian Daniel Pratt in the 1830’s. After the Civil War, Pratt became the first millionaire in the South.

CATOMA CREEK

Catoma Creek, near the city of Montgomery, is known for its fossils including a famous Mastodon tooth found in 2005.

DAMS ON THE ALABAMA

Development of the Alabama River for improved navigation began in 1963. The navigation system now consists of three locks and dams at Claiborne, Millers Ferry, and Robert F. Henry and provides for a nine foot deep channel from Mobile to near Wetumpka. Millers Ferry and Robert F. Henry allow for the production of hydroelectric power.

Claiborne Lock and Dam created Claiborne Lake, the state’s smallest reservoir at 5,930 acres with 216 miles of shoreline.

WILDLIFE

Up to 144 species of fish have been documented from the Alabama River subbasin. Species of concern include the Blue Sucker, Alabama Shad, Southern Walleye, Paddlefish, Gulf Sturgeon, and Alabama Sturgeon. The Alabama Sturgeon and a number of important mussel species rely on the stretch of river below Claiborne Lock and Dam which is the last, largely unregulated, big river habitat in Alabama.

The Alabama Sturgeon is critically endangered species endemic to the lower reaches of the Alabama River. It has distinctive characteristics including boney back plates, a yellowish-brown color, and a 2 – 2.5 foot long, slender body.

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