Friends of the Locust Fork River Workshop

Friends of the Locust Fork River (FLFR), a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was established in early 1991 with a mission to preserve the free-flowing and natural wonder of the Locust Fork River and its tributaries by educating the community, promoting recreation, watchdogging polluters, and advocating for the River.

FLFR empowers people to steward a free-flowing Locust Fork: healthy water in a healthy watershed for the well-being of all.

The Locust Fork River is within the Black Warrior River watershed and flows through Jefferson, Blount, Marshall, and Etowah Counties.

Sergio and Sydney with the AWW Staff conducted a Field Day with FLFR volunteers and got to learn more about the group’s many activities in addition to water monitoring.

Sergio instructs workshop participants on the use of an incubator for bacteriological monitoring.

The group has had active AWW Volunteer Monitors since 1993. Monitors with FLFR have collected 1,123 Water Chemistry Monitoring records and 417 Bacteriological Monitoring records. Historically, the group has had 63 monitors spanning 41 monitoring sites. You can check out their data on the Alabama Water Watch website.

FLFR’s monitors are led by Debra Gordon-Hellman, FLFR’s Water Monitoring Coordinator, who has been with the group for many years prior to starting as a volunteer with AWW in 2008. Since starting monitoring, Debra has collected over 100 Water Chemistry and Bacteriological Monitoring data records!

Contact Debra if you are interested in monitoring on the Locust Fork River!

Debra Gordon-Hellman is the Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator for FLFR. Photo credit: Debra Gordon-Hellman

Sharon and Steve Cook have been committed monitors with Friends of the Locust Fork River since attending their first workshop in September 2003. The couple have collectively submitted over 200 water chemistry data records!

Volunteer Monitors April and Bryan Benefield, who grew up swimming on the river, have conducted bacteriological monitoring at Swann Bridge each month since May 2020.

As part of her volunteer job, Debra posts the test results of all their monitors on FLFR’s FB/Instagram & shares to many county community pages and area canoe clubs, so the public can know if it’s relatively safe to swim and recreate in that area of the river. Social media is a great way to encourage water stewardship.

April recalled one of her favorite monitoring memories: She was monitoring by the bridge when a 9-year old boy approached her to ask what she was doing. When she explained that she was a citizen scientist sampling the water quality, his eyes lit up and he exclaimed he wanted to do the same thing when he grew up!

Volunteer Monitors April and Bryan Benefield featured in a post on FLFR’s Instagram to alert the public of water quality conditions. Photo credit: April and Bryan Benefield.

Swann Covered Bridge, pictured below, is one of the nation’s longest, functional covered bridges. The bridge was built in 1933 and was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1981. The bridge has seen good and bad times, as it was closed for traffic in 2009. After its restoration in 2012, you can drive through the bridge (one car at a time!)

Swann Covered Bridge. Photo credit: Sydney Zinner

FLFR is working on a project under the bridge, to make river access for recreation easier for the public. The group conducts monthly litter clean-ups at the bridge and other sites along the river. If you visit, be sure to leave it better than you found it by picking up trash along the way!

Entrance to Swann Covered Bridge Park near river access. Photo credit: Sydney Zinner

Through their Murals Project, FLFR has an ongoing fundraiser to sponsor “Nature Awareness Murals” throughout Blount County. We spotted the beautiful mural Blue Heron by artist Joan Babcock on the way to Swann Bridge!

If you see this amazing mural at Sullivan’s Auto Service on 37065 AL-79 in Cleveland, AL, snap a pic and post to social media with the hashtag #FLFRBlueHeronMural.

Blue Heron mural by artist Joan Babcock. Photo credit: Sydney Zinner

Sergio and Sydney had the chance to visit Swann Covered Bridge Park with Debra and fellow monitor Brian Dean, and we couldn’t help but put our hands in the water to find some macroinvertebrates.

Photo credit: Sydney Zinner

There’s always plenty of time for an impromptu stream biomonitoring session at Swann Covered Bridge!

If you are interested in supporting or getting involved with Friends of the Locust Fork River as a volunteer, visit their website at

AWW’s Sydney Zinner during FLFR’s December 2021 Field Day. Photo credit: Debra Gordon-Hellman

Do you have photos or videos on the Locust Fork River or any of its tributaries you would like to share with AWW? If so, upload your photo/video through this submission form.

One Reply to “Friends of the Locust Fork River Workshop”

  1. Looks like you guys are having a good time and collecting valuable water data at the same time. When people become involved good things happen! Keep up the good work.

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