All About the Coosa River Basin

The Coosa River is shared between Alabama and Georgia, and begins at the confluence of the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers in Rome, Georgia and runs for 280 miles before it joins the Alabama River northeast of Montgomery. The Coosa is one of Alabama’s most developed rivers due to the impoundments along the majority of the river’s main stem.

A rainbow on Logan Martin Lake. Photo Credit: Dana Herren

NOTABLE TRIBUTARIES

CHOCCOLOCCO CREEK

Choccolocco Creek flows through Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, and Talladega Counties. Its waters are home to 70 different types of fish, and is one of the most diverse major tributary in Alabama for snails, clams, and mussels. The Choccolocco Creek is home to the state record redeye bass!

Eight sections of and one unnamed tributary leading to Choccolocco Creek are listed as impaired for various reasons, including Mercury from atmospheric deposition, pathogens, and priority organics from contaminated sediments. One group working on preservation of Choccolocco Creek is a nonprofit named the Choccolocco Creek Watershed.

TERRAPIN CREEK

Terrapin Creek flows from the Talladega National Forest in Cleburne County into Calhoun and then Cherokee County. The Terrapin dumps into the Coosa with what is considered the cleanest water of any of the Coosa’s many tributaries. The creek is well-known for its recreational paddling opportunities and whitewater spots. Anglers can expect excellent fishing opportunities as several types of bass, bluegill, and redbreast sunfish call Terrapin Creek home.

Three sections of Terrapin Creek are listed as impaired due to pathogens (E.coli) from pasture grazing, animal feeding operations, collection system failure, and urban stormwater runoff.

LITTER RIVER

The Little River main stem is formed by the 17 mile-long East Fork and the 25-mile-long West Fork and then flows another 23 miles through Little River Canyon, ultimately entering Weiss Lake. The Little River and its tributaries are designated Outstanding Alabama Waters by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) In fact, the Little River’s water is so clear that it can make fishing difficult. Little River Canyon is one of the most extension canyon and gorge systems in the eastern US, with some cliffs towering 600 feet above the river. A twelve mile stretch of the river falls 1,350 feet over twelve with two waterfalls and Class VI rapids. The Alabama Environmental Council considers Little River one of “Alabama’s Ten Natural Wonders.” The majority of the Little Rivers runs along the top of Lookout Mountain within the National Park Service’s Little River Canyon National Preserve, created in 1992.

The rocky streambed of the Little River. Photo Credit: Sergio RuizCordova

LAKES OF THE COOSA

Much of the main stem of the Coosa River is a leapfrog formation of impounded lakes. The main six Coosa lakes are highlighted below.

WILDLIFE

While the Coosa is the largest and most biodiverse subwatershed of the Mobile River Basin, The Coosa River is infamous for being the home of one of the largest extinction events in 20th century North America. The construction of the dams along the Coosa River caused the extinction of more than 30 freshwater species. Due to said dams and limited free-flowing mainstem habitat, much of the remaining faunal diversity in the Coosa Basin is restricted to the tributaries of the Coosa.

The Pygmy Sculpin, an Alabama endemic (meaning it only occurs in Alabama), was first described in 1968. As its name implies, it is a small fish that only reaches 1.5 inches in length. The Pygmy Sculpin was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1989. In fact, this species is only know to inhabit a single tributary of Choccolocco Creek: Coldwater Spring and its associated spring run.

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