The Escatawpa River is a 129-mile long river in southwest Alabama and southeast Mississippi that originates in the town of Millry, AL. It is a tributary of the Pascagoula River that ultimately drains into the Gulf of Mexico at Pascagoula Bay. The Escatawpa flows through two counties in Alabama: Washington and Mobile. Escatawpa means “where cane is cut” in the Choctaw language. Cane refers to the Southeast’s native bamboo, Arundinaria spp. also known as rivercane.
The Perdido River is a 65-mile long river in southwest Alabama and northwest Florida. The Perdido forms the western boundary between Alabama and Florida for almost its entire length, ultimately draining into the Perdido Bay of the Gulf of Mexico. Its headwaters begin in Escambia County, AL northwest of the town of Atmore, flows into Baldwin County, AL, and shares the state line with Escambia County, FL. Perdido means “lost” in Spanish and was named by Spanish settlers who occupied the area until 1813.
The Escatawpa and Perdido Rivers are both found in the Coastal Plain physiographic region.
The Escatawpa River is known as the “Dog River” to many locals. The Escatawpa has a rapid transition from freshwater to brackish waters in its lower reaches. In the 1980’s, the National Park Service conducted an investigation to designate the Escatawpa as an official “Wild and Scenic River”. Strong, local opposition resulted in the National Park Service not pursuing designation of the select, 74-mile stretch of the Escatawpa.
The Perdido is considered the highest quality free-flowing blackwater river remaining in the southern Coastal Plain. It has sandy bottoms and a deep, slow moving channel flowing through forested swamps and wetlands, including pitcher plant bogs, slash pine flatwoods, marsh wetlands, upland longleaf pine savannahs, and rare Atlantic white cedar stands. At the mouth of the Perdido River lies the Perdido Bay – a shallow estuary enclosed by barrier islands and a small inlet known as the Perdido Pass.
WATER QUALITY CONCERNS
In the Escatawpa Basin, 85 miles of waterbodies are listed as impaired under the Alabama Department of Environmental Management 303(d) List of Impaired Waters, including the Escatawpa River, Big Creek Lake, Boggy Branch, Collins Creek, Hamilton Creek, and Puppy Creek. Five of these waterbodies are listed as impaired by heavy metals such as mercury, lead, iron, and arsenic, while one waterbody is listed for pathogen (E.coli) impairment due to pasture grazing.
There are currently no active Alabama Water Watch Volunteer Monitoring sites active in the Escatawpa River Basin.
In the Perdido River Basin, 81 miles of waterbodies are listed as impaired under the Alabama Department of Environmental Management 303(d) List of Impaired Waters, including Boggy Branch, Dyas Creek, Brushy Creek, Styx River, Blackwater River, Perdido River, Wolf Creek, and Sandy Creek.
Nine of these waterbodies are listed as impaired by metals such as mercury and lead and five waterbodies are listed for pathogens (E.coli and Enterococcus) impairment due to pasture grazing, atmospheric deposition, and collection system failure.
There are currently 15 active Alabama Water Watch monitoring sites in the Perdido River Basin.
NOTABLE SUBJECTS, AREAS & EVENTS
Spanish Artifacts and European Influence
Spanish artifacts found in the Perdido River Basin, including coins and guns, suggested the Perdido River and Bay were used by smugglers avoiding Spanish custom duties during the Colonial period. Many of these artifacts date back to the 1500’s. The town of Perdido Beach was a historical rendezvous point for pirates. Many a story of buried treasure circulate regarding the Perdido Key and immediate areas.
Interstate Mullet Toss
Perdido Key is home to the infamous Interstate Mullet Toss along the Alabama/Florida line. Participants throw a dead mullet over the state line, with the farthest toss taking home the prize. This event is always held the last full weekend in April and is considered the “Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party”.
Big Creek Lake
Big Creek Lake is west of Mobile Bay. This 3,600-acre impoundment of Big Creek, a tributary of the Escatawpa River, serves as a primary drinking water source for the city of Mobile.
The Escatawpa and Perdido River Basins are home to a mixture of freshwater, anadromous, and, at the bottom of the basin, saltwater fish species. Some fish you may encounter include the striped bass, chain pickerel, longear sunfish, longnose gar, skipjack herring, hogchoker, and the rainwater killifish.
The Perdido Key beach mouse is a federally endangered species found none other than Perdido Key. This mouse has gray fur on its back extending between the eyes with white cheeks, tail, and belly. The beach mouse eats dune plant seeds and insects. The Perdido Key beach mouse inhabits the coastal dunes along Perdido Key in Baldwin County, AL and Escambia County, Florida only. Beach mice populations are threatened by coastal development that degrade or destroy sand dunes as well as increased foot traffic on dunes.
The endangered Alabama red-bellied turtle can be found in the lower Pascagoula River and its tributaries, including the Escatawpa River. The Alabama red-bellied turtle is the state reptile of Alabama. These turtles are found in shallow, vegetated blackwater streams, rivers, bays, and bayous in or near Mobile Bay. They are herbivores, predominately feeding on submerged, aquatic macrophytes (i.e. hydrilla, eel-grass, arrowhead, and mud plantain).
West Indian manatees, the Alabama state marine mammal, have been seen for decades in the Lower Perdido Bay. Due to indications that manatees were traveling to and using habitat in Alabama and nearby waters more often in recent years, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) initiated the West Indian Manatee Study. The public can report manatee sightings to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Manatee Sighting Network.
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