Black Warrior River System is the largest watershed wholly within Alabama’s
state boundaries. The river is divided into two sections; its upper portion
lies above the Fall Line at Tuscaloosa, and its lower flatter portion enters
the Tombigbee at Demopolis. The tributaries that contribute to its flow
along the way are numerous and diverse.
Before the Black Warrior earns its name it starts as three of Alabama’s most
significant forks. The largest of these, the Sipsey Fork, is the western
most fork, and flows into the Mulberry Fork, the center prong. These merged
streams flow together until they meet the Locust Fork, the right prong, at
the Jefferson and Walker
line. It is here that they become the
Black Warrior River. The natural union of
these powerful forks has now been submerged under the waters of Bankhead
All of these forks flow through sandstone canyons of the
Cumberland Plateau and
provide some of Alabama’s best whitewater runs and most scenic vistas.
the Black Warrior is unique in that it does not emanate from one source, but
from three primary prongs which come together to give birth to a mighty
Big Mud Creek, Blackburn Fork, Bristow Creek, Calvert Prong,
Cane Creek, Clear Creek, Crooked Creek, Cunningham Creek, Fivemile Creek,
Graves Creek, Gurley Creek, Little Warrior River, Self Creek, Short Creek,
Slab Creek, Turkey Creek, Village Creek, Wynnville Creek
Locust Fork River flows through
counties. Major cities in the region include Gardendale, Forestdale,
Birmingham and Tarrant
Few people are aware that the majority of urbanized
Birmingham drains into tributaries of the Locust Fork River, causing
drains approximately 1,209 miles (6,020 acres). The geology
of the watershed makes it distinctive. The river originates in Marshall,
Etowah and Blount counties and flows along the lip of Sand Mountain. This
mountain is actually a broad plateau roughly ten miles wide and 80 miles
long formed by shifts during Paleozoic time.
the early days the area was sometimes referred to as the Bear Meat Cabin
frontier named after a famous Indian dwelling that served as a trading post.
Locust Fork is considered one of the best whitewater runs available in
Alabama. In Blount County, the river drops more than 500 feet creating up to
Class IV rapids. (Keith)
of the Locust Fork’s most significant subwatersheds is Turkey Creek
County. This small creek serves as the only habitat for the endangered
on the Locust Forks east bank drains south Oneonta and is dammed to form
a source of drinking water for the greater
Blackwater Creek, Bridge Creek, Brindley Creek, Broglen
River, Cane Creek, Copeland Creek, Dorsey Creek, Duck Creek, Eightmile
Creek, Lost Creek, Marriott Creek, Pan Creek, Poley Creek, Sipsey Fork,
Splunge Creek, Tibb Creek, Wolf Creek
the Locust Fork and Mulberry Fork flow through sandstone canyons.
upper Mulberry Fork Watershed includes the
River, Duck River,
and Upper Mulberry Fork. These tributaries harbor 23, 14, and 21 species of
fish respectively with a total of 27 species of fish in this subwatershed.
Diversity drops off markedly in the lower Mulberry and Locust Fork basins,
with at least two dozen fish species “conspicuously absent”. These species
still appear in some of the less impacted headwater tributaries of these
rivers. Industrial development and urban expansion over the last century may
have contributed to the species decline in the lower reaches of these
basins. (Mettee et al. 1996)
sections of the mainstem Mulberry Fork have seen its mussel populations
eliminated. (Hartfield 1990)
Blevens Creek, Borden Creek, Brushy Creek,
Brushy Fork, Caney Creek, Caspey Creek, Clear Creek, Clifty Fork, Crooked
Creek, Hubbard Creek, Jones Creek, Mattox Creek, Right Fork, Rush Creek,
Ryan Creek, Sandy Creek
waters of the
Sipsey Fork River
counties. There are virtually no major cities within the watershed.
Haleyville is in the far western corner, and Cullman lies to the far east.
The Sipsey Fork covers 22,035 acres.
Sipsey Fork River is Alabama’s only National Wild and Scenic River
System. 61 miles of its west fork above Smith
are permanently protected. This section of river is entirely in the
boundaries of the William
tributaries of the the Bankhead National Forest, the Sipsey, Clifty
and Brushy Forks provide a vital refuge for many important fish and
mussel species threatened in less protected habitats of the Black Warrior.
78 species of fish were documented in the Sipsey Fork in 1974, an
incredibly high number for such a small watershed area (Metee et al. 1989).
Sipsi is the Chickasaw-Choctaw name of the poplar or cottonwood tree.
diversity in Sisey Fork tributaries demonstrates 49 species in the mainstem,
23 in Clear Creek, 40 in Clifty Fork, 13 in Brushy Creek and 19 in Crooked
Alabama Power Company completed a hydropower generation dam on the Sipsey
Fork in September 1961 creating a 21,200 acre impoundment known as
The Sipsey Fork upstream of the reservoir is one of Alabama’s healthiest and
most biologically diverse Cumberland Plateau streams.
UPPER BLACK WARRIOR
Big Yellow Creek, Binion Creek, Blue Creek,
Carroll Creek, Cripple Creek, Davis Creek, Hurricane Creek, Mud Creek, North
River, Pyro Creek, Rock Creek, Valley Creek
drains 1,100 square kilometers in Fayette, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties.
The river joins the Warrior at the Fall Line in between Holt and Oliver
dams. Recent mussel samples found 14 species including two endangered
species, the dark pigtoe (Pleurobema furvum) and the orange-nacre
mucket (Lampsilis Perovalis). Two rare mussels known from historic
sampling were not found. The lower North River was impounded in 1969 and
forms Lake Tuscaloosa, which serves as the water supply for the city
of Tuscaloosa. (McGregor) A second impoundment is being considered
for an upstream section of North River.
LOWER BLACK WARRIOR
Big Brush Creek, Big German Creek, Big Prarie
Creek, Big Sandy Creek, Colwell Creek, Cottonwood Creek, Elliotts Creek,
Fivemile Creek, Gant Creek, Little Brush Creek, Little Prairie Creek, Minter
Creek, Polecat Creek, Sparks Creek, Whitsit Creek
Lower Black Warrior tributaries
counties. Major cities in this basin include Moundville, Akron, Eutaw and