Choctawhatchee River

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Choctawhatchee River
Choctawhatcheerivermap.png
Map of Choctawhatchee River
Origin Barbour County, Alabama31°21′40″N 85°33′10″W / 31.3612°N 85.5527°W / 31.3612; -85.5527
Mouth Choctawhatchee Bay30°24′14″N 86°07′25″W / 30.40380°N 86.12355°W / 30.40380; -86.12355
Length 141 miles (227 km)

The Choctawhatchee River is a 141-mile-long (227 km)[1] river in the southern United States, flowing through southeast Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida before emptying into Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The river, the bay and their adjacent watersheds collectively drain 5,350 square miles (13,900 km2).[2]

Overview[edit]

Near Pittman, Holmes County, Florida

The Choctawhatchee originates as two separate forks (East Fork and West Fork) in Barbour County, Alabama; the East Fork flows through Henry County and joins the West Fork in eastern Dale County about four miles (6 km) above Newton. The unified river then flows southwest through Dale and Geneva counties into Florida, collecting tributaries along the way: the Little Choctawhatchee River in Dale County, and the Pea River near Geneva. It then flows south into Florida, terminating at Choctawhatchee Bay.[3] Other Alabama tributaries are Claybank Creek and Tight Eye Creek.[4]

Once in Florida, the river continues southwesterly through Holmes, Walton and Bay counties until reaching its namesake bay. Major tributaries in Florida include Holmes, Wright, Sandy, Pine Log, Seven Run and Bruce creeks.[2] Choctawhatchee Bay empties into the Gulf of Mexico at East Pass near Destin, Florida.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The Choctawhatchee contains several species of fish, including several species of sunfish, channel catfish and spotted bass; other species include Redhorse Suckers and Carp Suckers. Gulf Sturgeon use the river for spawning activities; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collected 522 different sturgeon during a study conducted in October and November 2008; sizes ranged from 1 to 160 pounds.[3] Scientists report sighting sturgeon as far upriver as Newton; they appear to prefer the limestone bottoms for laying their eggs.[5] As recently as the 1920s, sturgeon fishing was a thriving industry in Geneva, with many large fish being caught, packed in barrels, and shipped north.

Twenty-one Aquatic Snails and Freshwater Mussel species exist in the Choctawhatchee, with one of the former and two of the latter found only in this particular river.[3]

Researchers from Auburn University and the University of Windsor, Ontario, reported possible sightings in 2005 and 2006 of ivory-billed woodpeckers along the Choctawhatchee River.[6]

70% of the Choctawhatchee's watershed is forested; the remainder is mostly croplands and pasture.[7] Trees found along the Choctawhatchee include southern pine, beech, magnolia, laurel oak, basswood, Florida maple and American holly. The lower Choctawhatchee contains "pitcher-plant bog" and other swamp habitat, including cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. Alligators have been seen in the river's lower reaches.[8]

Water quality[edit]

The Choctawhatchee has little industry along its banks; consequently it has rather clean water, except for excess turbidity, usually due to runoff from unpaved county roads. The Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management District was instrumental in getting a grant to place gravel on many county roads, which reduced the average turbidity. Illegal dumping of household garbage and animal carcasses is a problem, but not enough of one to seriously affect water quality in the Alabama portion of the river, where water quality is described as "good to very good".[9] This changes somewhat in the Florida section of the river, due to the presence of several wastewater treatment plants, animal-waste sites and erosion. Three of the river's Florida tributaries are described as "polluted" with "waste water effluent".[9]

Flooding[edit]

The Choctawhatchee has not always been on good behavior, having flooded Geneva in the so-called "Lincoln Freshet" of 1865, and the Hoover Flood of 1929. The Lincoln Freshet induced many of the townspeople to move to higher ground approximately a half-mile north, while the Hoover Flood swept away most of the remnants of Old Town Geneva. Damage from subsequent floods has been limited by a WPA-project levee. Areas outside the levee did not fare so well, and were purchased by FEMA after three floods during the 1990s. The March 1990 flood caused over $88 million in damages.[9]

Historical anecdotes[edit]

A natural inland waterway connects Choctawhatchee Bay to Pensacola Bay, making it possible for keelboats and later steamboats to navigate between Pensacola, Florida and Geneva, Alabama, and as far upstream as Newton. The river was a supply route and avenue of commerce for many years, from the time of earliest land patents around Geneva (1841) until the late 1930s. The Bloomer, a 130-ton side-wheeler with high-pressure engines, navigated the route between Geneva and Pensacola in 1857, as did the Brooklyn, which was built in Geneva.

In 1814 Andrew Jackson built a stockade called the "Block House" at the confluence of the East and West forks of the Chocktawhatchee, near Newton.

During the American Civil War, the Confederate-held Bloomer was the object of an 1862 raid by 25 Union soldiers of the 91st New York State Volunteers stationed at Fort Pickens near Pensacola. This attack was led by Lt. James H. Stewart, assisted by Acting Master Elias D. Bruner, of the USS Charlotte (1862), along with Acting Ensign Edward Crissey. This force seized the steamboat in Geneva without firing a shot, and sailed it down the Choctawhatchee to the Bay.[10]

Sam Story, also named Timpoochee Kinnard, was Chief of the Walton County, Florida, band of Euchee (Yuchi) Indians in the early 19th century, who occupied the lands on and to the west of the Choctawhatchee River. His parents were Timothy Kinnard, a white man of Scottish descent, and an unknown Yuchi woman. The chief was a well-known figure in the Florida Panhandle and was highly respected by whites, who migrated to the area in ever-increasing numbers following the 1821 acquisition of Florida from Spain by the United States.

Recreation[edit]

The Choctawhatchee is a popular river with canoeists, although access to the upper portions is difficult. The Canoe-Camping website named the Choctawhatchee "an undiscovered gem", and "a beauty", heartily recommending it to canoeists.[11] Several public access points and camping sites make the river accessible for recreation.

Crossings[edit]

Crossing Carries Image Location ID number Coordinates

Alabama[edit]

US 84.svg US 84
Alabama 92.svg SR 92
Alabama 167.svg SR 167
Alabama 52.svg SR 52 Geneva
Crossing Carries Image Location ID number Coordinates

Florida[edit]

James Riley 'Jim' Paul Bridge Florida 2.svg SR 2 Pittman, Holmes County, Florida
RR bridge CSX P&A Subdivision Choctawatchee River RR bridge03.jpg Caryville, Florida
George L. Dickenson Bridge US 90.svg US 90 Choctawatchee River US 90 bridge04.jpg Caryville, Florida 520149
I-10.svg Interstate 10
Olan Rex Ferguson Bridge Florida 20.svg SR 20 Ebro

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed 15 April 2011
  2. ^ a b http://www.nwfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/choctawhatcheeriver.html, accessed 30 April 2009
  3. ^ a b c http://www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/where/rivers/choc/, accessed 30 April 2009
  4. ^ http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Tributaries.htm, accessed 30 April 2009
  5. ^ http://www.afsbooks.org/x54028xm.html, accessed 30 April 2009
  6. ^ Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Florida Panhandle, accessed 4 July 2007
  7. ^ http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Economy_&_Land_Use.htm, accessed 30 April 2009
  8. ^ http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Physical_Description.htm, accessed 30 April 2009
  9. ^ a b c http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Threats.htm, accessed 30 April 2009
  10. ^ A Federal Raid Into Southeast Alabama, by Allen W. Jones, accessed 30 April 2009
  11. ^ http://www.canoe-camping.org/, accessed 30 April 2009

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 30°24′14″N 86°7′25″W / 30.40389°N 86.12361°W / 30.40389; -86.12361