Map of Choctawhatchee River
|Origin||Barbour County, Alabama|
|Length||141 miles (227 km)|
The Choctawhatchee River is a 141-mile-long (227 km) 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 watersheads collectively drain 5,350 square miles (13,900 km2).
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. Other Alabama tributaries Claybank Creek and Tight Eye Creek.
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. Choctawhatchee Bay empties into the Gulf of Mexico at East Pass near Destin, Florida.
Flora and fauna
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. Scientists report sighting Sturgeon as far upriver as Newton; they appear to prefer the limestone bottoms to lay their eggs on. 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.
70% of the Choctawhatchee's watershed is forested; the remainder comprises mostly croplands and pasture. 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.
The Choctawhatchee has essentially no industry along its banks; consequently it has rather clean water, except for excess turbidity which usually arises from 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 helped the turbidity a good deal. 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". 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".
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.
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.
In 1862, the Bloomer became the subject of a raid by twenty-five 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 managed to seize the steamboat in Geneva and sail it back down the Choctawhatchee without firing a shot.
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 acquisition of Florida by the United States from Spain in 1821.
The Choctawhatchee is a popular river with canoeists, although the upper portions can be hard to get to. The Canoe-Camping website named the Choctawhatchee "an undiscovered gem", and "a beauty", heartily recommending it to canoeists. Several public access points and camping sites make the river accessible to fishermen, canoeists and campers.
|James Riley 'Jim' Paul Bridge||SR 2||Pittman, Holmes County, Florida|
|RR bridge||CSX P&A Subdivision||Caryville, Florida|
|George L. Dickenson Bridge||US 90||Caryville, Florida||520149|
|Olan Rex Ferguson Bridge||SR 20||Ebro|
- U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed April 15, 2011
- http://www.nwfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/choctawhatcheeriver.html. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- http://www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/where/rivers/choc/. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Tributaries.htm. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- http://www.afsbooks.org/x54028xm.html. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Florida Panhandle - Retrieved July 4, 2007
- http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Economy_&_Land_Use.htm. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Physical_Description.htm. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- http://www.riversofalabama.org/Choctawhatchee/CW_Threats.htm. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- A Federal Raid Into Southeast Alabama, by Allen W. Jones. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- http://www.canoe-camping.org/. Retrieved on 2009-04-30.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Choctawhatchee River
- Choctawhatchee River information