at 

Arrowhead Environmental  

Education Center

May 20. 2017 • Armuchee, GA

 

*Environmental Quiz Bowl

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Sponsored by

Georgia Department of Natural Resources / Floyd County Schools

The Upper Coosa River Basin

E.Q.

 

Bowl*

What’

s  Your 

E.Q.?

Vocabulary

• Algal bloom-The rapid excessive growth of algae, 

generally caused by high nutrient levels and favor-

able conditions. Can result in de-oxygenation of the 

water mass when the algae die, leading to the death of 

aquatic flora and fauna. Algal blooms are numerous 

on the Coosawattee River and Carters Lake. Scientists 

believe the blooms are caused by run off from chicken 

farms. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen and phos-

phorus—nutrients that cause algae to grow.

• Best management practices- techniques that help 

prevent non-point source 

pollution and minimize 

impacts on streams and 

soils, for example, silt fences 

and retention ponds at 

construction sites and stream 

buffers at timber and farm 

operations.

• Biodiversity-the variety of 

species found in specific 

habitats. The Coosa River 

is home to more than 147 

species of fish and has the 

largest diversity worldwide of 

freshwater snails and mussels, 

despite the documented 

disappearance of numerous 

mollusk species. The Coosa 

River is the historic home 

of 82 different species of 

freshwater snails, 26 of which 

are now believed to be extinct. 

The Etowah River has more 

imperiled species than any other river system of its size 

in the southeastern United States (17 fish spe cies and 

16 invertebrate species). 

• Biological oxygen demand (BOD)- amount of 

oxygen consumed by microorganisms and chemicals 

in breaking down organic matter. 

• Condensation- the process of gas changing to liquid.
• Conductivity--Conductivity is a measurement of 

water’s ability to conduct an electric current and 

is a general measurement for water quality. The 

conductivity of a stream depends upon the presence 

of inorganic dissolved solids such as chloride, nitrate, 

sulfate, and phosphate or sodium, magnesium, 

calcium, iron, and aluminum. Presence of these 

inorganic solids will result in high conductivity in 

water. Organic compounds like oil, phenol, alcohol, 

and sugar do not conduct electrical current very well 

and therefore have a low conductivity when in water. 

Each stream tends to have a relatively constant range 

of conductivity that, once established, can be used as 

a baseline for comparison with regular conductivity 

measurements. Significant changes in conductivity 

could then be an indicator that a discharge or some 

other source of pollution has entered a stream.  

Riverkeepers sometimes use this measurement to track 

down pollution problems. 

• Confluence- the point at which 

rivers or streams meet, ex. Heritage 

Park where the Oostanaula and 

Etowah meet to form the Coosa.
• Dissolved oxygen-amount of 

oxygen measured in the water, 

adequate levels of dissolved oxygen 

are needed to support aquatic life. 

This is an important water quality 

measurement that helps determine 

the health of a stream or river.
• Erosion- wearing away of land by 

wind, water, or ice
• Estuary-An enclosed or semi-

enclosed coastal body of water having 

an open or intermittently open 

connection to marine waters and 

fresh input from land runoff which 

measurably reduces salinity. Water 

levels vary in response to ocean tides 

and river flows. These are important 

areas because they provide habitat for 

seafoods like oysters, shrimps and crabs.

• Evaporation- the process of a liquid changing to a gas.
• Fecal coliform- group of bacteria that may indi cate 

the presence of human fecal matter in the water.

• Floodplain- The portion of a river valley next to 

the river channel which is or has been periodically 

covered with water during flooding. Much of Rome is 

built in the floodplain of the Coosa River. Before the 

construction of levees and Allatoona Dam, downtown 

Rome flooded periodically.

• Headwaters-The source of a stream. The headwa-

ters of the Coosa River are located in the Blue Ridge 

Robert Redden pedestrian bridge at the confluence 

of the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers. 

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Mountains of North Central Georgia and in the Co-

hutta Mountains of Northwest Georgia and Southeast 

Tennessee. These tiny streams form larger streams, 

which form the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers, which 

meet in Rome to form the Coosa. A drop of rain that 

falls in the Cohutta Wilderness might follow this path 

to Rome and beyond: Jack’s River> Conasauga River> 

Oostanaula River> Coosa River> Alabama River> 

Mobile River> Mobile Bay> Gulf of Mexico.

• Interbasin transfer- physical transfer of water from 

one river basin to another. In the Coosa River Basin, 

water is taken from the Etowah River and transferred 

to the Chattahoochee River Basin for use in Atlanta.

• Levee- An embankment or raised area that keeps water 

from moving from one place to another. Le vees are 

usually built to prevent flooding. The City of Rome is 

protected from flooding by an extensive levee which 

stretches more than a mile down the Oostanaula and 

Coosa rivers. While levees prevent flooding in some 

areas, they contribute to flooding in other areas. 

• Nitrogen- another nutrient that can cause high levels 

of plant growth if high amounts are in the water, gets 

into water mainly from fertilizers

• Non point source pollution- pollution that cannot 

be tied to a single identifiable source. This pollution 

reaches our waterways when rainfall washes over 

the land and picks up pollutants. Non-point source 

pollution includes oil and heavy metals from roads 

and parking lots, fertilizer and pesticides from home 

gardens and farms, dirt washing off construction sites, 

drink cans, cups, bottles, fecal matter 

from domestic and wild animals, and 

toxins washing off industrial sites.

• PCBs-Polychlorinated Biphenyls- a 

toxic compound found in industrial 

waste. PCBs have been found in the 

Oostanaula River, Coosa River, Little 

Dry Creek and Horseleg Creek as 

a result of toxic PCB runoff from 

the General Electric Plant in Rome. 

PCBs cause cancer in animals and 

studies show that PCBs also cause 

cancer in humans. Many fish caught 

from the waterways in the Coosa 

River Basin are not safe to eat due to 

PCB contamination. The most common 

way that humans become contaminated 

with PCBs is by eating contaminated  

fish. PCBs were used at the Gen eral 

Electric plant from 1953 until 1977. The federal 

government banned the use of PCBs.

• pH--is a measure of the acidic or basic (alkaline) nature 

of a water. The concentration of the hydrogen ion 

[H+] activity determines the pH. pH is measured on 

a scale of 0 to 14. Neutral water has a pH of 7. Acidic 

water has pH values less than 7, with 0 being the most 

acidic. Likewise, basic water has values greater than 7, 

with 14 being the most basic. A pH range of 6.0 to 9.0 

appears to provide protection for the life of freshwater 

fish and macro invertebrates.

• Phosphorous-a nutrient that can cause high levels of 

bacteria and algae if high amounts are in the water, 

caused by agricultural runoff or wastewater

• Point source pollution- pollution originating 

from a single source, such as a pipe from 

a wastewater treatment facility. Once the 

leading cause of water pol lution in the country, 

point source pollution http://www.coosa.org/

DeeratDuckPondforHolidayCardLowRes.jpg has been 

corrected to a large degree during the past 30 years 

because of the Clean Water Act.

• Precipitation- moisture that falls from the sky
• Recycling- the process of collecting, sorting, and 

processing old materials into new materials. One of 

the largest users of recycled plastic bottles is Mohawk 

Industries located in Summerville, which turns plastic 

bottles into material used to make carpets.

• Reservoirs - a man-made lake or large body of water. 

The only natural lake in the state of Georgia is Banks 

Efforts by CRBI and other citizen groups to save the 80 acre Burwell Creek 

property in Rome from development resulted in over 70 acres being protected 

as urban greenspace by the Georgia Land Trust. The “Duck Pond” (above) is 

part of the remaining several acres that will be filled and developed. 

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Lake in South Georgia. All other lakes in Georgia 

are created by dams. The Coosa River is dammed six 

times and there are dams on both the Etowah River 

(Allatoona Dam) and the Coosawattee (Carters Dam). 

Man-made lakes on the Coosa include Weiss Lake, 

H. Neely Henry Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lay Lake, 

Mitchell Lake, and Jordan Lake

• Riparian zone - The zone adjacent to a water body 

where vegetation and natural ecosys tems benefit from 

and are influenced by the passage and storage of water. 

• Sediment - Sand, clay, silt, pebbles and organic 

material carried and deposited by water or wind. Sedi-

mentation is the process by which sediment is deposit-

ed e.g. in waterways. Sediment is currently the leading 

cause of water pollution in Georgia.

• Stream buffers - areas along streams that cannot 

be disturbed. They are designed to keep sediment 

and other pollutants from reaching the stream. In 

Georgia, all streams are protected by a 25-foot buffer. 

Plants and trees within this 25-foot buffer cannot be 

destroyed without special permission from the state. 

• Tributary- a stream that flows into a larger stream or 

body of water. Although small in size compared to 

the main body of a major river, small tributaries make 

up more than 80 percent of the total stream and river 

miles in the nation. 

• Water conservation- the care, protection, preser-

vation, and wise use of water, like taking short show-

ers, turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth 

and watering your lawn early in the morning or at 

night rather than during the middle of the day.

• Water cycle- continuous recycling of water on earth 

through evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. 

The water currently found on Earth is the same water 

that was on the Earth millions of years ago. Yes, 

tyran nosaurus rex drank the same water you drink. 

• Watershed-The land from which surface runoff drains 

into a stream channel, lake reservoir or other body of 

water, also called a drainage basin.

• Wetland -Area of seasonal, intermittent or per manent 

waterlogged soils or inundated land, whether natural 

or otherwise, fresh or saline, e.g. lake, swamp, damp 

land. Wetlands are important for clean water because 

they collect water and pollutants and store them. 

Wetlands help maintain flows in rivers and streams 

during droughts and they help reduce flooding during 

periods of heavy rainfall.

Wildlife

Invertebrates

• Caddisfly - Aquatic insects that look like a green 

worm and live in a case attached to rocks. It is intoler-

ant of changes to a stream brought on by pollution. If 

your stream has caddisflies, that’s an indication that it 

is a healthy stream.

• Crayfish -A freshwater crustacean that resembles a 

lobster, crayfish hide beneath rocks and other debris 

on the streambed. They feed at night on snails, algae, 

insect larvae, worms, and tadpoles; some eat vegeta-

tion (various water plants). Dead fish, worms, corn, 

and salmon eggs are also favorites of the crayfish. 

They usually move slowly, but a flip of the tail sends a 

crayfish speeding through the water to escape danger. 

Coosawattee crayfish

 is a crayfish found nowhere in 

the world except the Coosawattee River Basin—a 

headwaters tributary of the Coosa.

Conasauga Blue Burrower Crayfish

—this blue 

crayfish inhabit a system of tunnels that may be 

very complex with several openings to the surface.  

Openings to the tunnels are often marked by piles 

of dirt or mud pellets (chimneys).  Depending 

on the soil type and moisture content, these 

chimneys can reach heights of 6 inches or more. 

The Blue Burrower is listed by the State of Georgia 

as endangered and is known to exist in only one 

location along the Conasauga River. 

• Earthworms-Working one acre of land, earth worms 

can create an inch of top soil every five years. Without 

earthworms, soil becomes compacted, air and water 

can’t circulate in it, and plant roots can’t pen etrate it. 

Earthworms help water filter through the soil. 

• Interrupted Rocksnail - This rare snail was thought 

to be extinct until it was discovered in the 1990s on 

the Oostanaula River. Today, scientists are breeding 

rocksnails in laboratories and restoring them to 

portions of the Coosa River Basin. Like mussels, 

snails are important for clean water. Rocksnails, like 

mussels, help keep our rivers clean, feeding off algae 

on rocks. They also become food for a host of other 

critters such as ducks, fish and turtles. The interrupted 

rocksnail is now listed as an endangered species. 

• Macro invertebrates - These aquatic organisms lack 

an internal skeleton and are large enough to be seen 

with the naked eye. They include mayflies, stoneflies, 

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dragonflies, rat-tailed maggots, scuds, snails, and 

leeches. These organisms may spend all or part of their 

lives in water; usually their immature phases (larvae 

and nymphs) are spent entirely in water. The presence 

of certain macro invertebrates in a stream can be used 

to determine the health of a stream.

• Mayfly - Aquatic insect with feathery gills and a long 

tail. It is an intolerant species as well. Mayflies are an 

indication that a stream is healthy.

• Mussels - Mussels are natural filtration systems 

that help keep freshwater clean and clear. Georgia 

has 98 species of mussels, the most diverse mussel 

fauna of the 50 states. Eleven species native to the 

Coosa basin are currently listed or proposed for 

listing as endangered or threatened. 13 species are 

now ex tinct! Some of the species that are listed as 

threatened or endangered are the upland combshell, 

southern clubshell, finelined pocketbook, triangular 

kidneyshell, Alabama moccasinshell.

  Mussels have a unique life cycle. Fertilized eggs called 

“glochidia” are released to the water and become 

attached to the gills of fish where they remain until 

they mature into juvenile mussels. Once the mussels 

reach the right size, they drop off the fish gills, fall 

to the river bottom and mature into adults. By this 

method, mussels populate other portions of a river 

system.  In order to insure that the glochidia become 

attached to fish gills, the female mussels will often 

extend fleshy “lures” from their shell to attract fish. 

Many of the lures resemble small fish. When the larger 

fish come in close to examine the lures, or strike the 

lures, the mussel releases her glochidia into the water. 

Instead a meal, the fish get gills full of glochidia. 

  Because they filter nutrients out of the water, mussels 

literally help “clean” our rivers. Our rivers don’t flow 

as clean as they once did, partly because there are 

fewer mussels in our rivers. 

  There are fewer mussels in our rivers today because of 

pollution, and because the fish that are needed to host 

the glochidia are no longer found in abundance. Many 

mussels have adapted to using only a certain kind of 

host fish. If that host fish disappears from the river 

system, the mussels will soon follow. 

  Washboard Mussel

 - Common to the Oostanaula 

River, washboards are large, heavy shelled, multi-

ridged mussels that can grow to the size of a dinner 

plate (12 inches). Its shell is in high demand for the 

production of cultured pearls. Spherical pieces of the 

shell of the washboard mussel are inserted into a host 

  mollusk that then coats the “pearl” with the nacre that 

turns the former mussel shell into a shining pearl that 

you’d wear around your neck.  

 
Pistolgrip Mussel

 - A common mussel found in the 

Oostanaula and Conasauga rivers.  Pistolgrips are 

easy to identify because of their unique shape. They 

can be held in the hand much like a pistol. They can 

grow to be 8 inches in length. Like most mussels, 

pistolgrips rely on fish to host their “glochidia” 

(baby mussels). In the case of Pistolgrips, their 

preferred hosts are catfish. 

Three-horned Wartyback Mussel

 - A common 

mussel found in the Oostanaula and Conasauga 

rivers. You’ll often found mounds of wartyback 

mussels at the entrances to otter dens along the 

banks of the river. They are a favorite food of otters. 

This mussel gets its name from its thick, heavy shell 

that has three large humps, or warts, on it.  It grows 

to a size of 2-4 inches in length. 

 
Corbicula

 - This non-native species is now the most 

common mussel found in the Upper Coosa River 

Basin. It is brown to yellow in color and very small 

compared with native mussels, growing to more 

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than 1-2 inches in length. It was first introduced to 

U.S. waters in 1938 in the Columbia River in the 

Pacific Northwest. Since then, the species has spread 

to all of the US. It reproduces rapidly and unlike 

native mussels, is very tolerant of different stream 

conditions. For this reason, it is the only mussel 

that is found in the mainstem of the Etowah River 

below Allatoona Dam. Changes to the river ecology 

as a result of the operation of Allatoona Dam have 

eliminated all native species from the river.  The 

introduction of corbicula to U.S. rivers has been 

a blessing and a curse. While they have caused 

damage to pipes at industrial facilities, they have 

also replaced native mussels as a food source for 

other animals as native mussels have succumbed to 

pollution and other alterations to their habitat. 

• Rat-tailed maggots - These 3/4 inch long whitish 

larvae are different from other fly maggots in having 

a 1/2 inch long “tail” that is used as a breathing tube 

when they are in the water. They thrive in even pollut-

ed streams. If your stream has these larvae, but no 

mayflies or caddis flies, your stream may be polluted.

• Water penny - An aquatic beetle larvae, this has a flat 

saucer body and 6 tiny legs on its underside. 

Birds 

• Anhingas - A common resident of southern swamps, 

they are often called water turkeys or snake birds 

because of their swimming habits. Anhingas swim 

lower in the water than other waterfowl (usually with 

just the neck and head above the water line) because of 

denser bones and wet plumage. You’ll often spot them 

sunning themselves on trees with wings outstretched 

in an effort to dry them. For food, they dive for fish, 

spearing them with the beak. In addition to being 

proficient swimmers, they are also excellent soarers 

and have been spotted several thousand feet in the air. 

• Bald Eagle - Bald eagles can be found on the Coosa 

River at Weiss Lake and occasionally along the 

Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers. The Bald Eagle has 

been the national emblem of the United States since 

1782 and a spiritual symbol for native people for 

far longer than that. Once endangered by hunting 

and pesticides, Bald Eagles have flourished under 

protection. Though considered very regal looking 

birds, their behavior is often less than noble.  While 

they will hunt and capture live prey, they more often 

obtain their food by harassing and stealing food from 

other birds (like the Osprey) or by dining on carrion. 

• Canada Geese- A familiar and widespread goose in 

the Coosa River Basin with a black head and neck, 

white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast and brown 

back. They often congregate in large numbers in rivers 

and in open areas including lawns and fields where 

they feed on seeds. Because they prefer their nests 

to have an open view around them, they often build 

nests on islands in our rivers. 

• Great Blue Heron - This tall, shore bird (over three-

feet tall) hunts by standing in shallow waters and 

waiting for its prey to come to it. It has a wing span 

of about 70 inches, making it the largest water bird 

found in the Coosa Basin.

• Green Heron - A small, stocky wading bird reaching 

lengths of 18 inches, the Green Heron is common 

along rivers and streams in the Coosa Basin. The 

Green Heron is one of the few tool-using birds. It 

often drops bait onto the surface of the water and 

grabs the small fish that are attracted. It uses a variety 

of baits and lures, including crusts of bread, insects, 

earthworms, twigs, or feathers. It feeds on small fish, 

invertebrates, insects, frogs, and other small animals.

• Kingfisher - You’ll often hear this bird’s rattling cackle 

before you see it. It has a crested head and a large bill 

with blue wings, back and breast band. It feeds on 

small fish, aquatic insects and macro invertebrates. 

• Osprey - This “fish hawk” feeds almost exclusively 

on live fish which they catch by diving into local 

rivers and lakes. Ospreys have a wingspan of 4 to 6 

feet, build large nests above water in large trees or 

artificial platforms and are excellent hunters. The bald 

eagle often steals the osprey’s hard-earned catches by 

attacking the ospreys while in flight, forcing them to 

drop their fish. Ospreys are common to all portions of 

the Coosa River Basin.

• Owls - Our only nocturnal birds of prey are the owls.  

In the Coosa Basin we have four native species of 

owl. Owls eyes see only in black and white but are 

extremely sensitive to low light conditions, allowing 

them to fly through the woods chasing prey in the 

middle of the night.  Owls’ hearing is particularly 

acute, allowing them to pinpoint the location of 

their prey before they can even see it.  Owls are also 

well known for their ability to fly almost completely 

silently, allowing them to sneak up on their prey.

  Barn Owl - has a distinctive heart-shaped face. 

Barred Owl 

- This medium to large owl has a very 

distinctive call often described as “Who cooks for 

you, who cooks for you all?”. An opportunistic forager 

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its diet includes small rodents, opossums, birds, bats, 

frogs, crayfish, and other small animals... even fish. 

Eastern Screech Owl

 - our most common owl in 

Georgia. This small owl nests in natural cavities and 

must compete with starlings, squirrels and other 

animals for these nesting sites.  

Great Horned Owl 

- This large owl is a predator on 

many small mammals, especially mice and rabbits. It 

is named for its ear-like tufts of feathers.

• Wild Turkey - Common throughout the Coosa 

River Basin, the wild turkey was almost hunted 

to extinction by the early 1900s. Conservation 

efforts implemented after the 1930s have resulted 

in a dramatic increase in populations. By 2000, 

the nationwide population was estimated at 5.6 

million, according to the National Wild Turkey 

Federation. Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the wild 

turkey to be named our national symbol instead 

of the bald eagle.  He thought the turkey a more 

noble and beautiful bird than the thieving, carrion 

eating bald eagle. Turkeys feed on nuts, seeds, fruits, 

insects, and salamanders and are commonly seen in 

floodplain forests along the river. And, they do fly…on 

wingspans of more than four feet. 

• Wood Duck - The Wood Duck is one of the most 

stunningly pretty of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent 

chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly 

every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive 

profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. They 

live in wooded swamps, and nest in holes in trees or in 

nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one 

of the few duck species equipped with strong claws 

that can grip bark and perch on branches.

Mammals

• Gray Myotis Bat- This bat is critically endangered 

in Georgia. It once flourished in caves all over the 

southeastern United States, but due to human 

disturbance, Gray Bat populations  declined severely 

during the early and mid portion of the 20th century. 

Gray Bat populations were estimated at approximately 

2 million bats around the time they were placed 

on the Endangered Species list. By the early 1980s 

populations of Gray Bats dropped to 1.6 million. 

With conservation efforts in place, in 2002, Gray 

Bat populations were estimated to have reached 

2.3 million bats.  Gray Bats are cave obligate (or 

cave dependent) bats, meaning that with very few 

exceptions (in which cave-like conditions are created 

in man-made structures) Gray Bats only live in caves, 

not in abandoned barns or other structures. Thus, any 

disturbance to these cave habitats can be extremely 

detrimental to Gray Bat populations.

• River Otter - Found throughout the ba sin, these 

creatures are known for their playfulness. They like to 

slide down muddy banks in the summer and icy slides 

in the winter. They eat fish which they catch while 

swimming underwater. Their web feet and strong tails 

help them swim. They communicate with one another 

through chirps, chatters, chuckles and screams.

• Beaver - A nocturnal animal and North America’s 

largest rodent. They are found throughout the Coosa 

Basin. They eat grasses, leaves, fruits, and aquatic 

vegetation in the spring and summer. They also 

eat bark and cambium of trees (the softer grow ing 

tissue under the bark of trees). They prefer maple, 

aspen, birch, poplar, willow and alder. Beavers have 

microorganisms in their cecum (a sac between the 

large and small intestine) that digest these cellulose-

based materials. The ponds which they build on small 

streams help maintain healthy river systems.

• Muskrat - The American Indians called this animal 

“Musquash” Muskrats can stay under water for up 

to 15 minutes. Like beavers they build lodges. They 

eat everything including cattail roots, clams, crayfish, 

frogs, rough fish, and carrion (dead animals). They 

become a meal for foxes, mink, great-horned owls, 

herons, and hawks.

The Georgia owls display at Arrowhead Environmental Education 

Center. Clockwise from the left: Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, 

Barn Owl, Screech Owl (red phase), Screech Owl (grey phase) 

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Reptiles

Box Turtle 

 Box Turtle - a common land tortoise of the Coosa 

Basin. It is found from Maine to Michigan in the 

north and Florida to Texas in the south. The shell of 

the Box Turtle is adapted to close up (like a box) to 

protect the turtle from would-be predators. 

• Corn Snake - also called the Red Rat Snake, this 

reptile uses constriction to subdue its prey. It is found 

throughout the southeastern states. It gets its name 

from the days when they were often found around 

corn cribs where they preyed on rats and mice.

• Gopher Tortoise - a keystone species because it digs 

burrows that provide shelter for 360 other animal 

species. Native to South Georgia, these reptiles are 

threatened by predation and habitat destruction. It is 

the state reptile of the State of Georgia. A Longleaf 

Pine ecosystem is ideal for this tortoise. 

Rat Snake 

• Rat Snake - one of the most common large snakes of 

the Coosa Basin, this reptile uses constriction to kill 

its prey. Sometimes when frightened it vibrates its 

tail in dry leaves, a form of mimicry, which makes it 

sound like a rattlesnake.

• Common Snapping Turtle - a large freshwater turtle. 

Its natural range extends from southeastern Canada, 

southwest to the edge of the Rocky Mountains, as far 

east as Nova Scotia and Florida and as far southwest 

as northeastern Mexico. This species and the less 

common and larger Alligator Snapping Turtle 

are the only two Snapping Turtles found in North 

America. Common snappers are noted for their fierce 

disposition when out of water, their powerful beak-like 

jaws, and their highly mobile head and neck. In some 

areas they are hunted very heavily for their meat, a 

popular ingredient in turtle soup. These turtles have 

lived for up to 47 years in captivity, while the lifespan 

of wild individuals is estimated to be around 30 years.

• Venomous snakes - Of the 40+ native snake species 

known in Georgia, only six are venomous: the Eastern 

Diamondback Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake 

(also known as the Canebrake), Pigmy Rattlesnake

Eastern Coral Snake

Cottonmouth (also known as 

the Water Moccasin) and Southern Copperhead

All are pit vipers except the Coral Snake which is not 

found in the Coosa Basin.

 

Amphibians

• Barking Tree Frog - 5 to 7 centimeters long, the 

Barking Tree Frog is the largest native tree frog in 

the United States. It is found from Virginia  to south 

Florida  and eastern Louisiana, usually in coastal 

areas. The frog is known for its loud, strident barking 

call. It burrows in the sand, especially when the 

temperature is hot. It also spends time high up in 

trees, especially during the day when it is less active.

• Green Tree Frog - green medium-sized frog, up to 

6 cm (2.5 in) long. Their bodies are usually green 

in shades ranging from bright yellowish olive to 

lime green. The darkness of the color can change 

depending on lighting or temperature. The Green Tree 

Frog came the Georgia State Amphibian as the result 

of a proposal that began with the fourth grade cl;asses 

at Armuchee Elementary School in Floyd County. The 

Green Tree Frog is found in every county in Georgia.

• Grey Tree Frog - a small arboreal frog native to much 

of the eastern United States. This frog is variable in 

color, camouflaging  themselves from gray to green, 

depending on the substrate they are sitting on. The 

degree of mottling varies. They can change from 

nearly black to nearly white. 

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• Hellbender - a species of giant salamander that is 

endemic to eastern North America. Hellbenders are 

ecologically significant for many reasons, including 

their uniqueness. These salamanders are much larger 

than any others in their endemic range, they employ 

an “unusual” means of respiration (which involves 

cutaneous gas exchange through capillaries found 

in their dorsoventral folds), and they fill a particular 

niche—both as a predator and prey—in their 

ecosystem which either they or their ancestors have 

occupied for around 65 million years.

• Mudpuppy - also known as waterdogs are aquatic 

salamanders. Their name originates from the 

misconception that they make a dog-like barking 

sound.  They range from southern central Canada, 

through the midwestern United States, east to North 

Carolina and south to Georgia and Mississippi.

• Seepage Salamander - a small, terrestrial species of 

salamander endemic to small areas of Tennessee, 

North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Its natural 

habitats are temperate forests, intermittent rivers, 

and freshwater springs. It gets its name from the 

seepages around which it lives. It is very similar in its 

appearance and life history to the pygmy salamander. 

The seepage salamander is lungless and respires 

through its skin and the lining of its mouth. One of 

the smallest salamanders in the genus, it measures 

only 1-2 inches in length. The seepage salamander is 

currently listed as Near Threatened, with its numbers 

declining in most of states in which it is found. It is 

threatened by habitat loss from logging.

Unidentified salamander near Armuchee Creek 

• Slimy Salamander - The Slimy Salamander is 

typically an overall black in color, with many silvery 

spots or gold spots across its back. They are usually 

12-17 cm long, but can grow to 20.6 cm Males are 

not easily distinguished from females, though females 

tend to be slightly larger, are territorial, and will fight 

aggressively for territory. Their preferred habitat is in 

moist soil or leaf litter beneath stones, rotting logs or 

other debris near a permanent water source. They will 

sometimes make use of other animal’s burrows. Their 

diet consists mostly of ants, beetles, sow bugs, and 

earthworms, but they will eat most kinds of insect.

Fish

• Amber Darter - A federally endangered species, this 

slender-bodied fish is generally less than 2.5 inch es 

in length and is found in the Conasauga River and 

Etowah River. The fish’s upper body is golden brown 

with dark saddle-like markings, and its belly is a 

yellow-to-cream color. The throats of breeding males 

are blue in color. The amber darter feeds primarily on 

snails and insects.

• American eel -  This catadromorous (species that live 

in the rivers but swim to sea to spawn) species lives its 

adult life in the rivers of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts 

but swims to the Sargasso Sea near the Bahamas to 

spawn. After spawning the adults die. The young 

eels born alone in the vast ocean then find their way 

back to coastal rivers where they grow to be adults. 

Eels grow to be between 2 and five feet long. In some 

cultures, eels are considered a delicacy.

• Blue Shiner - A threatened species, it is found only 

in the upper Coosa River drainage in Georgia, and 

in Alabama in Little River, Choccolocco Creek and 

Weogufka Creek. It inhabits small to medium streams 

over rocky substrate with moderate to slow current.

• Brook Trout-The only native trout to Georgia, it lives 

in the mountain streams of North Georgia and feeds 

on small insects. They require clean, cold water for 

survival, and the females lay their eggs in gravel beds 

on stream bottoms. Excessive silt in a stream can cover 

these eggs and prevent incubation 

• Catfish-The largest catfish ever caught in Georgia 

weighed 63 pounds and 8 ounces and was caught on 

the Altamaha River. There are more than 2200 species 

of catfish swim the waters of the world, amounting to 

approximately 8% of the total number of fishes. Cat-

fish have an excellent sense of smell. They have taste 

buds located around their mouths, lips and especially 

barbels, but also distributed over their entire bodies. 

Catfish merely need to brush against a potential food 

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item to taste it! It is a myth that a catfish can sting 

a person with its whiskers although they can inflict 

injury with their sharp pectoral and dorsal spines. 

Historically, Native Americans used the sharp spines 

of catfish for sewing needles.

• Cherokee darter - A federally threatened fish spe-

cies found only in the Etowah River basin. It is a tiny 

white/yellow fish with dark blotches on its sides. It 

likes clear water flowing over large gravel, cobble, and 

small boulders. It doesn’t like silt (dirty water) or the 

still water created by dams. 

• Crappie - Centre, Alabama and Weiss Lake is known 

as the Crappie Capital of the World because of the 

excellent crappie fishing on the lake. Crappie are 

sunfish that grow to be about a foot long and usually 

weigh a pound or less.

• Etowah darter - A federally endangered species. This 

tiny fish is found no where else in the world except in 

the Upper Etowah River and two tributaries to the 

Etowah—Long Swamp and Amicalola Creeks. Like 

the Cherokee darter, the Etowah darter in intoler ant 

of dams and silt. 

• Gar - primitive fish covered with hard scales has a 

long jaw with needle like teeth. Anglers who try 

to catch gar often use frayed nylon rope instead of 

hooks because the gar’s teeth become entangled in the 

strands of the rope. Native Americans used the sharp 

gar teeth as points for arrows, and even used the jaws 

filled with sharp teeth to discipline their children by 

raking the arms and legs of disobedient children.

• Holiday darter - A species of concern found in the 

Conasauga River. Only recently discovered, it is 

known for its colorful green and red markings. 

• Lake sturgeon - Once extinguished from the Upper 

Coosa Basin, the lake sturgeon was recently rein-

troduced into the Coosa River by the Georgia 

Department of Natural Resources, this is the only 

species of sturgeon that spends its entire life cycle in 

freshwater. They have a long snout, bony plates and 

whiskers. They can grow to weigh more than 100 

pounds and live to be 50 to 90 years old. Their roe is 

prized as caviar. 

• Striped bass - This large fish is the most sought after 

sport fish in the Coosa River Basin because of its 

tremendous size and fighting ability. The world record 

striped bass weighed over 78 pounds. Striped bass 

spawn on the Coosa, Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers 

in the spring time. Fertilized eggs drift down river for 

about two days before hatching into fry. 

Plants

• Cardinal Flower - Often seen along the banks of the 

Etowah and Oostanaula rivers in the late summer 

and early fall. This tall wildflower (reaching heights 

of up to 6 ft.) has showy red flowers at the end of 

its long stalk. Each flower has three spreading lower 

petals and two upper petals. The lower portion of the 

erect stem is lined with lance-shaped leaves.  Cardinal 

flower depends on hummingbirds for pollination. Its 

common name alludes to the bright red robes worn by 

Roman Catholic cardinals. 

• Catalpa Tree—This medium-sized tree seen 

occasionally along river banks in the Coosa Basin 

grows to 40-50 feet in height and is best known for its 

showy white flowers that it produces in the late spring, 

and later, for its long, slender pods which dangle 

from the ends of limbs. They look like long, thin, 

cylindrical pencils or cigars and can reach lengths 

of 16 inches. Catalpa trees are the only host for the 

catalpa sphinx moth which lays its eggs on the tree. 

The larvae that emerge are the “catalpa worms” that 

are a favorite bait of anglers because the worms are 

irresistible to catfish.  

Coosa Barbara Button.  

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