May 20. 2017 • Armuchee, GA
*Environmental Quiz Bowl
Georgia Department of Natural Resources / Floyd County Schools
The Upper Coosa River Basin
• 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
• 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.
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.
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.
• 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.
is a crayfish found nowhere in
the world except the Coosawattee River Basin—a
headwaters tributary of the Coosa.
Conasauga Blue Burrower Crayfish
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,
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
• 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.
- 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
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.
• 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)
• 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 - 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
, 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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
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.
• 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.