for k-12 teachers and students
river basins of georgia
COOSA-TALLAPOOSA and TENNESSEE RIVER BASINS
By Gretchen Loeffler and Judy L. Meyer
The Coosa and Tallapoosa River Basins originate in northern Georgia and
continue across the border into Alabama. The Tennessee River Basin flows
through portions of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.
The Tallapoosa River originates in Paulding County, which is west of
Atlanta. The Tallapoosa River basin occupies 4,680 square miles of which
720 square miles (15%) lie in Georgia and 3,960 square miles (85%) lie
in Alabama. This river supports cold and warm water fisheries as well
as a rich diversity of species unique to this river. Species important
to anglers include largemouth, spotted and redeye bass, rainbow trout,
black crappie, and channel catfish. The Tallapoosa is free flowing in
Georgia with no major impoundments until it reaches the Harris Reservoir
in Alabama. The Coosa River begins in downtown Rome and is formed by the
convergence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers. The Coosa River is the
major eastern tributary of the Mobile Basin and empties into the Gulf
of Mexico in southwest Alabama. The Coosa River is a significant striper
fishery with one of the few populations of striped bass that naturally
reproduce in the state. The Tennessee River Basin is most notable for
its abundance and diversity of freshwater fishes. Recognized as one of
the most diverse rivers in North America, the Tennessee River supports
about 240 fish species.
The following table lists the stream flow data for the portions of the
Tallapoosa, Coosa, and Tennessee Rivers that flow through Georgia. The
locations of the USGS gauging stations from which the data was collected
are denoted within the parentheses. The Upper Tennessee River drainage,
seen in Figure 3 below, is much larger than the portion that flows through
Table 1. Stream flow data. Stream flow is measured in units of cubic feet
per second (cfs) flowing past a point.
(below Tallapoosa, GA)
(below Rome, GA)
(Lookout Creek near New England, GA)
|Drainage Area (square miles)
|Min Daily Flow (cfs)
|Mean Daily (cfs)
|Max Daily (cfs)
|Years of Collection
Figure 3. Upper Tennessee River Basin. Source: USGS
Land cover and land use patterns
Table 2 lists the 1998 land cover percentages for the Chattahoochee and
Flint River basins. The Natural Resources Spatial Analysis Laboratory
(NARSAL) at the University of Georgia provided the tabular data.
Table 2. 1998 land cover statistics.
|Mines, rock outcrops
The Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Tennessee Rivers are home to many threatened
and endangered aquatic species. 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 molluscan
species. For example, it is estimated that 35 of the 50 freshwater mussel
species that once probably inhabited the Coosa River basin have been extirpated;
several of these species are now considered extinct. According to estimates
by the Nature Conservancy, the Etowah River has more imperiled species
than any other river system of its size in the southeastern United States
(17 fish species and 16 invertebrate species). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service currently lists 51 aquatic species as either threatened or endangered
in the Tennessee River basin.
Two of the endangered species in these river basins are the Conasauga
logperch, Percina jenkinsi, (Figure 4) and the Amber darter, Percina antesella
(Figure 5). These species were once found throughout the Coosa, Tallapoosa,
and Tennessee river basins and have been federally listed as endangered
since 1985. The Conasauga logperch grows to approximately 6 inches in
length and is characterized by having many tiger-like vertical stripes
over a yellow background and a pig-like conical snout. Like other logperches,
the Conasauga logperch feeds by flipping stones over with its snout and
consuming aquatic invertebrates, which live beneath. The Amber darter
is a short, slender-bodied fish that is generally less than 2.5 inches
in length. 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
4. Conasauga logperch.
5. Amber darter.
Additional sources and literature
Hampson P.S., M.W. Treece, Jr., G.C. Johnson, S.A. Ahlstedt, and J.F.
Connell. Water Quality in the Upper Tennessee River Basin, Tennessee,
North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia 1994-98. Water Resources Circular
1205. USGS Publication. Also found here.
Endangered and Threatened Species of the Southeastern United States (The
Red Book) FWS Region 4.
River Management Plan
River basin characteristics
Environmental, Educational, and Community Action Organizations
Georgia River Network
Conservancy of Georgia
Trust for Public Land
Tallapoosa River Basin Clean Water Partnership