NANFA-- Paint Rock, AL, trip (long)

Bruce Stallsmith (fundulus_at_hotmail.com)
Mon, 28 May 2001 20:50:01 -0400

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We lucked out on Saturday for a trip mostly to the Paint Rock Valley in
Jackson County, AL. The weather was clear and about 78 F. Six people started
out on the trip, and by the next day (!) only two continued. Our primary
destination was the Estill Fork of the Paint Rock River, and we found 33
species at this site. It's an old ford that is now crossed by a low concrete
bridge that lets water flow through underneath in pipes; a broad stream
above is concentrated in a pool about 4 feet deep below the bridge, and then
a riffle system begins. Our only contact with local people was when a guy
stopped his truck on the bridge and told us that this stream is really good
for baptisms, were we interested? I told him that flowing water is holy, he
agreed, and drove off.
(The species lists were compiled by Dave Neely, I'm attempting to edit this
all together.)

Estill Fork at County Road 140, Jackson Co, AL. 26 May 2001
Dave Neely, Casper Cox, Bruce Stallsmith, Steven Ellis, Nick Sharp, Vitaly
from Birmingham. Mostly snorkelling, some collecting with seine and dip net.
Notes: Beautiful gravel, lush water willow beds, crystal clear water at 65
F, pH 7.6 and TDS 160 ppm.
Species observed: longnose gar, largescale stoneroller, streamline chub,
bigeye chub, striped shiner, scarletfin shiner, mountain shiner, palezone
shiner (federally endangered, all released immediately!), bigeye shiner,
Tennessee shiner, telescope shiner, sawfin shiner, bluntnose minnow,
northern hogsucker, shorthead redhorse, black or golden redhorse,
mosquitofish, northern studfish,
blackspotted topminnow, banded sculpin, rock bass, bluegill, longear
sunfish, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, rainbow darter, fantail darter,
stripetail darter, redline darter, Tennessee snubnose darter, greenside
darter, blueside darter, blotchside logperch.

Driving out from Estill Fork and down the Paint Rock valley, four of us were
caravaning down the main road. As we passed out of the small town of
Princeton we noticed a small cinderblock springhouse on the right, built
into the base of a worn limestone clif face. A spring run passed under the
road and along the edge of a cow pasture. We stopped, asked permission to
poke around, and kick-seined the pasture and investigated the spring as it
came out of the cliff. The darters we found were in brilliant breeding
coloration, the most vivid Tennessee snubnoses I've ever seen. Casper took
them back to the farm house in a Glad bag and showed them to the family.
They were visibly startled and impressed. As we packed up our gear across
the road from the spring run, the cows came down, stared at us, and
proceeded to drink water.
Beason Spring on AL Hwy 65, Princeton, Jackson Co., AL
Dave Neely, Casper Cox, Bruce Stallsmith, Steven Ellis.
Notes: abundant watercress, in cow pasture. Collected with seine only.
Species observed: striped shiner, sawfin shiner, blacknose dace, banded
sculpin, mosquitofish, rainbow darter, Tennessee
snubnose darter, hybrid green x bluegill sunfish

Next we went to another striking spring, also at the base of an even higher
limestone cliff face. Blue Spring is circular, about 50 feet across,
probably 6+ feet deep in the middle and has a spring run. The water even
made Casper complain about how cold it was! The Johnny darters were an
interesting find; they have a disjunct distribution in the Paint Rock
valley, and far to the southwest below the fall line they're common. They
were the first I've seen.
Blue Spring on County Road 20, Jackson Co., AL
Dave Neely, Casper Cox, Bruce Stallsmith, Steven Ellis.
Notes: bluish water, very cold. No vegetation. Collected with seine only.
Species observed: striped shiner, blacknose dace, mottled sculpin, banded
sculpin, bluegill, rainbow darter, stripetail darter, johnny darter,
Tennessee snubnose darter, blueside darter, greenside darter.

This was the end of the trip for myself and Steven Ellis. Casper and Dave
crashed somewhere along the western edge of Jackson County and continued
yesterday:

Selby Spring off of Co Rd 145, Jackson Co., AL. 27 May 2001.
Dave Neely, Casper Cox.
Notes: beautiful cliff faces and small cave. Collected with dip net only.
Species observed: blacknose dace, banded sculpin.

Isbell Spring, Jackson Co., AL.
Dave Neely, Casper Cox.
Notes: Nice cave system with knee-deep water at entrance. Collected with
seine, dip net.
Species observed: banded sculpin, bluegill.

Flint River at Winchester Rd near Bell Factory, Madison Co., AL
Dave Neely, Casper Cox.
Notes: slightly turbid- visibility about 2 ft. Didnít stay longÖ snorkeling
only.
Species observed: largescale stoneroller, striped shiner, northern
hogsucker, rainbow darter, Tennessee snubnose darter, dusky darter.

This site is one of my personal faves that I often visit with just a dipnet.
Using a seine increases the species count dramatically. I've also found
greenside darters and stripetail darters at this site.
Mountain Fork at Old Mountain Fork Rd, Madison Co., AL.
Dave Neely, Casper Cox.
Notes: Large spring ca. 2 mi. upstream. Abundant vegetation, including lots
of parrotfeather, riverweed, pondweed, others.
Water clear and cold. Snorkelling, seine.
Species observed: largescale stoneroller, striped shiner, scarletfin
shiner, flame chub, bluntnose minnow, white sucker,
northern hogsucker, black or golden redhorse, mosquitofish, banded sculpin,
rock bass, bluegill, green sunfish, longear
sunfish, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, rainbow darter, blackfin darter,
Tennessee snubnose darter.

The following is a very public site that I've never collected, The cool find
here was a large flame chub population.
Mountain Fork at Winchester Rd in New Market, Madison Co., AL.
Dave Neely, Casper Cox.
Notes: immediately below small dam. Water clear, nice gravel riffles at
site. Some silt, lots of very slippery bedrock.
Species observed: largescale stoneroller, striped shiner, scarletfin
shiner, flame chub (abundant!), bluntnose minnow, white sucker, northern
hogsucker, mosquitofish, banded sculpin, rock bass, bluegill, largemouth
bass, rainbow darter, blackfin darter, Tennessee snubnose darter.
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The big news of all of this is the sheer fish diversity in the Tennessee
valley. We found more species of freshwater fishes in the corners of two
counties than can be found in many states. The Tennessee Valley super-region
hopes to get out in the field again in about a month. Tentatively the next
trip will be hosted by Dave Neely in the greater Tuscaloosa area, maybe
along the forks of the Warrior River.

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL

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