A Wade Down Sofkahatchee Creek

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On an unseasonably warm day in November, Coosa Riverkeeper joined Dr. Joseph Scanlan, a retired ophthalmologist, on Sofkahatchee Creek, a tributary to Lake Jordan winding its way across Elmore County. Equipped with boots and bottles, we waded into the creek and got to business. Together, we discussed our concerns for the future of this placid waterway that is deeply impacted by timber industry. 

When you talk to Dr. Scanlan, his passion for Alabama’s skinny water is easy to see and very infectious. Through the Alabama Water Watch, he has been voluntarily testing water quality conditions in Sofkahatchee Creek for over 10 years now. Dr. Scanlan visits the creek each month to test water quality conditions to search for the rare Stippled Studfish and to generally check on the creek’s health.

Meet Dr. Scanlan

We had the incredible opportunity to tag along with Dr. Scanlan to get down and dirty in his favorite creek. As we walked along, we set up a few fish traps to see if we could find Fundulus bifax, or the Stippled Studfish, a favorite killifish of his. On top of searching for this rare fish, we wanted to check on the health of Sofkahatchee Creek following Hurricane Zeta, which swept through around October 28th. 

Although we were there after a Hurricane, the real damage of excessive siltation is due to massive amounts of clear cutting and poor best management practices of timber companies in the area.

No luck finding the Stippled Studfish this day, just some Alabama Darters!

Not that many years ago, Sofkahatchee Creek was relatively untouched by human development. For years, it was hailed for its rare, diverse fishery. Flash forward to today, Sofkahatchee Creek faces a host of environmental concerns.

Issues Facing This Creek

– A ‘popular’ dump site for household trash. In one day, we saw plenty of tires, a couple toilets, a sink or two, and a whole computer. 

  • – Excess siltation due to logging activity. When it rains, the creek is quite simply being buried and choked by huge amounts of dirt running off clear-cut lands. 
  • – The Stippled Studfish (Fundulus bifax). This small killifish is rare enough to only exist in two places: Sofkahatchee Creek and the Tallapoosa River, making it necessary to protect!

Along with Dr. Scanlan, Coosa Riverkeeper will be keeping a close eye on the health of this beautiful skinny water.  #SavetheSkinnyWater! Learn more about the stippled studfish! See the image below or read an article about Dr. Scanlan’s conservation work.