STREAMWALKS: AN OPPORTUNITY TO INCREASE AWARENESS
AND RECREATION IN
THE DOG RIVER WATERSHED
Jason T. Kudulis,
Department of Earth Sciences, University of South
AL, 36688. Email:
The goal of
my field work was to seek out sites for streamwalk activities in the Dog
River watershed. Due to time
constraints, I limited my
research to the western reaches of Dog
River. I am trying to identify tributaries
that are navigable by foot, so that citizens can traverse the local
both recreation and conservation in mind. To gather data I used topographic maps
and Google to view the study area.
After choosing several locations, I
visited each site to observe accessibility and the chance citizens
them. I quickly
found that the density of vegetation along creeks in my study area is
found several interesting concrete tributaries that can be used with
ease. I am
recording location data and some general information for the public to
analysis of the
area found several worthy streamwalks.
I believe the sites could
be used as a foundation to create a larger streamwalk network in
the Dog River
watershed, ultimately leading
to a healthier watershed and greater local support.
Keywords: Streamwalk, Watershed, Dog
My research is an
attempt to increase public awareness of areas in the Dog
River watershed where
may be carried out. Before
I get into detailed research, let me first explain what a streamwalk is. A streamwalk is
exactly how it sounds, participants physically assess conditions and
potential hazards by traversing a stream. To collect and analyze data, a simple form is filled out by participants
during or after
the streamwalk (App. A). The form
includes questions relating to the stream and its surroundings. Also known as a
“stream survey,” a streamwalk should encompass the stream and its
traveled by volunteers can vary depending on the accessibility, age and
interest of the participants.
Most streamwalks range from a few hundred yards to a
two very important purposes, resource evaluation by means of data
and community stewardship (NRCS, 2005). According to the Alabama Department of
Environmental Management (ADEM) the advantages of streamwalks include: determining conditions of streams and
surrounding areas, educating people about watersheds and water quality,
detecting specific pollution problems so they may be corrected, and
sites for water quality monitoring (ADEM, 2005). Participants could
anyone, but specific groups such as elementary classes, 4H clubs, scout
environmental groups, recreational users, landowners and watershed
would be ideal (ADEM, 2005).
Utilizing data from streamwalks can be
important to community planners.
Once problems are identified
conservation measures can be taken.
Of equal importance is the boost in
community involvement generated by streamwalks. Volunteers in direct contact with
surrounding resources better understand human-environmental interaction
volunteers gain a sense of pride and stewardship for their local river
I found a model streamwalk program that has been successful at both
education and community involvement.
The Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition
(PRWC) of Connecticut
streamwalk program in 1999.
Currently, the PRWC has eighty seven
volunteers who surveyed 44 of 78 sites so far (PRWC, 2005).
I feel strongly that a project of
this kind in
the Dog River
watershed will be beneficial.
Through research I have found that currently there are no
streamwalks for the Dog River
is imperative that I locate and assess potential sites within the Dog
River watershed for future
I can introduce streamwalk candidates, I must first discover if the Dog
River watershed has suitable
tributaries for streamwalking.
Much of the Dog
River watershed lies within
limits or in some thick brush, so you can imagine many of its
not be accessible to the general public. This leads to my hypothesis: Does the Dog
River watershed have
sites for streamwalks; if so, where are the sites located
and how can they be accessed?
answer my hypothesis I first familiarized myself with the Dog
River watershed by examining
particularly the 1982 Springhill 7.5 minute Quadrangle 1:24,000 scale
satellite images provided by Google.
Upon examining the area I recorded
several locations I believe to have potential for streamwalks (Fig 1). I
went out to each
site and took a preliminary streamwalk, I paid close attention to each
potential as a streamwalk.
My guidelines for “potential,” included:
accessibility, density of vegetation,
distance traveled, scenery, and overall enjoyment. With the use of a Global Positioning
System (GPS) I recorded the latitude and longitude of each site and the
distance traveled. After
I visited each site I broke my information down to conclude which sites
suited my guidelines. Finally,
I highlighted four sites I believe to be quality locations for the
use (Fig 2).
feel it necessary to note I did not discriminate sites based on
influence by man, every tributary was applicable as a candidate.
down the initial field of choices was tough because there are a lot of
tributaries flowing into Dog
River. But then again it
was easy because the majority of them could be eliminated quickly. What I mean by
eliminated quickly is that most of the natural streams were isolated
by thick vegetation and overgrowth (Fig 3). It was good to see
that many of the
streams had developed natural protection; although they will remain
thus removing them from my research.
Eventually I choose four sites I would
recommend to the public as streamwalks. They are: Spencer Branch on Demotropolis
Road, Spring Creek at Halls
Mill Road and Hwy 90, Moore Creek at Halls
Mill Road and West Eslava Creek at McGregor
Road (See Fig 2).
runs under Demotropolis about one mile west of Hwy 90, it is a concrete
about 15 feet in diameter.
Public parking can be found where Woodcliff
Drive meets Demotropolis adjacent to the
38.004’, W 88° 09.407’ (Fig 4). Walking alongside
Spencer Branch won’t
take you very far, about 0.2 miles to the east or west. I suggest using
the access ladders to
get directly in the creek.
Unless there has been a terrible storm, water level will
not be a
problem. On the
days I visited there was less than 2’’. Upon climbing into Spencer Branch the
length of your streamwalk can vary immensely, I walked 0.4 miles one
way to the
east and west. I
believe you could walk all the way to Cottage Hill or Hwy 90 if desired. Walking in the
concrete structure was surprisingly an enjoyable experience. It is quiet and
peaceful and I was
glad to see very little trash.
It is not a strenuous walk in the
ditch. I did my
streamwalk with no shoes!
Branch is Spring Creek, it can be accessed at Halls
Mill Road adjacent to “Two Dollar Bills,”
parking can be found at the restaurant. Coordinates N 30° 36.787’, W 88°
09.241’ (Fig 5). Spring
Creek is a short streamwalk that can be completed in little time. The day I had the
GPS out there the batteries died so I could not record distance, I
estimate it at about 300 yards long and 30’ across. Spring Creek is framed in gabions but
vegetation is present and resembles a near natural look. Many aquatic
critters and birds call
Spring Creek home and can be seen most often. It is an enjoyable walk alongside the
creek. I wouldn’t recommend getting in it however there
Moore Creek dead-ends into Montlimar Creek. This merging is
located where Halls Mill Road
and Azalea Road
37.583’, W 88° 08.177’ (Fig 6). This
location is a fairly well known
fishing spot for some of the locals.
The creek appears to have a fair
amount of bass and brim, probably even some carp and mullet. At the bridge
there is parking on
either side in parking lots.
As it stands, the creek is below the trail about 10’ so
of observation is great.
I walked east toward I-10 during my visits; you will see
from the city workers.
I walked 0.4 miles one way towards the east and I
estimate it is
about 1.0 mile to I-10.
To the west Moore Creek runs upstream to where Spencer
dead-ends into it. I
didn’t go very far the times I was there but
this route is for advanced hikers or thrill seekers only.
last but not
least is West Eslava Creek.
Traveling south down McGregor
just before Airport Blvd
you will find a narrow concrete stream about 15’ across. Coordinates N 30°
40.770’, W 88°
08.896’ (Fig 7). That
is West Eslava Creek, it is in a busy part of town and parking is
and early mornings would be better.
Despite the parking problem accessing
the creek is easy. The
slope heading to the water isn’t steep. I recommend walking in this creek
because property lines prevent walking alongside it. The water was flowing smoothly and it
was about 6-10’’. It
appears West Eslava Creek keeps a fair amount of water; I say that
bottom had a healthy amount of aquatic grass growing. I walked east 0.3 miles one way just
behind Yester Oaks Apts.
Heading west will take you toward the Mobile Country Club. I thought Eslava
Creek was great, nice to get your feet wet and explore.
investigation of streamwalks in the Dog
River watershed I was never
down by my findings. I
am confident that anyone with a taste for the outdoors would enjoy each
four streamwalks. I
felt each site had unique qualities, making each streamwalk different
other. In the
four streamwalks I chose, I thought it more important to give people
location of the streamwalks and some basic information rather than eye
detail for fear of ruining someone’s personal experience. None of the
streamwalks I found were dangerous and I
never saw any “no trespassing” signs,
nor were they difficult to access or walk.
In conclusion, I believe
Spring Creek’s ability to accompany large groups and with lots of
short distance could serve as a site for beginners. Spencer Branch is not well known except
by families living along its banks.
Providing solitude and open space for
streamwalking Spencer Branch is worth checking out. With Moore Creek visitors are exposed
to the site of the worst sediment deposit in the Dog
River watershed. Also the walk is
interesting and there
is plenty of wildlife.
And in West Eslava Creek participants will be exposed to
channelized stream in one of the most densely populated areas of Mobile. Still able to flow
freely I found West Eslava Creek to be my favorite of the four.
for the Dog
River Clearwater Revival (DRCR) to get results such as those of the
volunteers and effort are needed.
However to see the success of a
streamwalk project in a watershed almost identical in size (90sq. mi.)
to Dog River
should provide some insight
into a streamwalk’s potential.
These four streamwalks only lay the
project leaves much to be expanded on; I
anyone to continue this delightful research.
with help from the DRCR is already showing signs of increased awareness
watershed health. DRCR
has volunteers who locate water quality monitoring sites; that
turn has indeed increased public awareness and influenced local water
(AWW, 2004). I
believe that participation in streamwalks will increase the frequency
of data and also broaden the community’s
Alabama Department of Environmental Management,
Water Watch Streamwalk Activity.
Water Watch Water Chemistry Monitoring. Auburn
Citizen Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring on Alabama’s
River, Alabama Water
September 2004. Auburn
Connecticut USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service,
Guidebook available at:
Watershed Coalition, 2005.
Volunteer Streamwalk Program:
Summary Report and Proposed Action Plan.
http://www.pomperaug.org/pdf/VSWR_March05.pdf Accessed 3/6/06
Spring Hill Quadrangle 7.5-Minute Series Map.
Link to the
Streamwalk Activity Survey Form: http://www.adem.state.al.us/Education%20Div/Nonpoint%20Program/ResourceMat/streamwalk.pdf