Alabama Trip report, August 4-7, 2001
by Dave Neely
picture captions by photographer
Sipsey Fork, Winston County, Alabama
Tony (Anuratana Tejavej, visiting from Bangkok, Thailand) and I arrived on site late
Friday night. Unfortunately we'd forgotten Bruce's directions, and after dropping
Tony off at a motel on Smith Reservoir, I drove around looking for the gang, finally gave
up and set my tent up somewhere off a dirt road in the Bankhead NF. Rained a little that
night, but not bad. I was up by 6am, had coffee in Double Springs by 6:30, and was at the
site by 7. I snorkelled until 8:30, drove over to the motel and picked Tony up, and drove
back to the site. We waited a bit, then started to sample. By 11, most of the gang was
there: Patrick Vinas, Casper Cox and son Coby, Steven Ellis, and Bruce Stallsmith.
figures in the TN Valley Gang & a guest from abroad. L-R standing: Dave Neely
(Tuscaloosa, AL), Patrick Vinas (Canton, GA), Bruce Stallsmith (Huntsville, AL). Kneeling:
Anuratana Tejavej, or Tony (Bangkok, Thailand), and Casper Cox (Chattanooga, TN). (Steven
(left) with our honorable president, Bruce Stallsmith. ("I had to prove I was really
going on all of these trips!", says Steven). Thanks to Dave Neely for taking
Shots of the Sipsey River
where we met and did mostly electroshocking; it runs through a decaying limestone gorge as
I hope is evident from the pics. (Bruce Stallsmith photo)
Members of the trip wading
upstream in the Sipsey along an eroded limestone cliff. Left to right: Tony, Dave,
Patrick. (Bruce Stallsmith photo)
Members of the trip wading
upstream in the Sipsey, as Dave Neely uses the electroshocker. Left to right: Patrick,
Tony, Steven, Dave. (Bruce Stallsmith photo)
Sipsey River, looking
downstream. (Steven Ellis photo)
Sipsey River, looking
upstream. (Steven Ellis photo)
We sampled and snorkelled for much of the afternoon, then headed towards the campsite.
Species list included:
Etheostoma sp. cf. bellator
Percina sp. "Sipsey darter"
this warmouth. Even though the fish is out of focus (sigh), you can still get an
idea of how beautiful it is (Steven Ellis photo)
electroshocked from the Sipsey River (Bruce Stallsmith photo)
electroshocked out of the Sipsey River. It's being held by Dave Neely. (Bruce
The campsite was along Borden Creek, in an area of nice-sized secondary growth hardwood
forest. While the gang sampled the creek, I got some lunch going, with excellent
assistance from Coby. Pork chops, with spiced potatoes, mushrooms, and onions. Steve had
brought red-hots, baked beans, and cream sodas. A few illicit beverages were consumed to
thumb a symbolic nose at Winston County.
Borden Creek, where we camped, and collected a variety of interesting fishes;
it's in the Sipsey Wilderness. (Bruce Stallsmith photo)
Borden Creek. This shot was
taken fron the bridge that we camped beneath, just before nightfall. Casper is barely
visible in the lower right. (Steven Ellis photo)
I took Tony back into town to his motel, and met the gang back out by the river. After
hanging out by the fire for a while, Casper, Coby and I walked about a quarter-mile of
stream, looking for snapping turtles or fun stuff out and about. The full moon made for
easy mid-stream walking, except for a couple problematic rocks...
Campsite beside Borden Creek (Saturday
evening). L-R: Coby Cox (celebrating his 13th birthday), Casper Cox, Dave Neely, Bruce
Stallsmith, & Tony from Thailand. It turns out that our friend Dave is also an
excellent cook. (Steven Ellis photo)
Species List for Borden Creek, Winston County, Alabama:
Etheostoma sp. cf. zonistium
A nice shadow
bass that I took home. (Steven Ellis photo)
Dave Neely (right) imparts
some ID tips to Patrick Vinas. (Steven Ellis photo)
Next morning, I drove into town and picked up Tony, then brought him back to the
campsite in time for omlettes with fresh chanterelles, courtesy of Casper. Excellent! We
headed out, deciding to try a fun cold-water site a
bit to the south first... crystal clear water, and minimal silt- it's amazing how an
intact watershed will retain sediment, leaving the stream's gravel silt-free...
Hendricks Mill Branch at mouth, Blount County, Alabama
Cottus sp. cf. carolinae
Here the camera also seemed
interested in something else, but you can still see good detail on these 3 Tuskaloosa
darters. (Steven Ellis photo)
Tony and I parted ways with Casper and Coby, and headed east on I-20...
The first site was deep and turbid with lots of debris to catch the seine on, but still
some fun stuff...
Tallapoosa River at CR 21 SSE of Heflin, Cleburne County, Alabama
Second site here was shallow and fast, with better gravel...
Tallapoosa River at CR 18 WNW of Bell Mills, Cleburne County, Alabama
Alabama shiner. These guys were very tame around snorkelers. I had one nibbling at my open
palm in Borden Creek as Casper & I studied him. (Steven Ellis photo)
Another Alabama shiner. Even
though the camera chose to focus elsewhere, I included this one to give an idea of how
well decorated the adult males were. (Steven Ellis photo)
After a successful expedition, we hit classic southern BBQ for dinner, which was
Monday morning, we braved the remains of the tropical storm and headed north out of
Tuscaloosa... first site was shallow, sandy, but with pretty good diversity for such a
Tyro Creek at CR 55 ESE of New Lexington, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
Not enough redfin darters here, so we headed back north, winding up at Natural Bridge,
where the weirdest thing was all the pirate perch- this site is really close to the Fall
Line (the edge of the old Mississippi Embayment), so there was an interesting mix of
upland and lowland stuff here.
New River at Natural Bridge, Winston County, Alabama
We then headed west, to try a site I've hit several times before. It's normally better
than this, but we were both getting pretty tired by this point.
Buttahatchie River at US Hwy 43 S of Hamilton, Marion County, Alabama
And so it ended. I had a busy morning on Tuesday, and it took longer than anticipated
to prep his fish, so despite a desperate drive to the airport, Tony missed his flight, and
opted to stay at a motel near the airport.
All in all, a hectic trip, but many cool fish were captured and observed. Thanks to all
who participated, and especially Tony for being such a patient ichhyologist-in-training.
I apologize to our viewers for the poor quality of my photos. I'm still learning how to
use the digital. It finally occurred to me (duh!) on the way home to take a piece of
light-colored posterboard next time as a backdrop for the fish shots. Then the camera
won't be as likely to get confused about what the subject is. If that fails, I may leave
the photography to someone who really knows what they're doing. (-:
--Steven A. Ellis