top of page


cahaba river on 280.jpg

Cahaba Watershed

The Cahaba River is Alabama’s longest remaining stretch of river. It is the primary drinking water source for one-fifth of the state’s people in the Birmingham metro area. Flowing from its headwaters northeast of Birmingham, AL until it reaches the Alabama River southwest of Selma,  the Cahaba River is 194 miles long and drains an area of 1,870 square miles. The Cahaba River is one of the most biodiverse waterways on Earth. It has more species of fish than any other river of its size in North America.

Storm water impacts from suburban development in the upper watershed are the greatest challenge to the river system’s water supply, water quality, and biodiversity. Sediment runoff from construction is the immediate threat as well as replacing forests with paving; which then increases stormwater runoff, erosion, pollution, and flooding. This also prevents groundwater recharge. 

For more information about the Cahaba watershed, visit

Steve's Entry 2.jpg
cahaba litter.jpg

Little Cahaba Watershed

The Little Cahaba is a major tributary of the upper Cahaba River Basin watershed, which includes 190 miles of bluffs, shoals, and sharp ridges before entering the lower Cahaba Basin on the Coastal Plain. Over seven miles of the Cahaba and Little Cahaba rivers lie within the boundary of the National Wildlife Refuge. Bream (bluegill, redear and longear sunfishes), spotted bass, largemouth bass, and crappie are some of the fish that reside in this area. This small river also has an abundance of catfish, suckers, and other non-game riverine species.

The Cahaba River Society indicate that over 55% of the Cahaba River and its tributaries have been placed on Alabama’s 303(d) list of waters that do not meet current water quality standards due to excessive amounts of sediments and nutrients. These factors, along with polluted stormwater runoff have resulted in a decline in the number and species diversity of fish sampled over the past 20 years. In addition, the blue shiner has disappeared from the Cahaba River watershed and the range of the endangered Cahaba shiner has decreased significantly.

shades creek.jpg
shades creek salamander.jpg

Shades Creek Watershed

Shades Creek, sometimes called Mountain Brook, is a 56.4 mile-long stream running southwest from its source near the Birmingham Race Course, through Shades Valley, to the Cahaba River near the Shelby County/Bibb County line. Along the way it passes through Irondale, Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover, and Bessemer.This stream runs through the southwest corner of Jefferson County and Bibb County, before finally emptying into the Cahaba River. It’s also home to the famous Spotted Salamander


Portions of the watershed have experienced tremendous residential expansion and development in recent years, which has increased stormwater runoff. Stormwater drainage from urban areas results in more contaminants and pollutants entering this system, impacting both water quality and quantity. 

For more information about Shades Creek, visit

bottom of page