Physical Description

BLACKWATER RIVER

The Blackwater River gets its name from its tannin-tinted waters, more the color of tea than actually black. Despite it’s appearance, it is some of the purest water in Florida. Much of the river is lined with Atlantic White Cedar; that are easy to distinguish from bald cypress and red cedar thanks to the white cedar’s unique spiraling bark pattern.

The river is designated a Florida canoe trail.

Nearly 50 miles of the river corridor is remote and undeveloped. As a result, the Blackwater is considered one of the State’s most pristine waterways and has received designation as a Special Water and an Outstanding Florida Water.

The upper river in Alabama drains 227 km of rolling terrain that is interspersed with sinkholes and bays, some of which hold water year-round. The basin encompasses the headwaters of the main stem of the Blackwater River, which flows south into the Gulf of Mexico. The channel length of the river upstream from the gage is about 21 km and has an average stream gradient of 1.5 m/km. The main channel is perennial, and mean monthly discharge ranges from 2.3 m3/s in October to 7.4 m3/s in March. Average annual runoff from the basin was 59 cm from 1968 through 1995 (U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Data, Alabama). Climate of the area is influenced by moist tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico, which results in long, hot summers with cool, short winters. Average daily air temperatures range from 9.1ºC in winter to 26.2°C in summer. Precipitation averages 150 cm annually and is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year; July generally is the wettest month and October the driest (Cotton, 1989). Less than 5 percent of winters have measurable snowfall. (USGS)

The pine hills landform covers more than 75 percent of the basin and consists of upland ridges with gently sloping side slopes. The pre-logging vegetation of the pine hills was a park like forest composed of more than 75 percent longleaf pine with an understory of wire grass. Secondary species, such as slash pine, southern red oak, and post oak, began to increase in numbers after the area was logged around the turn of the century. (USGS)

The bay landform in Florida has very little topographic relief and is almost entirely composed of wetlands. Bay vegetation is dominated by sweet bay, bull bay, and red bay with secondary species, such as swamp tupelo, slash pine, pond pine, sweet gum, and water oak. (USGS)

The Blackwater River Basin in Alabama drains parts of Escambia and Covington Counties and is entirely in the boundaries of the Conecuh National Forest. About 10 percent of land in the northeast corner of the basin also is in the boundaries of the Blue Springs Wildlife Management Area. About 32 percent of land in the National Forest boundary is owned by private individuals or logging companies. More than 150 km of forest and county roads provide vehicle access to most areas of the basin. (USGS)

Approximately 860 square miles of land comprise the Blackwater River watershed, including the land area of its three major tributaries – Big Juniper Creek, Big Coldwater Creek and Pond Creek.

The river mainly flows through protected forests including Conecuh National Forest, Blackwater River State Forest and Blackwater River State Park. However, pockets of managed agricultural and silvicultural lands and areas of urban and suburban development, including the communities of Bradley, Baker, Jay, Holt, Harold, Milton and Munson, are also located in the river’s watershed.

Lakes in the watershed: 184
Total number of watershed acres: 2538.9
River and stream miles: 936.2 total river miles
Perennial river miles 724.3
Watershed Area: 855.23 sq mi