Species Diversity

The Tallapoosa harbors 120 native fish species, four of which occur nowhere else outside the basin. The system also is home to 31 species of mussel including three federally listed species. Eleven species of crayfish are known to inhabit the Tallapoosa system. (State of Rivers)

The Nature Conservancy classified 12 fish and mussel species from the lower Tallapoosa watershed and 6 species from the middle Tallapoosa watershed as species at risk, and recommended conservation of the entire basin to protect critical fish and mussel biodiversity in the United States. (State of Rivers)

Because of the nature of the basins metamorphic and igneous rocks in the middle and upper reaches, the dissolved mineral content and resulting fertility of its waters are relatively low compared to the rest of the ACT (Alabama / Coosa / Tallapoosa) basin.

The Piedmont portion of the Tallapoosa River system is home to at least 5 endemic fishes as well as a Federally listed freshwater mussel, an endemic mussel taxon, two endemic crayfish species and an endemic snail. (Freeman)

The Tallapoosa’s upper reach above Lake Wedowee is currently unimpounded. The proposed West Georgia Regional Reservoir would partially impound and fragment this remaining unregulated riverine habitat.

The middle 50 mile reach of the Tallapoosa River from Harris dam downstream to the head of Martin Lake is the only remaining Piedmont large-river habitat remaining in the state of Alabama. (State of the Rivers)

Today, over 60 fish species are known from the tailwaters and tributaries in this reach, including the four endemic fish species already mentioned. Shoals in the lower portion contain a few stands of the Cahaba Lily.

Historically, 134 fish species have been reported from the Tallapoosa River basin. Fisheries include striped/white/hybrid basses, paddlefish (season closed since 1987), black basses, sunfishes, catfishes, crappie.

Several studies of fish in the Tallapoosa basin have been conducted in conjunction with planning for the proposed West Georgia Reservoir. Beisser (1990) developed an inventory of fish species in the vicinity of the proposed reservoir and identified 72 species inhabiting the drainage based on museum collections and literature citations, of which 46 were confirmed by electrofishing in 1989-1990. Of these, five species are endemic to the Tallapoosa basin and three are rare or exhibit unique distribution patterns in Georgia.

The upper portion of the basin before Harris Reservoir supports at least 50 fish species, four of which are endemic to the basin: Tallapoosa shiner (Cyprinella gibbsi), lipstick darter (Etheostoma chuckwachatte), Tallapoosa darter (E. tallapoosae), and mottled sculpin (Cottus sp.cf.C. bairdi).

Georgia state law protects eight fish from the Tallapoosa.

There are no federally listed fish species in the upper Tallapoosa River Watershed. (State of Rivers)

The upper basin (upstream of Harris Reservoir) harbors all four endemic fish species

Tallapoosa darter (Etheostoma tallapoosae) R
Rare or uncommon in GA; rare or apparently secure globally.

Lipstick darter (Etheostoma chuckwachatte) E
Critically imperiled in GA because of rarity; global status uncertain.

Tallapoosa sculpin (Cottus sp. Cf. C. Bairdi)

Muscadine darter (Percina sp. cf. P. macrocephala)

Six fish species occurring within the Tallapoosa River basin have been listed for protection by the State as endangered, threatened, or rare; however, none of these species have been listed at the Federal level. Two of these are the Tallapoosa and Lipstick darters mentioned above. The four others include

Tallapoosa Shiner (Cyprinella gibbsi) R
Apparently secure globally; rare or uncommon in GA.

Stippled Studfish (Fundulus bifax) E
Critically imperiled in GA because of rarity; globally imperiled or rare.

Pretty Shiner (Lythrurus bellus) T
Imperiled in GA because of rarity; demonstrably secure globally.

Black Madtom (Noturus funebris) R
Imperiled or critically imperiled in GA; demonstrably secure globally.

In the middle Tallapoosa between Harris and Martin Dam has shown a decline in some species such as the speckled chub (Macryhybopsis aestivalis), bullhead minnow (Pimephales vigilax), madtom catfish (Noturus spp.) and redhorse suckers (Moxostomo spp.) However, this section still supports populations of native fish. (State of Rivers)

Prior to construction of the three locks and dams on the Alabama, striped bass ascended from the Gulf of Mexico up the Alabama and Tallapoosa rivers during the spring, reaching the falls at Tallassee and the base of what is now Thurlow dam. The Gulf Sturgeon may also have make this trek. These and other anadromous fish are now extirpated from the Tallapoosa, their migrations blocked by dams on the Alabama River. Other large river fish persist in the lower main stem such as the paddlefish and a variety of suckers.

The Tallapoosa River basin has a number of designated secondary trout waters in the upper portions of the system in Georgia. Beach Creek, Flatwood Creek, Lassetter Creek, and the mainstem Tallapoosa River have all been stocked with rainbow trout by Georgia Game and Fish. Brook trout have also occasionally been stocked in Beach Creek and the mainstem, as well as brown trout and smallmouth bass in the mainstem. (GA DNR)

Fish status in the Tallapoosa Basin

Total species 134

31 mussel species are known from the Tallapoosa River basin. (State of Rivers) Of these, three are federally listed as threatened or endangered.

Endangered mussels are known from the Uphapee Creek watershed including its tributaries Opintlocco and Chewacla creeks. (State of Rivers)

The Fine lined pocketbook (Lampsilis altilis), a threatened species, was once common in rivers throughout the Mobile Basin. It is currently limited to single drainages within the Black Warrior, Alabama, Coosa, and Cahaba basins and two creeks in the Tallapoosa drainage, Chewacla and Opintlocco Creeks.

The Southern clubshell (Pleurobema decisum), an endangered species, was once found in both the Uphapee and Chewacla Creeks of the Tallapoosa. Currently it appears to be limited to just Chewacla Creek and small portions of the Alabama and Tombigbee systems.

The Ovate clubshell (Pleurobema perovatum), an endangered species, was once found throughout the Mobile River Basin. Its historical range of Chewacla, Uphapee and Opintlocco Creeks in the Tallapoosa drainage now appears to be limited to Chewacla Creek.

Quadrula archeri

Native mussels appear exceedingly rare in the middle reach of the Tallapoosa mainstem. (State of Rivers)

Mussel status in the Tallapoosa Basin

Total species 31

# threatened or endangered 3


Of the eleven species of crayfish known to inhabit the Tallapoosa system, two are found nowhere else and are considered species of concern, Cambarus englishi and Orconectes holti. (State of Rivers and GA DNR or Corps)

5 salamanders and 7 frogs dependent upon freshwater for a portion of their lifecycle are know to occur in the basin. Two other salamanders do not require an aquatic stage. As many as seventeen additional amphibians may occur in the basin. (GA DNR) Many of these species are considered of specieal concern