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Chipola River Watershed Restoration Listed Mussels and Black Bass Initiative

The Chipola River Watershed (HUC # 03130012) is located in northwest Florida/southeast Alabama and includes parts of Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Washington and Bay Counties in Florida and Geneva and Houston Counties in Alabama. Some of the smaller tributaries that encompass the Chipola River watershed include: Chipola River Dead Lakes, Spring Creek, Muddy Branch and Otter Creek (subunit 020, 050). The Chipola River Watershed traverses over 100 miles through 812,800 acres with 200,000 acres being utilized in crop production, which is vital to the economy of the region and is the primary socio-economic resource. The Chipola River is defined by Northwest Florida Water Management District as a major Florida river. It originates from freshwater springs in the upper watershed and accounts for approximately 20% of the waters to the Apalachicola River, which is the largest river in Florida. High base flow in Chipola River is supported by over 63 known Floridan aquifer springs. The Chipola River is defined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection as an “Outstanding Florida Waterbody”. However, threats have been identified that could degrade water quality, reduce habitat, or negatively impact rare or imperiled species within the Chipola River watershed. In the past three decades, nitrate concentrations in spring waters have increased substantially in northern and central Florida. Jackson Blue, a tributary to the Chipola and first magnitude spring has the second highest concentration of nitrates of any spring in Florida. The Chipola River and its subunits Dead Lakes (WBID 51B), Muddy Branch (WBID 175) and Otter Creek are 303(d) listed due to agricultural non-point source pollution within the watershed area (EPD 305b report). A great diversity of habitats exist within the watershed from xeric upland longleaf pine forests, to bottomland hardwood swamps, freshwater wetlands, numerous natural springs, and meandering creeks with multiple tributaries. These habitats support rich animal communities with several hundred species of fish and wildlife. There are six federally threatened and endangered mussels species that occur within the Chipola River i.e., oval pigtoe, fat three-ridge, Chipola slabshell, Gulf moccasinshell, purple bankclimber, and shinyrayed pocketbook. The Chipola River is also a managed resource for striped bass and the unique shoal bass fishery. Other threatened and endangered species include: Amphibians & reptiles- American alligator, eastern indigo snake and flatwoods salamander; Fish; Gulf sturgeon; Birds; Arctic peregrine falcon, southeastern kestrel, bald eagle, wood stork, red-cockaded woodpecker; Mammals: i.e. Indiana bat and gray bat. Chipola plants listed on the state or federal endangered list include Marianna columbine, sicklepod, and Apalachicola wild indigo. Endangered and threatened species under serious threat from habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation have been documented and a watershed based plan of action should be developed and initiated for their recovery. A Chipola River watershed partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have been initiated since 2006. The purpose was to develop and lead a research-based platform for environmental restoration and conservation. The Service, along with FWC, West Florida RC&D; Council and others developed a Chipola River Watershed Management Plan (CRWMP) to achieve management and conservation of fish and wildlife resources. This proposal is for the next steps toward management activities under the CRWMP.


GIS analysis conducted by the Service indicates impairment to approximately 9% (i.e., 156 miles) of the Chipola River Basin.  Examples of these impairments are as follows.  Nearly half of the 471 threatened stream stretches lack any riparian buffer.  There are nearly 500 unpaved stream crossings, providing for a great potential for sedimentation.  There are 266 identified point impacts, including impoundments and borrow pits.  These threats are significant to the health and habitat for listed mussels and unique shoal bass fishery present in the Chipola River Basin.




The objective of this proposal is to collaborate with state and non-profit entities action items that will benefit aquatic resources in the Chipola River Basin.  These action items include assisting on-going research projects, development of new projects, coordinating with stakeholders in the basin, monitoring existing fish populations, and implementing restoration projects.


Florida, Alabama

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