Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge
Watercress Darter NWR was established by the Service in 1980 to provide protection for the watercress darter and to conserve and restore its crucial habitat. Today, the 24-acre refuge consists of two ponds, several stands of mixed pine-hardwoods with shrubs, and a single residence. Thomas Spring is a one-quarter-acre pond where a population of watercress darters was found in 1976. A second pond was constructed on the refuge in 1983 by the Service to provide additional habitat for the darter. The watercress darter is a small, very colorful fish measuring up to 2.5 inches in length. The fish is found naturally in only four sites in the upper Black Warrior River drainage near Birmingham, Alabama. Watercress darters have been introduced and are reproducing in a fifth location. They are found only at mid-depths in dense accumulations of aquatic vegetation including watercress, in springs and spring runs. Green sunfish, bluegill, and sculpin are known to prey on watercress darters. The darters feed on snails, crustaceans, and insect larvae that inhabit springs and spring runs.
Getting There . . .
Watercress Darter NWR is located in Bessemer, Alabama. From Interstate 459 take the Eastern Valley Road Exit (Exit 1). Take Eastern Valley Road north for approximately 6 miles. Parking is available on the left (west) side of the road immediately after the West Jefferson County Historical Society’s MacAdory House and before the stop light.
Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service