Turkey Creek

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Turkey Creek Falls, photographed March 29, 2008 by Alby Headrick

Turkey Creek is a tributary of Locust Fork in northeastern Jefferson County. Its name is believed to be a translation of the Creek Indian name for the stream.

Course

The stream arises off of Country Vale Drive in Clay, just southwest of the Clay Community Center. It flows southwest alongside Old Springville Road and feeds Cosby Lake at Camp Cosby and Shadow Lake at the foot of Keeler Mountain before bending to the northwest.

It is joined by several small feeder streams as it approaches Pinson, passing by Tapawingo Springs before crossing under Alabama State Highway 75 and Alabama State Highway 79 near Rudd Middle School. It winds through The Narrows, tumbling through a rocky waterfall (known as Turkey Creek Falls) at the end of Turkey Creek Road. It then continues northwest around the Turkey Creek Landfill occupying a former strip mine.

The creek passes under Newcastle Bedford Road and flows past Crosston before turning south under Majestic Road and then resuming its northwest course. It is joined by North Creek just west of a Louisville & Nashville Railroad bridge. It loosely parallels the L&N railway south of Majestic and past Haig Rogers Cemetery into the southern part of Morris where it meets Cunningham Creek and becomes wider.

Turkey Creek continues flowing northwest through western Morris with a sharp bend at the Turkey Creek Driving Range. After crossing Sardis Road it enters Kimberly from the south and joins the Locust Fork just north of the town limits.

Turkey Creek is home to most of the only known populations of the endangered vermilion darter and also supports small populations of the endangered watercress darter and rush darter.

Falls

The falls area's long history as a freely-accessible unsupervised recreation spot led to decades of accumulation of refuse, junked cars and other garbage. Southern Environmental Center director Roald Hazelhoff organized a massive clean-up day with students from Birmingham-Southern College in the Fall of 1989.

In 1998 Jefferson County proposed constructing a new correctional facility to house 900 prisoners close to the site of the falls. Opponents of the plan founded the Society To Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek (S.T.A.R.T.) which made a successful case to the Jefferson County Commission that the falls would serve the public better as a nature preserve than as a prison.

The fallout from the County's 1996 consent decree over sewer overflows into streams provided the mechanism by which the area was conserved. The county's fines were administered by the Freshwater Land Trust which purchased 466 acres around the falls and established the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in 2003. The land trust continues to manage the preserve, with a resident land manager and ever-expanding public programs.

Though many of the mining sites in the area have since become inactive, the stream is still threatened by runoff from construction and intensifying development expected with the planned construction of the Northern Beltline.

In 2009 the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed designating Turkey Creek and its tributaries as "critical habitat" for the vermilion darter. The proposal would not impact private development, but could trigger additional review of federally-supported projects such as the proposed beltline. The Alabama Department of Transportation has already negotiated design protections for the fish with the FWS.

In 2013 the Freshwater Land Trust coordinated a federally-funded project to remove a 90-year-old, 6-foot-tall, 85-foot-wide dam from the stream in an effort to improve habitat for the vermilion darter.

Watercress darter (Etheostoma nuchale)
Habitats Glenn Springs · Nabors Branch · Roebuck Spring · Tapawingo Springs · Thomas Spring · Turkey Creek
Preserves Seven Springs Ecoscape · Turkey Creek Nature Preserve · Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge
People R. D. Caldwell (co-discoverer) · Larry Davenport · Mike Howell (co-discoverer) · Heron Johnson
Turkey Creek Falls in April of 2015. Photo by Robert Matthews.

References

  • Foscue, Virginia O. (1989) Place Names in Alabama. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 081730410X
  • Spencer, Thomas (December 5, 2009) "Critical habitat status eyed for Turkey Creek." The Birmingham News
  • Spencer, Thomas (December 7, 2010) "Habitat for endangered vermilion darter expanded in Jefferson County's Turkey Creek." The Birmingham News
  • Diel, Stan (October 28, 2013) "Turkey Creek dam blocking endangered darter to be removed." The Birmingham News
  • Pillion, Dennis (July 29, 2016) "How Turkey Creek Nature Preserve became one of Alabama's favorite outdoor spots again." The Birmingham News