The stream surfaces in North Roebuck and travels southwest through the Roebuck Municipal Golf Course and is dammed near 81st Street North to form East Lake. Below the dam it continues westward and is channeled through tunnels below the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. It joins Avondale Creek at the southwest end of the airport property and proceeds through Greenwood Park in East Birmingham, past the former North Birmingham Water Works, and alongside the East Thomas Yards where it is used to fill several industrial reservoirs.
The creek then bends to the northwest and passes the Ensley Works and North Ensley, past McAlpine Park and P. D. Jackson-Olin High School and into the Warrior Coal Fields of western Jefferson County. At Bayview the creek is held by Bayview Dam to form Bayview Lake, used as a source of industrial water by the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company.
From there it snakes westward in a deep channel called Village Creek Canyon south and west of Maytown and Shady Grove, then merges with Dry Brush Creek near the Woodruff Mine. Village Creek terminates at the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River adjacent to the Miller Steam Plant near West Jefferson.
The first coal-mining operations in Alabama took place along the banks of Village Creek in the 1820s. Operators would pull small barges alongside exposed creekside coal seams and chip and scrape the coal directly into their boats.
Village Creek was the first source of industrial and municipal water in the city of Birmingham. The North Birmingham Water Works tapped the stream to fill its reservoir in 1873, but found the small creek insufficient by the mid-1880s. A canal was dug in 1887 to supplement the system with water from Five Mile Creek. A second supply from the Cahaba River was added in 1890.
Between 1983 and 2000 735 houses which had been constructed in the creek's flood plain have been removed as part of a flood mitigation program by the City of Birmingham with funding from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Authority.
A cleared 75-acre site in Ensley that had been maintained by the city was re-opened on March 11, 2016 for recreational purposes as the Village Creek Greenway, a project of the Freshwater Land Trust. The project realizes part of a system for urban parks, first proposed in 1924 by the Olmsted Brothers landscape architects.
Pollution in Village Creek was identified as a problem as early as the late 1870s as industries located along its banks used it indiscriminately for intake and waste. Over the years the creek has also served as an illegal dumping ground and collected large amounts of litter.
In the 1980s several specimens of the endangered Watercress darter were found in a tributary of upper Village Creek in Roebuck. The city of Birmingham agreed to reduce pesticide use near the smaller stream to help protect the fish.
Though pesticide use and sanitary sewer leaks have been greatly reduced, continuing industrial discharges as well as storm-water overflows and illegal dumping have kept the stream in an impaired state. More recently, the Storm Water Management Authority has been responsible for testing samples of stream water for pollutants. They have found high levels of heavy metals and other suspended solids in the water.
- Spencer, Thomas (September 5, 2008) "Village Creek rebounds." Birmingham News
- Hudgins, C. L. and Marjorie Longenecker White (November 9, 1984) Village Creek: An Architectural and Historical Resources Survey of the Village Creek Project Neighborhoods, City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama. Birmingham Historical Society
- Hudgins, Carter Lee (December 1985) "A Natural History of Village Creek" The Journal of the Birmingham Historical Society. Vol. 9, No. 1