The waters flowing from Homewood Forest Preserve feed Shades Creek, which flows past the base of the preserve. Shades Creek is one of the most important tributaries to the Cahaba River, and the Cahaba is one of the world’s most celebrated rivers. The Cahaba River has more fish per river mile than any other temperate river of its size in North America. This, plus its famously long list of freshwater mussels and snails, has garnered the Cahaba River worldwide fame.
While the upper sections of Shades Creek have been heavily impacted by urbanization, the lower reaches of the creek still maintain good habitats for wildlife. Many of the Cahaba’s famous aquatic animals can be found in the lower portions of Shades Creek just before it joins the Cahaba River. These include the Goldline Darter, Round Rocksnail, and Cahaba Shiner – all of which are listed as threatened or endangered species. As one of the major tributaries in the Upper Cahaba River Watershed, Shades Creek plays an important role in sustaining the Cahaba’s biodiversity. Learn about what’s being done to improve water quality in Shades Creek here.
Shades Creek originates just south of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Irondale and flows southwest through the metro area. After exiting the southernmost portion of Jefferson County, the creek flows south a few more miles and joins the main stem of the Cahaba River. Shades Creek’s total length is 54.6 miles, and it drains 138 square miles before it joins the Cahaba River near the Shelby and Bibb County lines.
The waters from the Cahaba River join the Alabama River near Selma, Alabama. From there, these waters flow southwest before joining the Tombigbee River just a few dozen miles north of Mobile. This confluence creates the Mobile River, which flows into Mobile Bay. Ultimately, the waters from Shades Creek wind up in the Gulf of Mexico.
–R. Scot Duncan