All of downtown Birmingham rests within the headwaters of the Valley Creek watershed. Valley Creek, one of several major creeks draining Jones Valley, flows to the Black Warrior River, joining it about 25 miles away from the McWane Center. Valley Creek was an important source of water for drinking and industrial use during Birmingham’s early history. Today, it channels industrial waste, treated wastewater, and storm water away from the urban core of Birmingham.
The Black Warrior River is one of the five major rivers that drain the upper portions of the Mobile River Basin (all the lands that drain to Mobile Bay). The Black Warrior watershed lies entirely within northwestern Alabama. The river is formed at the confluence of the Locust Fork and Mulberry Fork, at a point 20 miles west of Birmingham. Farther south, the Black Warrior River joins the Tombigbee River at Demopolis, Alabama, and the larger Tombigbee continues south and merges with the Alabama River just 35 miles north of Mobile. Their confluence forms the Mobile River, which flows to Mobile Bay through the Mobile River Delta.
Many of the animals exhibited at the McWane Science Center – such as the sharks, rays, and jellyfish – are species inhabiting Mobile Bay and the northern Gulf of Mexico. The survival of these and other marine creatures – including some of our favorite seafood species – depends in large part on the quality of water reaching the coast. Thus, efforts to clean up Valley Creek, the Black Warrior River, and other streams of the Birmingham metropolitan area not only safeguard Birmingham’s people and their environment, but also protect ecosystems and livelihoods along the coast.
-R. Scot Duncan