At 24 acres, the Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge is one of the smallest refuges in the U.S. Though it is nestled within a suburban neighborhood, the wildlife refuge is of critical importance to the survival of a small, rare, and colorful fish, the Watercress Darter (Etheostoma nuchale). The refuge was established in 1980 to protect the darters habitat in Thomas Spring, one of five sites in the world where this endangered species lives. All five locations are within the Birmingham metropolitan area. Walking trails at the refuge are open to the public, but allowable activities on the refuge are limited because of the darter’s endangered status. The refuge is adjacent to the historic McAdory House built around 1840.
Eastern Valley Road & Division Street South
Bessemer, AL 35020
• What To Do •
Visitors can walk the short, easy path to one of the ponds on the refuge where the Watercress Darter dwells. The trail ends on a boardwalk that takes you to the pond margin. The darters are too small to be seen from the boardwalk, but you may see fishes, turtles, beavers, and other animals. Because of the darter’s endangered status, fishing and other water-related activities are not allowed.
• Seasonal Highlights •
The short hike is pleasant any time of the year. During the warmer months, look for turtles basking along the margins of the pond. In the cooler months, look for sparrows, finches, and other birds visiting for the winter. Water levels tend to peak in late winter and early spring, when rainfall is highest in the region. All year long, watch for beavers and the Great Blue Heron that occasionally hunts along the pond margin.