Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blue Spring, in Jackson County, Alabama

I took the Ichthyology class on a field trip this afternoon for the lab component. We went to Blue Spring in the Paint Rock Valley of Jackson County, Alabama. This is a surprisingly round, deep spring that is honest-to-God blue sitting at the base of a broken limestone/sandstone/chert steep slope of an ancient mountain. Water enters the spring basin from under the road through several fissures at a fairly steady rate. The pool was lower today than I've ever seen it, but it was still a good 2 meters deep in the middle, and 13 deg. C, the temperature of local groundwater. There's also a spring run that joins Guess Creek about 200 meters downstream. We seined some very big striped shiners from the spring, and finally netted some blacknose dace. But that was it; in the past we've caught johnny darters, blueside darters, and sculpins in the pool. The first photo is a view from the west end of the basin; note the Fontinella moss in the water in the foreground. Water temperature at the surface was 66 deg. F (the only thermometer I had...) and total dissolved solids was 138 ppm, about right for local groundwater.
The next photo is a view of the spring run. We netted mostly striped shiners and BIG blacknose dace out of this, along with tennessee snubnose darters, a single big male stripetail darter, and one cute sculpin. When we started netting in Guess Creek downstream of the confluence we caught a bigeye chub, Hybopsis amblops, whose presence indicates the creek is basically clean, clear and cool which is certainly what it looked like.
The next photo catches Ethan clambering up from the spring to the road which is heavily engineered at this point. You can see the mountain slope behind him, with some hint of the broken nature of the slope.
And finally, a hazy view of Brittany walking on the road to the cars. The mouth of the spring entering the basin is directly below her, in the pile of visible rocks on the edge of the spring. We were there for several hours, being rained on, and everyone worked well with no complaining. As we left thunder was closer and the rain was picking up, so we left before it got bad. Seeing as how it's only rained about 6 cm locally in the last month we need the heavy showers that started.


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