Protecting the Etowah Through Education and Action
The Etowah River flows from its headwaters near Dahlonega, through Allatoona Lake, past Cartersville and on to Rome, where it joins the Oostanaula River to form the Coosa River, which eventually makes its way to Mobile Bay. This ancient Appalachian watershed is one of the most diverse river ecosystems in the nation. The most recent count recorded 92 native species, five of which are endemic (native and restricted to a certain place). And there are 17 species that are state and federally listed for protection.
A new species of river darter, a very small and colorful fish, was discovered last summer by Bud and Mary Freeman, ecologists at the University of Georgia. The Etowah bridled darter, also known as Percina freemanorum, is the latest endemic species added to the list. (Read more about the Etowah bridled darter at https://news.uga.edu/new-fish-species-named-for-uga-ecologists. ) Our watershed is worth protecting, and you can help.
The Upper Etowah River Alliance
The Upper Etowah River Alliance (UERA) has been keeping an eye on the Etowah River since 1999. The mission is to provide regional leadership, resources, consultation, education, training materials and events to protect and enhance the natural and economic resources of the watershed for present and future generations.
Covering five counties — Cherokee, Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin and Pickens — UERA began as a forum for dialogue among watershed stakeholders, and soon developed a strong, volunteer-run program with Georgia Adopt-A-Stream (AAS). UERA provides training, equipment and chemicals for citizen scientists to test the river and tributaries, at selected sites, at regular intervals, returning the results to the state’s online AAS records. These records form an important database for environmentalists and local governments for water utilities planning, as well as commercial and residential developers and other businesses, including recreation outfitters.
Free workshops are offered to train adults and kids (grades 6-12) in the scientific protocols and methods required to collect and record accurate results from standardized biological, chemical and macroinvertebrate tests. If you’re interested in becoming a citizen scientist, contact UERA at EtowahRiver.org to arrange for training you, your classroom or club.
Volunteers always are needed for the river cleanups throughout the year. The latest was Oct. 24 of last year, where volunteers scoured 3 miles of the Etowah River, and 1 mile of Canton Creek. More than 100 volunteers pulled trash and debris off the riverbanks and out of the water.
Paddle trips on the Etowah and other local rivers, as well as informative hikes with naturalists, botanists, environmentalists and foresters during the warmer months, are among the UERA offerings. Board members always are available to share their diverse talents, knowledge and experience.
UERA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates entirely on grants, donations and membership dues. The next annual membership meeting and dinner, featuring a keynote speaker and silent auction, is set for April 20 at the Rock Barn in Canton. Those interested in becoming a member, citizen scientist or participant in a river cleanup are encouraged to attend the annual membership meeting. Visit the website for more details.
– Laine Kirby Wood, Canton resident and the executive director of The Upper Etowah River Alliance, is a writer, wildlife enthusiast and grandmother to seven.