The Choctawhatchee originates as two separate forks in Barbour County, Alabama; the East Fork flows through Henry County and joins the West Fork in eastern Dale County about four miles above Newton. The unified river then flows southwest through Dale and Geneva counties into Florida, collecting tributaries along the way: the Little Choctawhatchee River in Dale County, and the Pea River near Geneva. It then flows south into Florida, terminating at Choctawhatchee Bay. Other Alabama tributaries Claybank Creek and Tight Eye Creek.
Once in Florida, the river continues southwesterly through Holmes, Walton and Bay counties until reaching its namesake bay. Major tributaries in Florida include Holmes, Wright, Sandy, Pine Log, Seven Run and Bruce creeks. Choctawhatchee Bay empties into the Gulf of Mexico at East Pass near Destin, Florida.
An alluvial river, it is characterized by a broad floodplain, seasonal flooding and a heavy sediment load. Its old growth bottomland hardwood forests have drawn ornithologists searching for elusive ivory-billed woodpeckers.
The Choctawhatchee system retains much of its biological diversity. However, many species, both aquatic and terrestrial are threatened and are declining and in risk of extinction.
Chief among these are the freshwater mussels. However, other species are also at risk due to land use changes pollution and habitat modification. Some of the biggest threats to the river and its tributaries include:
1. Excessive sediment loading threatens
water quality and aquatic habitats.
2. Untreated gullies, unpaved roads, poor
erosion and sediment control on construction projects, and sediment from channels unstable due to channelization are all sources of excessive sediment.
3. Excessive nutrient loading threatens water quality, aquatic organisms and potentially recreational water users. Sources include municipal wastewater treatment facilities, poultry processing plant discharges and pollution from agricultural and urban runoff.
4. Proposals for unnecessary in-stream
reservoirs threaten to destroy major