2700 Refuge Headquarters Road
Decatur, AL 35603
Watercress Darter NWR, near Bessemer, Jefferson County, Alabama, was established by the Service in 1980 to provide protection for the endangered watercress darter. Although the Refuge is only about 23 acres of ponds, mixed pine-hardwood forest, and a residence, it contains Thomas Spring, the original quarter acre pond where the species was described. A second pond was constructed on the Refuge in 1983 to provide additional darter habitat.The Refuge is unstaffed and administered by Wheeler NWR. The watercress darter is a small, very colorful fish measuring up to 2.5 inches in length. The fish is currently found in only four sites in the upper Black Warrior River drainage near Birmingham, Alabama. They are found only at mid-depths in dense accumulations of aquatic vegetation including watercress, in springs and spring runs. Green sunfish, bluegills, and sculpins are known to prey on watercress darters. The darters feed on snails, crustaceans, and insect larvae that inhabit springs and spring runs.
Map + Directions
Watercress Darter NWR is located near Bessemer, Alabama. From Interstate-65, take Interstate-59 South/20 West. Follow Interstate-59 South/20 West for about 11 miles and take exit number 112. Turn left at the second light on the exit ramp. Follow to the next traffic light and turn right on to U.S. Highway 11. Follow U.S. Highway 11 for about 1 mile and turn left on to Westlake Road. Follow Westlake Road for about 0.5 miles and turn left on Lakeridge Road. Follow Lakeridge Road to the first traffic light and turn right on to 4th Avenue. Follow 4th Avenue to the second traffic light and take a left on Division Street. Follow Division Street for about one mile and turn left on Eastern Valley Road. The Refuge and residence are found immediately on your left.