The Coosa Valley, rich in aquatic biodiversity and natural beauty, is the one of the most developed rivers in Alabama – The River State. The Coosa River is 280 miles long, with 90% of its length in Alabama. From headwaters in Georgia and Tennessee, the Coosa flows to Alabama where a series of impoundments cover the magnificent shoals that so famously dominated the Coosa in the steamboat era. Those impoundments created six large lakes that are a major part of life on the Coosa and where tens of thousands of people live, fish and swim. The river is the most aquatically biodiverse subwatershed of the Mobile River Basin, which is the fourth largest basin in the country in streamflow. As such, the Coosa River, its lakes, and tributaries deserve protection from a myriad variety of threats which could further degrade its remarkable character.
The Coosa River provides recreation, drinking water, and economic benefits in fifteen counties in Alabama. In recent years, local municipalities and counties have noted an increase in tourist expenditures, job growth, and dollars by making the Coosa and its tributaries more accessible and highlighting the impact it has on their communities. Journeying down the Coosa River from beautiful Lookout Mountain, past Talladega National Forest, and beyond the “rumbling waters” of Wetumpka, the river takes on a new name at confluence with the Tallapoosa River. The Alabama River flows on to the Mobile Delta and Gulf of Mexico.
The eight hydropower dams along the Coosa River, built early in the last century, constitute the primary threat to the river's health today. The Center for Biological Diversity reported the Coosa River suffered the greatest modern extinction event in the history of North America as a result of the dams and their impoundments. Thirty-six species endemic to the Coosa River were forced into extinction when Alabama Power impounded the river for hydroelectric power in the early 20th century. In 2010, the national environmental group American Rivers rated the Coosa as the tenth most endangered river in the entire United States. Although the conclusions of the report are typically interpreted as saddening and shocking, a major positive outcome of the report was the resulting increase in public concern, which energized a group of citizens to band together forming Coosa Riverkeeper. Despite the alarming number of extinctions and ongoing threats to water quality, the Coosa River is a unique and valuable resource for individuals, municipalities, and commercial enterprise.
Coosa Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect, restore and promote the Coosa River and its tributaries. We are a citizen-based nonprofit organization working to improve water quality, protect valuable habitat, and promote recreation and public health along the Coosa River in Alabama. We monitor polluters and their pollution permits, patrol the waterways, educate the public, and advocate on behalf of the river. Coosa Riverkeeper was founded in 2010 and is governed by a diverse Board of Directors, which is composed of many of the top environmental leaders in the watershed. Coosa Riverkeeper is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
Coosa Riverkeeper is the only advocacy organization solely focused the Lower and Middle Coosa Basins ranging from “skinny waters” of Big Wills Creek near Ft. Payne to Lake Neely Henry down to the tailwaters below Jordan Dam in Wetumpka. We are joined in protecting the Coosa River by Upper Coosa Riverkeeper, a division of the Coosa River Basin Initiative in Rome, Georgia. Their jurisdiction covers the headwaters of the Coosa, including the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers as well as Weiss Lake in Alabama.
Coosa Riverkeeper is a licensed member of Waterkeeper Alliance, an international alliance of 350+ Waterkeepers fighting to protect their local waterways. In less than ten years, Coosa Riverkeeper has built a reputation as a highly effective and credible organization. In 2017, we were named “Best Group of the Year” by Alabama Rivers Alliance, a statewide alliance of water advocacy organizations. We have earned the Guidestar Platinum designation for organizational best practices and financial transparency, and earned the national accreditation of Standards for Excellence. In 2018, Coosa Riverkeeper and the seven other Alabama Waterkeepers were honored as “Best Group of the Year” for our collective work on “sewage right-to-know”, resulting in the first statewide electronic notification system for sewage overflows administered by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
To fulfill our mission of protecting, promoting, and restoring the Coosa River, our organization has developed four core programs to engage the many people who live, work, visit and recreate on the Coosa River, its tributaries and lakes. Through the Fish Guide, Swim Guide, Riverkeeper Patrol, and Education & Outreach programs, Coosa Riverkeeper encourages everyone to enjoy the river, lakes, and “skinny water” or creeks, while providing information about water quality conditions and fish consumption advisories for both sport and leisure. Our organization works to answer the simple questions “is it safe to swim?”, “are the fish safe to eat?”, and “what can I do to make the Coosa healthier for my community?” as a means to ensure the public is aware of issues that impact recreation, public health, and property value.