The many present day creeks and small rivers that flow through the piedmont region of central Georgia originated between 15,000 years BP-8,000 years BP when water tables rose as a result of melting glaciers far to the north of the state. Before this, during the Glacial Maximum, the regional landscape was much more arid and only the largest of rivers and creeks still flowed…and those were often low flowing and clogged with sandbars. Intermittent springs probably occurred in the lowest areas of topography along the present day courses of smaller streams. Climatic phases with increased precipitation raised the water table enough to cause water flow between springs, and these creeks eventually emptied into the nearest river. So much atmospheric moisture was released at the end of the last Ice Age that rivers and creeks had a larger flow than they do today. This occurred between ~10,000 years BP-~5,000 years BP when rivers were classified as “supermeandering.” Fish found their way from rivers into newly formed creeks during the late Pleistocene/early Holocene, though a few species may had persisted in relic Ice Age springs before water tables rose. About 40 years ago the noted naturalist, Charles Wharton, electro-fished a small unnamed creek located 1.4 miles south of Sopa Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, and he determined the “near original” composition of fish species typical of piedmont streams that flow into this river. These creeks flow through steep terrain often between high bluffs and where protected are still very beautiful natural areas.
Cobb County, Georgia. Charles Wharton electro-fished a small stream here over 40 years ago and determined the original fish species composition of piedmont Chattahoochee feeder creeks.
This is where Sopa Creek flows into the Chattahoochee River. Sherman ordered his troops to cross over the rocks here during the Civil War.
The fish species Wharton found in his survey included band fin shiner ( Notropis zonistius ), central stoneroller ( Campostoma anomalum ), creek chubsucker ( Erimyzon oblongus ), Alabama hog sucker ( Hypentelium etowanum ), yellow bullhead catfish ( Ictalurus natalis ), bluegill ( Lepomis machrochorus ), and banded sculpin ( Collus carolinae ). The band fin shiner is a small minnow native to the Chattahoochee River drainage, though it has been introduced to other river systems wherever fishermen dump their bait buckets. The stoneroller is a widespread species in the Midwest. It eats algae and may school in the hundreds. They grow up to 8 inches long. The creek chubsucker can grow twice as long as the stoneroller, and it eats small crustaceans and insect larva in addition to algae.
Alabama hog sucker.
The yellow bullhead catfish is omnivorous and can grow up to 6 pounds, though it normally reaches a weight of about 2 pounds. Bluegills also grow large enough to make a good meal. Early settlers placed fish traps in the nearest streams and caught supper, while they were busy clearing and cultivating their land. Bluegills and catfish living in clear moving streams with rocky bottoms probably taste better than those taken from muddy ponds.
Yellow bullhead catfish.
Bluegill sunfish or bream.
The banded sculpin is a freshwater relative of a large family of saltwater species. Banded sculpins are nocturnal ambush predators that live under stones. They compete with crayfish for the same type of habitat.
The origin of the name Sopa Creek has a disputed origin. This stream flows for 11.6 miles through Marietta until it empties into the Chattahoochee River. Today, the headwaters emerge from a spring under a manmade culvert, but I’m sure the original landscape was picturesque. Now, it is surrounded by suburban sprawl. Some say this creek gets its name from the foam caused by water rushing through rocks. The foam resembles soap spuds, and supposedly an early mapmaker misspelled soap. Others claim the creek is named after an old Cherokee Indian (Old Sopa) who lived nearby. He reportedly refused to be removed when is compatriots were force marched to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.
The Natural Environments of Georgia
Georgia Department of Natural Resources 1978