The Watercress Darter NWR near Bessemer was established in 1980 to provide protection for the endangered watercress darter. The watercress darter is a small, very colorful fish measuring up to 2.5 inches in length. Currently found in only five sites in the upper Black Warrior River drainage, and prefer environments with dense aquatic vegetation. The darters feed on snails, crustaceans, and insect larvae that inhabit springs and spring runs. The NWR consists of 0.25 acres with two pond.
The single trail within the NWR is short, but offers a great woodland walk, photo opportunities and wildlife observation. Birding is also possible along the trail as hooded warblers, eastern towhee, northern cardinals, belted kingfishers and great blue heron call the preserve home. The trail begins at the small parking lot beside Eastern Valley Road and follows the wood line. The terrain is mostly dirt except for sections which are wood slats or elevated boardwalk. Following the main path, you will reach the observation platform above the pond. During wetter months, the platform provides a better view of the spring. Returning along the same path, take a left at the trail split and proceed over the wooden bridge to the north. The trail weaves it way through the woodlands. Parts of the trail were covered with fallen debris but were still passable. The trail continues across another bridge before meeting back up with the main trail which will take you back to the parking area.
For a short hike with great areal fowl, the Watercress Darter NWR is a great way to get out and enjoy the nature close to home.