Ridge and Valley Province
The Ridge and Valley province is adjacent to the Cumberland Plateau
in northwestern Georgia and occupies about 2,800 square miles, or
5% of the states surface area. The underlying rock is
symmetrically folded, producing long parallel valleys and ridges
that are oriented in a northeast-southwest direction. The
ridges typically reach 1,000-1,600 feet in elevation, while the
valleys range from 600-800 feet.
The Chickamauga Valley and the Great Valley are separated by the
Armuchee Ridges. These three features form the majority of
Georgias Ridge and Valley province. The Great Valley runs
north -south between Atlanta and Chattanooga. During the
Civil War this valley was a major corridor for troop movements for
both the Union and Confederate armies.
The Coosa River Basin, which drains the central valley, is one
of Georgias most diverse rivers. It has been called the snail
capital of the world, as 82 gastropods make it their home.
Habitat Highlight: Etowah River
Georgias rivers are the most diverse temperate freshwater
ecosystems in the world. Between native fish, mussels, snails
and crayfish, our rivers are unparalleled for their species
diversity. Even freshwater turtle diversity in Georgia and
Alabama is among the highest in the world.
The Etowah River offers a good example of a highly diverse
Georgia river. The Etowah watershed is located in central
north Georgia and drains into Lake Allatoona in Cherokee
County. The headwaters of the Etowah are in the Blue Ridge
province, but it flows though the Ridge and Valley. Though
small in comparison to many other river basins in Georgia, the
Etowah river system is one of the most diverse in the world.
Unfortunately, it is also one of the most imperiled.
Historically, 91 species of fish were found in the Etowah.
Since the late 1800s however, 15 species have disappeared from the
watershed. Still, with 76 native fish species, the Etowah is
one of the most biologically diverse river systems in the world,
rivaling and surpassing many far larger systems. For example,
the Etowah is home to more that three times the native fish species
than the entire Colorado River system, and more than twice that of
the Columbia River System.
Key Plants and Animals
Biologically the Ridge and Valley province is more similar
to southwest Georgia than it is to the rest of north Georgia.
The Great Valley (Coosa River Valley) seems to act like a corridor
running diagonally from northwest Georgia, southwest through
Alabama, allowing species more typical of the Coastal Plain to
expand their ranges into north Georgia. A number of coastal
plain species reach up the Coosa Valley into north Georgia, some
continuously and others with disjunct populations. Pine Woods
Tree Frog (Hyla femoralis), Gopher Frog (Rana
areolata), Southern Hognose Snake (Heterodon simus),
as well as Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia),
Squirrel Tree Frog (Hyla squirella) and Oak Toad (Bufo
quercicus) extend north of the coastal plain only up the Coosa
Species Highlight: Burrowing
Georgia is home to about 70 species of crayfishes. Of those
70 approximately 25 are classified as burrowing crayfishes.
Instead of living in open waters such as streams and lakes, these
species construct complex burrows in which they spend most of their
lives. They are still aquatic animals however, and require
water for survival. They accomplish this by digging down
until they reach groundwater. These burrowing species
typically are found in low swampy areas or along stream margins
where the water table is close to the surface. Small earthen
chimneys are often the only evidence of their presence. These
chimneys are formed as they push small balls of earth out of their
burrows, which can be more than 10 feet deep. They can
occasionally be seen foraging around the mouth of their burrow or
moving over land on warm, damp nights, possibly looking for
The Conasauga Blue Burrower (Cambarus cymatilis) is a
burrowing crayfish known only from the Conasauga River system in
northwestern Georgia. This species was first found in burrows
in the rose garden of a family in Chatsworth, Georgia. It has
since been found at only four additional locations. The
Conasauga Blue Burrower lives in complex systems of tunnels that it
excavates and maintains throughout its life. Because crayfish
are aquatic organisms, at least one of these tunnels must go below
the water table. This animal is a beautiful blue color with
creamy white edges on its claws and legs.
Other Key Species:
Cherokee Darter (Etheostoma scotti)
Etowah Darter (Etheostoma etowahae)
Upland combshell (Epioblasma metastriata)
Southern Clubshell (Pleurobema decisum)
Large-flowered Skullcap (Scuttelaria sp.)
Tennessee yellow-eyed grass (Xyris sp.)
Sites to Visit:
New Echota Historic Site Calhoun (800) 864-7275
Chickamauga and Chattanooga Nat. Military Park Fort Oglethorpe
Johns Mountain WMA Calhoun (770) 297-3000
Project WILD Aquatic
Fashion a Fish