The Hogtown Creek Watershed is located in the northwest and southwest quadrants of Gainesville and is one of the largest watersheds in the area, encompassing approximately 20 square miles of urban and suburban Gainesville. The University of Florida and Gainesville High School are located within this basin. Hogtown Creek has numerous tributaries, with four of the largest being Possum Creek, Springstead Creek, Rattlesnake Branch, and Elizabeth Creek. These four tributaries all join the creek in the area between NW 39th Avenue and University Avenue. Relief is high in the watershed and in many areas the creek and tributaries are deeply incised. Phosphate pebbles and fossils, such as shark’s teeth, dugong rib bones, and shell molds and casts, are frequently found in the streambed. The creek flows through residential neighborhoods and commercial districts and then through forested wetlands where it ultimately recharges the Floridan Aquifer at Haile Sink.
Approximately 80% of Hogtown Creek flows through urban residential and commercial areas of Gainesville and intermittent areas of natural forest and wetland. Riparian vegetative communities in the watershed consist of residential lawns and landscapes, upland hardwood with mixed pine forest, wetland hardwood forest, wetlands, and open land or pasture. As you walk along the creek you may see trees such as loblolly pine, ironwood, hickory, and sweetgum. Wetland forests along the creek contain species such as red maple, cypress, bull bay, and cherry. Non-forested wetland plants found in the watershed include sedges, buttonbush, water hemlock, wild rice, and softstem rushes. Shrub and brushland in the northern part of the basin are likely successional or disturbed areas that were formerly pasture. Some species in these areas include live oak, wax myrtle, blueberry, blackberry, and fennel. Under the trees, you may sometimes see Solomon’s seal, cabbage palm, dwarf palmetto, swamp dogwood, southern elderberry, and the exotic glossy privet. Aquatic plants found in Hogtown creek include native bamboo, lizard’s tail, never wet or golden club, rushes, and exotic species such as hydrilla, alligatorweed, and parrot feather. The creek system also has many non-native or exotic plants such as elephant ear, Mexican petunia, coral ardesia, English ivy, wandering jew, air potato, Chinese tallow, and heavenly bamboo. Hogtown Creek has some areas that support several forms of wildlife. Fish species such as the mosquitofish are abundant in most reaches of the creek. Common birdlife includes most of the native songbirds of the Gainesville area, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, osprey, and barred owls. Alligators, turkeys, and aquatic turtles are quite common as the stream approaches Haile Sink.
Because Hogtown Creek flows through mostly urban and developed areas, the major source of nonpoint source pollution is runoff from the impervious areas in the watershed. The parking lots of many shopping centers lie adjacent to the creek and runoff from these areas contains oil and petroleum residues. The high density residential areas along the creek further contribute runoff that can contain high levels of nutrients and chemicals from the use of fertilizers and herbicides on lawns and gardens. There are two significant point sources of pollution in this watershed; petroleum contamination entering the creek via a stormwater collection system at the Gainesville Mall and contaminated sediments in Springstead and Hogtown creeks. While sediment accumulation in streams is typically considered a nonpoint type of pollution, the contamination in these particular sediments originates from one or more point sources. Other point sources of pollution may also exist in this urbanized watershed.
The health of streams can also be evaluated by determining the number of pollution-sensitive benthic macroinvertebrate organisms present. These organisms, such as snails, crawfish aquatic worms and the larvae of dragonflies and damselflies, are susceptible to degradation of water, sediment, or habitat quality and their populations respond to these cumulative factors over time. Macroinvertebrates are also important food sources for adult insects, fish, frogs and birds. In Hogtown Creek, the biggest threat to macroinvertebrate populations is erosion and sediment deposition. In-stream erosion is a serious problem in the upper portions of the watershed while sediment deposition is the prevailing issue in the lower reaches. Deposited sediment mobilizes during storm events and drops out further downstream. Without a stable substrate, in-stream aquatic vegetation is largely non-existent. Sand smothering of the streambed is common, occurring even in the natural, forested areas of the watershed. The stream is healthy in the upper and lower parts of the watershed, but it is biologically impaired in the large, urbanized middle portion.
Creek, Gainesville, Florida
GOOD PLACES TO VISIT THIS CREEK
Hogtown Creek is one of the easier creeks to access. For an enjoyable creek adventure, visit this creek at one of the city's beautiful Nature Parks such Alfred A. Ring Park, Loblolly Nature Center (part of the Hogtown Greenway) or the beautiful Split Rock Park.
Do you live near Hogtown Creek? Here’s what you can do to keep your water clean and the creek healthy:
Remember that all of our creeks, one way or another, make their way to the aquifer from which we get our drinking water. The fact that the creeks eventually make their way into the giant “well” from which we draw our drinking water supply is a good reason, among many, to protect them. Increased impervious area and decreased riparian buffers lead to more runoff going into the creeks during storm events. Runoff from yards and driveways carries pollutants like automobile fluids and wastes, detergents, fertilizers, pesticides, household chemicals, pet wastes, and plain trash down the stormdrains into the creeks. Even organic yard wastes – leaves, cuttings and landscape detritus - can overload the creek system. If you ever wondered where those storm drains actually drain to, the creek is your answer. In Gainesville, the runoff can carry considerable pollution into our treasured waterways, and it does.
You can help - keep pollutants off the streets; change your oil and dispose of it sensibly, keep up the maintenance on your vehicles to prevent leaks, use pesticides and fertilizers minimally if at all, dispose of pet waste hygienically, and put trash where it belongs! If you prevent pollution from entering the aquifer, you will be doing your part to protect the health of your community.
If you are lucky enough to live on a creek, you can maintain a healthy riparian buffer with native landscaping to effectively filter pollutants from the roadways. You can sign up for a creek cleanup with Adopt-A-River or learn to landscape a Florida Friendly Yard. All of these efforts will help to protect the creeks from pollution.