WINSTON COUNTY - One of the natural features of Winston County is the amount of water it has, from the “Wild and Scenic” Sipsey to Smith Lake and all the waterfalls located in the Sipsey Wilderness and Bankhead National Forest. Many of the smaller streams flow into much larger creeks, which in turn, flow into the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River. The Black Warrior River Basin eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Four of the major creeks of Winston County are Clear Creek, Sipsey Fork, Brushy Creek and Rock Creek. This article focuses on Sipsey.
Mistakenly called Sipsey River, which is the name of another river in west-central Alabama, the Sipsey Fork of the West Fork, also known as the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River, was designated as Alabama’s only “wild and scenic” river Oct. 28, 1988. It is approximately 66 miles in length. The “fork” was officially added to its name Feb. 9, 1965, approved by the United States Geological Survey to avoid confusion with the other Sipsey. The length designated as wild is 36.4 miles, and the length dedicated as scenic is 25 miles, for a total of 61.4 miles ,according to an online document at rivers.gov.
It is formed by the junction of Hubbard and Thompson creeks in the Sipsey Wilderness in Lawrence County, just north of the Winston County line. These are the headwaters of Sipsey at a latitude and longitude of 34.3225983, -87.472244. From there it flows through Winston County and for a short time is the boundary line between Cullman and Walker counties before terminating as a tributary of the Mulberry Fork, which flows into the Black Warrior River System. The mouth of the river is just east of the town of Sipsey at a latitude and longitude of 33.8156602, -87.0572229.
The tributaries of Sipsey, in the order they enter Sipsey, include Bee Branch, Ugly Creek, Wolf Pen Branch, Fall Creek, Braziel Creek, Borden Creek, Davis Creek, Lloyds Creek, Hurricane Creek, Caney Creek, Payne Creek, Sandy Creek, Grindstone Creek, Mill Creek (Winston), Cane Creek, Bull Branch, Penitentiary Branch, Rockhouse Creek, Hoghouse Creek, Yellow Creek, Big Bear Branch, Coon Creek, Clear Creek, Butler Branch, Battle Branch, Dismal Creek, Duncan Creek, Parker Branch, Mill Creek (Walker), Boyd Creek, Wilson Branch, Leeth Creek and Clark Branch.
The earliest Sipsey Fork has appeared on maps is 1804 when it was labeled “Tascaloosie or Sipsie River.” In 1813, it was known as the Sipsie River, and in 1840, it was listed as the Sipsey Fork of Black Warrior River. Sipsey, as in the Chickasaw and Choctaw name Sipsi, means poplar.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.