Water Quality Division
Blue Thumb Program
Volunteer Data Interpretation
Flint Creek: Fidler's Bend
Delaware County, OK
NE NE NW Section 35-20N-24 E
Latitude: N 36° 10’ 29.6”
Longitude: W 94° 43’ 8.10“
Written by: David Magee
The Flint Creek Fidler’s Bend site is located at the mouth of Flint Creek just upstream from its confluence with the Illinois River. Approximately one mile upstream the creek passes under US Hwy 412, where there are two RV parks and a camping/water park area. Blue Thumb monitoring of the site has been continuous since June, 2004.
Flint Creek originates in northwestern Arkansas and flows into Oklahoma. It lies in the Ozark Highlands eco-region of Oklahoma.
Stream Condition and Habitat Overview
Flint Creek generally flows year round, although in August, 2006 there were some sections of the 400 meter long monitored reach with no visible surface flow. When the Illinois River is in flood, river water backs up into Flint Creek for a hundred yards or so.
Normally Flint Creek is crystal clear. The monitored reach is pools, runs, and riffle, with depth varying from 6 inches in the riffles to 1.5 meters in pools.
The east bank of the creek is mostly wide gravel bar providing no shade to the creek. The west bank is mostly gravel also, but with sections of clay blank, and with some riparian vegetation shading the creek. The stream bed is gravel and cobbles, with some downed trees and root balls.
The monitored reach is much used by residents of Fidler’s Bend during warm weather for fishing, wading, and picnicking because of its clarity, coolness, and shallow depth.
Fish have been collected once from the Fidler’s Bend site, in August of 2008, by seining. The results show that Flint Creek fish population is excellent, rated equal to that of the high quality reference stream in the Ozark Highlands eco-region.
Seventeen species of fish were sampled totaling 499 individual fish. The species and individual counts were dominated by 11 intolerant (sensitive species found only in high quality streams) fish species, including:
- Cardinal shiner
- Redspot chub
- Bigeye chub
- Bigeye shiner
- Wedgespot shiner
- Northern hog sucker
- Redhorse sucker
- Slender madtom
- Banded sculpin
- Smallmouth bass
- Banded Darter
These are the creatures without backbones found at the bottom of the stream in riffles, where the water flows over and around rocks. Some macroinvertebrates are sensitive to pollution and will not be found in polluted streams. Others are not sensitive and will be found in large numbers in polluted streams.
Flint Creek macroinvertebrates have been collected and cataloged twice each year (once in summer and once in winter) since 2004. The species and individuals in the samples were tabulated and scored according to standard metrics for macroinvertebrate population assessment. The Flint Creek scores were compared to those of a high quality reference stream in the Ozark Highlands eco-region, and a letter grade given for each of the semiannual collections, with “A” being the highest score, comparable to the best streams in the eco-region, and “D” the worst score.
* No macroinvertebrate collections
The macroinvertebrates collected in summer have been consistently high quality, indicative of a healthy stream. The winter collections have been consistently of lower quality, primarily due to fewer pollution-sensitive species found, increased dominance of a single species, and reduced diversity of species.
Blue Thumb chemical testing has been performed on Flint Creek water monthly since June 2004.
Dissolved oxygen percent saturation has been consistently within the 80 to 130% optimal range for healthy aquatic life. The median oxygen saturation of Flint Creek monitoring is 105%.
The pH (measure of water acidity) readings are all between 7.0 and 8.0, ideal for aquatic life.
Soluble Nitrogen (from Nitrate, Nitrite, and Ammonia) has been consistently higher than desirable, with median of 2 milligrams/liter. A healthy Nitrogen level would be 0.8 mg/l or less.
Phosphorous, like Nitrogen, is essential to plant and animal life. However excess phosphorous in stream water can cause excessive algae growth, reducing dissolved oxygen in the water, which is harmful to many aquatic animal species. The phosphorous level in Flint Creek (measured as orthophosphate, PO4) is consistently high, above 0.1 mg/l. The median of all readings is 0.1535 mg/l. The State of Oklahoma has set a limit 0.037 mg/l orthophosphate for our scenic rivers, including the Illinois River system, a level exceeded all but 4 times in 5 years of monitoring.
Chloride levels ranged from 15 to 40 mg/l, with a median of 25 mg/l. Normal for the Ozark Highlands eco-region is 20 or less.
Testing for E. Coli (fecal coliform) and total coliform bacteria has been done monthly during the warm weather months (generally May through September) since 2006. The E. Coli count has never reached the minimum significance level of 20 colonies per sample. The total coliforms count has reached a level to be statistically significant only 3 months. No fecal or total coliform bacteria problem has been found in Flint Creek.
Flint Creek is a beautiful, clear Ozark Highlands stream, treasured by the author and others with stream access. Despite consistently high orthophosphate levels, the fish population is diverse and healthy, and the macro invertebrate population is only slightly less healthy.
It is hoped that with the ongoing government scrutiny of the Illinois River basin, and improved agricultural and wastewater treatment practices, the stream’s health will improve.