Biotic Community


Since the basin contains two major aquatic community divisions, the Ozark-Neosho and the Prairie-Neosho, the Spring River Basin is probably one of the most diverse in fish community structure in the state. The Ozark-Neosho region is the most unique of the Ozark divisions and has numerous species distinctive to the region. These species include the redspot chub, bluntface shiner, cardinal shiner, southwestern mimic shiner, western slim minnow, Neosho madtom, Arkansas darter, Neosho orangethroat darter, redfin darter, and channel darter. The fishes of the Prairie-Neosho Division are common to most prairie streams, however this particular prairie division includes species which are common to the Ozark-Neosho Division as well. These species include the bluntface shiner, spotfin shiner, western slim minnow, southwestern mimic shiner, Arkansas darter, Neosho orangethroat darter, redfin darter, and channel darter. The spotted sucker and brindled madtom are unique to the Prairie-Neosho Division (Pflieger 1989).

This drainage includes only five crayfish species--the bristley cave crayfish (Cambarus setosus), the Neosho midget crayfish (Orconectes macrus), the ringed crayfish (Orconectes neglectus), the northern crayfish (Orconectes virilis), and the grassland crayfish (Procambarus gracilis) (Pflieger 1996). The Neosho midget crayfish and the ringed crayfish are limited to this region (Pflieger 1989).

The graybelly salamander (Eurycea multiplicata griesogaster), the Oklahoma salamander (Eurycea tynerensis), the yellow mud turtle (Kinosternon flavescens), the Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum), and the ground snake (Sonora semiannulata) all have distributions limited to this region of the state (Johnson 1987).

The Spring River Basin has a very diverse naiad fauna (Table Bc01). The rabbit's foot (Quadrula cylindrica cylindrica) and the western fanshell (Cyprogenia aberti) have localized distributions in the basin (Oesch 1984). It is thought that the Neosho mucket (Lampsilis rafinesqueana) is restricted to the basin (Pflieger 1989).


Fish collections have been made in various locations throughout the basin since the 1930s (Table Bc02). Eighty-six species have been collected in the basin since that time. Fish were collected in 1991 and 1992 by MDC’s Fisheries District 9 staff. Fish species distributions by stream are found in Table Bc03. In addition to collections made by MDC staff, Dan Beckman, Ph.D., at Southwest Missouri State regularly samples the Spring River at Verona as part of his ichthyology course (Table Bc04).

There are several species which were collected by Pflieger historically but have been absent from collections made recently by Beckman and District 9 staff. These species are:

Inadequate sampling methods could explain the absence of all these species in collections made by District 9 staff and Beckman. The goldfish is usually introduced through bait or pet releases, so the absence of this species could be due to poor survival.

Bigmouth buffalo, river carpsucker, and the river redhorse are all large species. It is possible that they were not collected by Beckman and Fisheries District 9 staff because of net avoidance and inability to reach the deeper, preferred habitats of these fishes.

The pugnose minnow, freckled madtom, and bluntnose darter have not been collected by anyone in the basin since the 1940s. All of these species have very limited distributions in the basin and may therefore be lost to this region of the state.

The bigeye chub and tadpole madtom have not been collected since at least 1973. The tadpole madtom has a very limited distribution in the northern portion of the basin. The bigeye chub, however, does not have a limited distribution and may be absent from collections due to extirpation or sampling error.


The Spring River Basin contains a unique and equally diverse flora and fauna that includes three federally endangered species; the gray bat (Myotis grisescens), running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), and the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus). There are several federally threatened species in the basin as well. Federally threatened species are: the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae), the Neosho madtom (Noturus placidus), geocarpon (Geocarpon minimum), western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara), and the Mead's milkweed, (Asclepias meadii).

State endangered species are:

  • Northern harrier Circus cyaneus
  • Ozark cavefish Amblyopsis rosae
  • Redfin darter Etheostoma whipplei
  • Neosho madtom Noturus placidus
  • Black-tailed jack rabbit Lepus californicus
  • Gray bat Myotis grisescens
  • Plains spotted skunk Spilogale putorius intemipta
  • Rabbits foot Quadrula cylindrica cylindrica
  • Prairie false foxglove Agalinis heterophylla
  • Green false foxglove Agalinis viridis
  • Mead's milkweed Asclepias meadii
  • Marsh bellflower Campanula aparinoides
  • Lake-bank sedge Carex lacustris
  • Alabama lip-fern Chalanthes alabamensis
  • Joint grass Coelorachis cylindrica
  • Tansy mustard Descurainia pinnata
  • Geocarpon Geocarpon minimum
  • A wild pea Lathyrus pusillus
  • Pinnate dog shade Limnosciadium pinnatum
  • A lipocarpha Lipocarpha drummondii
  • Water hyssop Mecardonia acuminata
  • Mudbank paspalum Paspalum dissectum
  • Western prairie fringed orchid Planthera praeclara
  • Slender pondweed Potamogeton pusillus var pusillus
  • Kansas arrowhead Sagittaria ambigua
  • Running buffalo clover Trifolium stoloniferum
  • Yellow-eyed grass Xyris torta

At least one species originally found in this basin is now extirpated from the drainage; the federally endangered American burying beetle.

Species that are considered rare or threatened in Missouri that inhabit the Spring River Basin are:

  • Cooper's hawk Accipiter cooperii
  • Henslow's sparrow Ammodramus henslowii
  • Pied-billed grebe Podilymbus podiceps
  • Greater prairie-chicken Tympanuchus cupido
  • Barn owl Tyto alba
  • Bluntface shiner Cyprinella camura
  • Arkansas darter Etheostoma cragini
  • Western slim minnow Pimephales tenellus tenellus
  • Auriculate false foxglove Agalinis auriculata
  • Tradescant aster Aster dumosus var strictior
  • Oklahoma sedge Carex oklahomensis
  • Small spike rush Eleocharis parvula var anachaeta
  • A moss Leska polycarpa
  • Low prickly pear Opuntia macrorhiza
  • Ozark wake robin Trillium pusillum var ozarkanum
  • A Venus' looking glass Triodanis lamprosperma
  • Prairie mole cricket Gryllotalpa major
  • Arkansas snaketail dragonfly Ophiogomphus westfalli
  • Western fanshell Cyprogenia aberti
  • Neosho mucket Lampsilis rafinesqueana
  • Great plains skink Eumeces obsoletus
  • Long-tailed weasel Mustella frenata
  • Swamp rabbit Sylvilagus aquaticus

State watch list species in the Spring River Basin include:

  • Northern crayfish frog Rana areolata circulosa
  • Grotto salamander Typhlotriton spelaeus
  • Upland sandpiper Bartramia longicauda
  • Bristly cave crayfish Cambarus setosus
  • Least darter Etheostoma microperca
  • Ghost shiner Notropis buchanani
  • Pugnose minnow Opsopoeodus emiliae
  • Purple lilliput Toxolasma lirudus
  • A false foxglove Agalinis skinneriana
  • Sixteenweeks three-awn Aristida adscensionis
  • Brush's poppy mallow Callirhoe bushii
  • Yellow false mallow Malvastrum
  • An adder's tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum
  • Soapberry Sapindus drummondii
  • Royal catchfly Silene regia
  • Yellow-flowered leafcup Smallanthus wedalius
  • Slender ladies' tresses Spiranthes lacera var gracilis
  • Regal fritillary Speyeria idalia

There are several species of concern in the basin which have been studied extensively--the Neosho madtom, the Arkansas darter, the Neosho mucket, and the Ozark cavefish.

The Neosho madtom is listed by the state as endangered and is federally threatened. Low densities may be characteristic of the species, but the population densities are the lowest in the Spring River portion of its range (Wilkinson and Edds 1996). Even considering low densities, one of the areas important to maintaining the population is the area from the North Fork of the Spring River to the Kansas border (Wilkinson and Edds 1996). There are several factors which pose a threat to this population. These include gravel removal, drought, chemical pollution, nutrient loading from feedlot runoff, and flow alterations (USFWS 1991). There is also a possibility that competition with the slender and brindled madtoms and stonecats may contribute to low numbers of the Neosho madtom.

Restoring artificial riffle habitat (Fuselier and Edds 1995) and maintaining base flow (USFWS 1991) would be beneficial strategies for maintaining or improving current Neosho madtom population densities.

Arkansas darters are typically found in small, springfed streams associated with beds of submerged aquatic plants (Pflieger 1992), most specifically watercress (Robison and Buchanan 1988). The habitat is characterized by shallow water and the absence of strong current (Pflieger 1992). In collections, it is commonly associated with stippled darters, orangethroat darters, and fantail darters. The collections made by Pflieger (1992) indicate that there has been no decline in abundance of this species in this portion of its range. Threats to the species include flow changes, water quality problems (Loeffler and Krieger 1994), urbanization, and livestock husbandry (Pflieger 1992).

Obermeyer et. al (1995) conducted a survey of the unionid species in southeast Kansas, including the Spring River. The authors found the Neosho mucket in shallow riffle and run habitats with gravel substrates in the Spring River. The youngest individual collected was four years old, and there was no evidence of reproduction. It is believed that the range reductions observed for this species are due to poor water quality of the Spring River downstream from the confluence of Turkey and Center creeks. It is also possible that channelization, gravel dredging, strip-mine runoff, feedlot runoff, isolation of downstream populations due to dams, and isolation from host fishes play key roles in the current distribution of this species.

The Ozark cavefish has been listed as a state endangered and federally threatened species. It is restricted to the southwest Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas (Pflieger 1975).


No on-site creel data have been collected from streams or reservoirs within the Missouri portion of the basin. Statewide angler survey data are available through MDC.


No recent commercial fish harvest has occurred within the Missouri portion of the basin.


Documented stockings of streams are limited. A number of authorized resource agency fish introductions have occurred in the streams in the Missouri portion of the basin. This includes the stocking of various salmonids. The earliest recorded release of salmonids was the introduction of "California salmon" to "Arkansas River tributaries" in Missouri (Turner 1979). As early as 1879, brook trout were stocked in the Spring River. The first recorded stocking of rainbow trout in Capps Creek occurred in 1886. Shoal Creek, Center Creek, Turkey Creek, Hickory Creek, and others received intermittent stocking of salmonids throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. The spread of the common carp was probably hastened by purposeful stocking of area streams in the latter half of the last century.

Capps Creek near Jolly Mill is presently stocked with both rainbow and brown trout. Rainbow trout from the Neosho National Fish Hatchery are found in nearby Hickory Creek. A self-sustaining wild rainbow trout population has been documented in the Spring River. Limited natural reproduction has been documented in Spring River and Hickory Creek. Other wild, self-sustaining populations may exist.

Numerous ponds and small reservoirs throughout the basin have been stocked with a variety fish including largemouth bass, bluegill, grass carp, flathead catfish, and channel catfish. Escapement of stocked fish from impoundments probably occurs, but the extent is undocumented.


Statewide fishing regulations (daily limits, size limits, methods, and seasons) apply to streams throughout the Spring River Basin. Please refer to the most recent version of the Wildlife Code of Missouri and signs posted at public accesses for specific regulations.


Dieffenbach and Ryck (1976) assessed the effects of pollutants on stream water quality using the density, diversity, and composition of bottom-dwelling invertebrates as a reflection of water quality at several sites throughout the basin. They concluded that the upper Spring River, the lower Spring River, the North Fork of the Spring River, Turkey Creek, and lower Center Creek had invertebrate communities indicative of polluted streams. The diversity indices were especially low in Turkey Creek, which had only nine invertebrate taxa recorded. The lower Spring River (near the Kansas border) area community structure was different and could perhaps be due to a difference in habitat types (more of a prairie stream than an Ozark stream) rather than extreme pollution problems. The upper Center Creek and Shoal Creek areas had invertebrate communities similar to unpolluted streams, suggesting that water quality was good in these areas. Sewage effluent and industrial discharge were the authors' explanation for the poor invertebrate communities.

To our knowledge no recent studies have been conducted on the invertebrate communities of the region to determine present water quality.

Table Bc01: Mussel species found in the Spring River Basin

Mussel species found in the Spring River Basin.

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Table Bc02: Fish species of the Spring River Basin

Fish species of the Spring River Basin.

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Table Bc03: Fish species list by stream in the Spring River Basin

Fish species list by stream in the Spring River Basin.

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Table Bc04: Fish species of the Spring River Basin collected by Beckman

Fish species of the Spring River Basin collected by Beckman.

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