As a community along the Chattahoochee River, Sugar Hill has strong ties to the waterway that flows from its headwaters in the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Chattahoochee River and all its tributaries have helped shape and define the geography of our area for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The very hills of Sugar Hill and the valleys in between have been etched by flowing water. Our history as a community has been written by the activities of people along some of the Chattahoochee River’s tributaries, like Level Creek and Richland Creek. Gold mining and moonshining were common along these creeks, and even in modern times the evidence of these legal and illegal business activities is evident. Most recently, an unnamed tributary in Sugar Hill was officially given a name by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names — Crayfish Creek. Like the other tributaries, Crayfish Creek has historical and ecological significance, and it has stories worth recording.
In modern times, Crayfish Creek begins at a spring just below Suwanee Dam Road and flows for over one mile through the Twin Creeks Neighborhood until it makes its way into the Chattahoochee River. It has a rich history and, if it were a live being, it would have some great stories to tell the many newcomers who have come to our community in recent years. Baptisms were held by Riverside Baptist Church at its northern-most point near the spring. The baptismal is still there and even though it is a little worse for wear since its creation, it is easy to imagine churchgoers standing under the trees and witnessing an ancient Christian right of passage that is still practiced in modern times.
About midway down Crayfish Creek, George Sudderth was arrested on Sept. 23, 1975, when his home was raided by agents from the then equivalent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He had been making illegal moonshine on the back of his property, using water from the creek. Gold was also mined and is still sifted by amateurs panning near its outlet into the Chattahoochee River. Archaeologists have also discovered arrowheads and pottery at the southern-most end of Crayfish Creek, which suggests the possibility of Native American presences at some point in the past. The history of Crayfish Creek began long before its name was given.
Ecologically, Crayfish Creek is also significant. Brown trout are no longer stocked below Buford Dam, but native brown trout spawn in shallow pebble beds in the Chattahoochee River just beyond where the creek water meets the river water. The largest brown trout ever caught in Georgia was caught near Crayfish Creek — it weighed in at nearly 21 pounds.
The real ecological significance of Crayfish Creek is in its very name. In the very recent past, a rare Chattahoochee crayfish was identified in the tributary. Development, time and the creation of Buford Dam have not been kind to Crayfish Creek. Streambank erosion from stormwater run-off, influxes of water from the regular release of Buford Dam and lack of riparian canopy cover are degrading its water quality. A group being led by Trout Unlimited is working hard to restore the newly named Crayfish Creek through a one-of-a-kind project that began last year.
Names are important. Names help create a sense of place, and the official naming of Crayfish Creek has helped bring attention to the historical and ecological significance of this tributary of the Chattahoochee River that has flowed through our community for many years. When future storytellers tell the tales of Crayfish Creek, even tall tales of fish tails, they will no longer need to refer to it as an unnamed creek. Regardless of what you might call it — Crawdad, Crawfish or Mud Bug Creek — Crayfish Creek now has a name of its own for the history books and it is finally getting the attention it deserves.