Many folks do not have their own canoe or kayak. Don’t let that stop you! There are several ways to rent a canoe or a kayak as shown below. Also, joining us for a CRS sponsored trip is a great way to learn about where and how to get on the river as well as learning some interesting natural history along the way.
Both CRS members and non-members are welcome to come along. For those folks who do have their own watercraft, we encourage you to come along with us for our outings or to just get yourself out there on the river. The following options provide some opportunities to paddle on the Cahaba River.
Naturalist-guided canoe outings with the CRS:
1. 5 ways to enjoy the river: See the Canoe Schedule
2. CRS canoe schedule: a great way to learn about the Cahaba River
- Alabama Small Boats – alsmallboats.com or 205 424-3634
- UAB Outings Program
- Alabama Outdoors – alabamaoutdoors.com
- Randy Mecredy – Call 205 348-2136 for information
Access to the river: (Also see IMRivers website and select “Canoe Put-ins/Take-outs and Canoe Runs” from the drop-down list)
- Public Access points
- Public Bridges over the mainstem Cahaba River throughout the basin (see John Foshee’s Alabama Canoe Rides and Float Trips, 1986.The University of Alabama Press).
- Civitan Park in Trussville
- Grants Mill Road Bridge
- Old Overton Road
- Lorna Road
- Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge
- Perry Lakes Park – perrylakes.org
- Sprott Bridge
- Old Cahawba Archeological Park – cahawba.com
- Private Land open the Public
People often ask us if it is safe to swim the Cahaba River. The Cahaba River mainstem is not classified by ADEM for “whole body contact” or swimming from the headwaters above Trussville down into Bibb County where the Cahaba River mainstem is joined by the Bibb County Little Cahaba River. So, swimming in the upper Cahaba watershed (the urbanized part) may not be a great idea until we make more progress cleaning it up. EPA 303(D) Designations are available for different parts of the river and are available from the EPA.
Here are a couple of river conditions that definitely make swimming unsafe:
- Following a rain…
After a typical Alabama rainstorm, the Cahaba River becomes muddy and rises quickly. At these times, it has been observed that fecal bacteria counts go up dramatically. Putting your head underwater is asking for gastric problems or an ear infection. Rather than swimming during those times, wait until the water is no longer murky. That will likely be several days to over a week after the last rain event upstream. Besides, when the river is even slightly swollen from upstream rains, the current can be surprisingly strong. Moving water can be extremely dangerous.
- Downstream from waste treatment facilities…Similarly, muddy or not, if you are in the upper Cahaba River below Highway 280 and above Highway 52 near Helena, it is also a bad idea to put your head underwater. There are too many wastewater treatment plants in this part of the river and it is just too easy for something to go wrong with the waste treatment plant’s disinfection process to reliably submerge yourself in the river.
- Oak Mountain State Park
- Paul M. Grist State Park
- Tannehill State Park
- Brierfield Ironworks State Park
Alabama has four State Parks in the Cahaba River basin and a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Shelby and Bibb Counties that offer some interesting hiking. Most of the Parks have hiking trails, but Oak Mountain has the greatest selection of trails. WMAs are private lands open to the public and managed for hunting and some other activities, including hiking and camping. Naturally, if you do intend to camp, be sure that you are aware of the regulations and designated areas for camping because these rules and regulations are in place for your own safety, the safety of others, and to protect the environment itself from detriment. Be aware of local law enforcement and emergency services before you need them.
Federal lands in the Cahaba River basin include USDA Forest Service land and the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. A map of the management area is available.
The Nature Conservancy has protected the following biologically significant lands within the Cahaba River watershed that offer some hiking opportunities:
- Kathy Stiles Freeland Glades (Additional Information)
- Barton’s Beach
- Pratt’s Ferry
- Highway 22 Canoe Access
Fishing on relatively small streams from a canoe is very different from the more typical Bass fishing experience. Having no depth-finder, no outboard motor, nor even a trolling motor (although some enterprising types do figure out a way to mount one on a canoe) might be a change for many fishermen. It can be very challenging to coordinate casting, paddling on moving water, dodging overhanging trees and the many other elements of fishing on moving water. But for just that reason, not so many people subject smaller streams to the fishing pressure that reservoirs regularly endure. The result can be some very productive fishing.
There are also some private lakes in the lower Cahaba River basin that offer great lunker opportunities for those who can manage the membership fee.
As for where to fish, I am a poor one to offer advice. So, here goes:
You can catch Crappie, Bass, and other sunfish in the pool above the Highway 280 diversion dam.
There are also a wide variety of fishing options available at Lake Purdy. Contact the concessionaire “Let’s Go Fishing” at 205 991-9107
In the upper Cahaba River, stream segments below the Hwy 280 diversion dam receive significant nutrient loading from wastewater treatment plants. While this has impaired populations of some native fish species, it has probably enhanced the Spotted and Largemouth Bass populations.
In the middle Cahaba River, the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge makes fishing accessible to shore and shoal fisherman on foot or for those using a jon boat. Bass and Channel catfish are commonly caught here.
The Cahaba Historical Park in Centreville, AL is also open to the public and you can find bank fishing and wading opportunities there. A boa launch is available there and a small donation for its use is requested.
In the lower basin, the numerous tree-snags are great cover for bass, but you would do better with some really heavy-test fishing line and snag-less lures.
The Perry Lake Park is another fishing option in the lower basin. The lake may not be the most productive fishing, but it is remarkably scenic.