How long does it take to do the whole trail from the Georgia state line on the Coosa to Fort Morgan?

The first paddler on the trail made the trip in 48 days, but spent a lot of his time meeting with local reporters and community leaders in support of this epic trip. Your trip might not take as long. If you're not a strong paddler your trip could, of course, take longer.

Do I have to do the entire trail?

No, and most people won’t. There are plenty of access points for day trips on any of the rivers, and there are numerous places to spend the night for overnight trips. Some areas of the river have much more access than others, so plan ahead carefully. Some areas will offer sandbars on which to pitch a tent. Other areas will allow camping at public or private landings. Floating platforms have been built in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta for overnight camping along the Bartram Canoe Trail (see its entry, below). Within the cities of Gadsden, Wetumpka, Montgomery and Selma, a traveler can access many amenities from the rivers.

Which part is the most fun?

There’s something to do, see and learn on every mile of the trail. But the most exciting part (for paddlers, anyway—this stretch is not recommended for powerboaters) begins below Jordan Dam and runs into takeouts in Wetumpka. Two local outfitters will provision you and your group with everything you need including transportation, boats and guidance. See the Outfitters Section on the home page of this website.

What's the best part?

There's no single answer to that question, since you are talking about over 5,000 miles of rivers and streams. And not everyone likes or wants to do the same thing. But let's talk about some high points:

1. Explore battlefields and boulder fields on the Tallapoosa. Dancing water. History. Eagles. Fish. Spectacular views, picnic spots, and tons of campsites--all on one exquisite river. The Tallapoosa flows over shoals and layers of quartzite in a waterway that provides everything from days-long solitude to sociable lakes. At Horseshoe Bend Military Park, you can see the historic battle site where Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians and stand on the exact spot upon which our nation's future turned. Plan your trip: For a great day trip, put in at Horseshoe Bend Military Park You'll hardly see any houses for the 7 or 8 miles of paddling, but look for eagles and fish. Take out at Jaybird Creek Landing on the upper end of Lake Martin.

Shane Harrls, County Extension Coordinator-Tallapoosa
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
125 North Broadnax Street  Room 23
Dadeville, AL 36853
256 8251 050 (office)
256 5961363 (cell)

J. Harold Banks, Experience Tallapoosa paddler
1120 E. Columbus St Dadeville, AL 36853
256-825-8930 (home) 334-744-4452 (cell)

Wind Creek State Park Alexander City, AL  3501 0 (256) 3290845

2. Set up a Floating Camp on the Bartram Canoe Trail and spend your nights floating on a bayou. Winding through a dazzling maze of estuarine marshes and cypress swamps, the Bartram Canoe Trail features a series of land-based and floating campsites that can be linked together into an epic multi-day float trip that should be on any paddler's lifetime list.

Plan your trip: While the paddling is not difficult, navigating the capillaries of these bayous can be tricky, so either plan well or consider hiring a guide. If you do it yourself, make reservations well in advance, and take heed that you must pack in toilets and pack out waste (they check). Floating platforms require reservations, land­ based campsites do not.

www. bartramcanoetrail.com
Five Rivers  Delta Resource Center
30945 Five Rivers Rivers Boulevard, Spanish Fort AL 36527 (251) 6250814

Sunshine Canoe Rentals (gear and guide) (251) 367-4144

3. Black Warrior, meet Tombigbee. Explore two classic Alabama rivers that converge in Demopolis, a historic town where refugees from Napoleon's fallen empire once gathered to grow grapevines and olives. North of the fork, on the Tombigbee arm, Forkland Park Camp­ground has showers and campsites with views of Rattlesnake Bend, a 12-mile ox-bow loop of flat water on an arm of the river that is free of barge traffic. South of the confluence and nearer historic Demopolis, Foscue Park Campground has RV sites, bathhouses, playgrounds, laundry facilities, as well as a boat ramp and dock You can paddle upstream to the fork and choose your own adventure. Go right, and aim for the hauntingly beautiful swamps of Runaway Branch (just past the Hwy 43 bridge if paddling downstream) and Backbone Creek. Go left on the Tombigbee and aim for Spidle Lake, a magnificent flatwa­ter paddling, bird-watching adventure.

Plan your trip: Camp at Forkland and paddle the calm, 12-mile loop of Rattlesnake Bend. Or, put in at Backbone Creek and head downstream to take out at Demopolis City Park  and  Ramp.  Don't  go without a birding book of your choice.

Forkland Park (US Army Corps of Engineers)
1365 Forkland Park Road, Forkland AL 36740
Park Phone 334-289-5530 Reservations 877-444-6777

Foscue Creek Park (US /Army Corps of Engineers)
1800 Lock and Dam Road, Demopolls AL 36732
Park Phone 334-289-5535 Reservations: 877  444  6777

4. Paddle and hike to a waterfall on (kid-friendly) Yellow Creek.This easy, short paddle takes you upstream through the ruins of a giant stone railroad bridge where you can paddle to the rock gardens and beach below the house-sized boulders. A short hike leads to 100-foot Yellow Creek Falls, which tumble  into a clear blue hole that's perfect for swimming. You can start after breakfast, do the whole thing, and be back by lunch-but bring lunch along, you'll regret missing the picnic opportunity.

Plan your trip:  Put in at the public ramp near Leesburg on County Road 273 and paddle upstream about three-quarters of a mile. At the giant stone trestles, secure your boat on the boulders and hike up the trail (unmarked  but obvious) about one quarter-mile to reach Yellow Creek Falls. Make more of your trip by camping at nearby Driftwood Campground and paddle the seven miles to the falls via Weiss Lake's big water.

Driftwood Campground
500 County Road 600,  Cedar Bluff AL 35959
(256) 526-8069

5. Rollicking whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee. The world's longest urban whitewater course includes five rapids of Class IV or higher plus 10 smaller rapids. Commercial rafting trips bounce straight through town. Surfing has been compared  to that on the Zambezi River. Swarms of shoal bass draw swarms of fishermen and blue heron. Accompanied by a "lazy river" for tubes, duckies are for rent along with SUPs and such. Competitive rowing planned, zip lines between Alabama and Georgia operating now.

Plan your trip: Do-it-yourself float trips are best left to experienced whitewater paddlers. Sign up for a commercial rafting trip.

Chattahoochee Outdoor Academy/Whitewater Express
www. whitewaterexpress.oom, www. phenixdtywhitewater. oom

Russell County Convention and Visitors Bureau
11 07 Broad  Street  Phenix City, AL 36867 (334) 2983639

6. Spy wildlife on the Tennessee River. Located on the Tennes­see River between Huntsville and Decatur, the 35,400-acre Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a big resort for wintering and migrating birds. Around 300 species of birds have been documented on the reserve, including sandhill and whooping cranes and, occasionally, bald eagles. The birds you'll likely spy vary by season. High season, for the most—and most exotic—birds is the several weeks after Christmas.

Plan your trip: From Highway 20 (Interstate 565 and Interstate 65 between Huntsville and Decatur),  take the Mooresville exit south and turn right at the dead end in town. Drive about a quarter mile to a gravel road to the left. Follow the gravel road two miles to Arrow­head Ramp, your put-in. Strike out from here on a compass course of about 330 degrees to cross Limestone Bay into the slot of Alligator Alley (yes, they are there). The narrowing slough opposite terminates just hundreds of feet from downtown Mooresville (sorry, no boat access) at a small waterfall.

Wheeler National 'Midlife Refuge
Highway 67, Decatur AL 35603
256-350-6639  www.fws.gov/wheeler

7. The rumbling, tumbling Waters of Wetumpka. The Creek Indian word Wetumpka meant "rumbling waters" and you'll see what they meant when you try the six-mile stretch (known as Moccasin Gap, between Jordan dam and the town) that is a rite of passage for thou­ sands of Alabama paddlers. Both area outfitters have landings and campsites in Wetumpka with shuttles to the put-ins and expert guides. The trip may be short, but it will be one you remember. Whitewater choices between Class II and Class IV.

Plan your trip: If you've been before, you know to put in below Jordan  Dam off Highway 231. If you haven't, please include one of the two local outfitters in your plans:

Coosa Outdoor Center
172 River Drive, Wetumpka AL 36092
(334) 567-3788

Coosa River Adventures
415  Company Street Wetumpka, AL 36092
(334) 5140279

8. Explore  Alabama's Black Belt by River. The women of Gees Bend were "discovered" by the outside world in the 1970s, making quilts with an almost impossible parallel to the American expres­sionist painting movement from which they lived physically and culturally worlds apart. To get close to the area with a kayak or canoe, consider staying at Roland Cooper State Park or the US Army Corps of Engineers parks at Millers Ferry or Chilatchee Creek for a full-service experience. If a taste of wild is more to your liking, try US Army Corps of Engineers Elm Bluff Park.  The closest  place to use as base camp is right by the north ferry terminal at Gees Bend Park. It is a short walk from here to the ferry terminal  (the nearby Gees Bend Ferry will transport your paddle boat, or your car, or just you). You will want to visit the terminals at some point because of the visitor center displays. The quilters work in the North Terminal on many days. The ferry runs eight times a day the year around.

Plan your trip: From the nearby town of Camden, take Highway 41 North from downtown and turn left on Highway 10 West.  At the 4-way stop, take a right onto State Highway 28 West. Then take a right onto Ellis Landing Road at the Gees Bend Ferry sign in sight of the big silos.
The nearby ghost town of Old Cahawba, the state's original capital, is the remains of an emotional struggle that brought the old town to its knees and tilted power toward the present  capital Montgomery. Walk up from the landing and grab a free bike for exploration.

Old Cahawba Archeological Park
9518 Cahaba Road Orrville AL  36767
(334) 872-8058,  www.cahawba.com

Black Belt Treasures-the exclusive work of Bleck Belt artlsans
209 Claiborne St Camden, AL 36726 (334) 682 9878

Black Belt Regional Tourism Director In Thomasville (334)  636-0120

Millers Ferry Manna (334)  682-5125

Gees Bend Ferry
1 001 Earl Hilliard Rd, Camden, AL 36726 (251) 861 3000

Millers Ferry Campground  (US Army Corps of Engineers)
111 East Bank Park, Camden, AL 36726
Park Phone (334)  682-41 91 Reservations (877) 444-6777

Chilatchee Creek Campground  (US /Army Corps of Engineers)
2267 Chilatchee Creek Road, Alberta, AL 36720
Park Phone (334)  573 2562 Reservations (877) 444-6777

9. Terrapin Creek. The Terrapin is twisty and quick with plenty of shoals, rocks and whitewater spots to make for a few fun hours and long enough for a multi-day trip. Paddling possibilities begin at the CR 49 Bridge in Borden  Springs. This fairly swift stretch takes out at Chief Ladiga Campground  at Vigo. Paddlers just below this point should be prepared for up to Class III whitewater.  The CR 70 Bridge near Piedmont is the next takeout just a few miles below. 

Between CR 70 and Stewarts Bridge at CR 8 is a developed put-in at the Piedmont
Water Treatment Plant. Beware of a concrete dam here. The popular run below Stewarts Bridge is served by a number  of outfitters.

Plan your trip:  Put in at Stewart Bridge where it crosses Terrapin on County Road 8 off Highway 9 just above Piedmont for about a six hour float down to the outfitters when the level is good. When there isn't a decent flow in this area, put in at the outfitters and take out in Ellisville. If the flow is great, put in at the County Road 49 Bridge in Borden Springs and take out at Chief Ladiga Trail Campground. If you go past that, be prepared for up to Class III whitewater.

Chief Ladiga Trail Campground
Confluence of Terrapin Creek, Chief Ladiga cycling and Pinhoti hiking trails
3180 County Road 94, Piedmont AL
(256) 282 2370

DeSoto State Park (256)  845  9605

Eubanks Welcome Center (Piedmont) Chief Ladiga Cycling Trail
(256) 927-8455

Nelson's Redneck Yacht Club
3850 County Road 175 Piedmont AL
(256) 447-8690,  (256) 504-8690

No Worries Kayak Rentals
3180 AL Highway 9 South Piedmont AL 36272
(256) 447-3773

Terrapin Outdoor Center
4114 County Road 175 Piedmont AL
(256) 447-8383

10. Autauga Creek. The blueway from the Creekwalk at City Hall to Canoe Trail Park is 4 miles long and takes 2-3 hours of paddling, Treasure hunters may bring a GPS to search for the 35 geocaches hidden along the route. If floating is more your speed, you can take the lazy creek in a tube to the wooden footbridge and walk your tubes back upstream along Pratt­ville's Creekwalk. The cool underground-fed water and the creek's  hallway of near-touching  tree canopy make for a cool and shady trip on hot days. Enjoy a picnic at the landscaped Creekwalk or visit one of the many restaurants  just a short walk from the canoe trail. Stroll the creekside path and visit the Prattaugan Museum to explore the historic significance of the creek to the town. Browse unique shops and boutiques in Historic Downtown Prattville.

Plan your trip: The upper creek allows an easier paddle that begins not far above the placid mill pond that once powered Daniel Pratt's historic factory here. A lower trip begins behind City Hall near the downtown restaurants and shops and takes out at the beach at the well-marked 

Canoe Trail Park
www.autaugacreek.org for maps, FAQ, videos and more

PrattviIIe Powersports rentals and shuttle service
1548 U.S. 82, Prattville AL 36067 (334) 361 3988

Search Facebook for Autauga Creek Improvement Committee. A very helpful resource.








What type of boat do I need?
 


That depends on where you are going to paddle, of course.

Powerboats should be comfortable on most of the trail except for most creeks, small rivers and low water on any river. Powerboats should depend on maps and a depth finder to stay within the channel.  Some portions of the rivers have navigational aids present, and some don’t—but should. Be prepared to stay on top of your navigation, particularly when the water level is low. Powerboats must trailer around the dams between the Georgia state line and Jordan Dam. The turbulent waters below Jordan Dam and the following eight or so miles into Wetumpka are not suitable for any powerboat.

For paddlers, the choice is wide-ranging. The longer a paddleboat is, the faster it will go for the same effort compared with a shorter one. A full-size 17-foot touring kayak should have no problem on any part of Trail with the exception of the turbulent stretch of the Coosa between Jordan Dam and downtown Wetumpka. For this section, locally known as Moccasin Gap, a shorter, more maneuverable boat is desirable. A twelve-foot boat has been used for the entire trip.

A shorter boat will also be more maneuverable in some parts of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and on creeks. A long boat with a rudder will work nearly as well, especially with care to ensure adequate water depth and, in some cases near and in Mobile Bay, an eye on the tides.

If you are going into a waterway known for low water, downed trees and shallow shoals, consider trying out a sit-on-top kayak—even if you "don't like them." You will find that being able to have your legs at the ready to get you over potential hang-ups is worth more than everything you don't like about these craft.

What should I take on my Alabama Scenic River Trail Trip?

A complete list of everything you might need on a trip depends on you, your experience, your common sense and your ability to think through a situation. It also depends on the weather conditions, how far you are going at one time, and how you intend to travel.

Bring food. At a minimum, plan on bringing food and water for everyone. You’re boating, remember, not backpacking. Let the boat do the work. If you’re an outdoor person, you already know how much you need to bring. If you’re not, call an outfitter and learn as you go.

Bring a way to communicate. Cell phones are great near cities and in certain rural situations, but don’t be your life on being able to call 911 from every mile on the river. That isn't going to happen. Have a map and know where your next (and most recent) access to civilization is. Think ahead, let others know your trip plans. 

Marine VHF radios are another option. marine police, lock operators, commercial boaters, marinas and some recreational boaters monitor channel 16 of these devices, which can be used to call for help when someone is listening.

Bring first aid. A first-aid kit should accompany you on every trip you take. Be sure to include sunscreen and a hat for sunny days and in cold or chilly weather consider warm clothing an essential first-aid item.

Bring the requisite and good-sense safety stuff. Somebody on your trip may turn over. What will they do for dry clothes? Bring extra and keep it dry in a dry bag that you can get from sporting goods and outfitters stores. Don’t depend on plastic bags; you can’t trust them. Some kayaks have dry cargo compartments that supposedly mean that you don’t need to dry-bag critical items like sleeping bags and clothing. Don’t trust them unless you have tested them.

Bring an extra paddle for every group. A lost paddle can turn an otherwise great trip into a disaster.

Bring a way to keep cameras and cell phones dry. Small dry bags and hard-shell cases for cameras and cell phones are a must.

Bring a way to navigate. Anyone embarking on a river for any distance without at least a map or knowledge of the area shouldn’t be going. If you have a GPS, take a waypoint at the put-in and, if possible, the takeout or else know for sure where they are on the map and GPS. You only have seconds to get information off a GPS or map when you need it most if you’re paddling; your hands are always needed for something else.

Bring a way to illuminate. Anytime you are outdoors for the day or several days, your chance of being out unexpectedly after dark is about 100 times greater than you have planned for. Everyone on your trip needs a readily-available flashlight handy at all times.

Paddleboaters who are used to paddling on lakes should heed this piece of advice when setting out on rivers and streams: don’t let a bowline or “painter” hang loose from the boat at any time. A loose line, particularly one with a knot, loop or carabiner on it should be secured within the boat or left off the bow altogether. A line tied to the bow can get caught on any snag or branch hanging from or floating in a river or stream, leaving the paddler permanently facing upstream (or worse, upside down), unable to reach the line to cut it.

Powerboaters should not go on any part of the trail without a depth finder and a good map. This is especially true on the Coosa River.

That sounds good. I've decided to go on the Delta section. In what ways it is different from the other segments of the trail?

If you're going into the Delta Section (see our route map), be advised that there are no signs, confusing intersections if you do not have a very good map, and/or a portable GPS/compass, and no nearby support facilities.  A sea kayak with rudder is best, and doubles (tandem boats for two) are available.  Portable toilets are a requirement on the Bartram Trail area—these can be bought at most any big retail outlets or sporting good stores. They fold compactly, are light and use disposable plastic bags. Each floating camping platform on the Bartram Canoe Trail has a private area for the use of these toilets. Don't be caught without one, you will be fined!  You'll want disposable bags and disposable paper and bags to take your trash out with you. You'll want a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, pillow,  and maybe a folding chair (there are tiny padded ones that you can use in conjunction with your sleeping pad, check with a camping store); all your own food, provisions, water filter equipment (yes, you need this) or many bottles of water (gallon a day per person is normal for this type of exercise). Some experienced paddlers recommend taking rablets of 1000 mg Vitamin B-12 (begin taking them 2 weeks ahead, if you have a mosquito problem or don't want to have a mosquito problem, and daily on your trip). Flashlights and batteries; lantern; munchies; pots and pans, fuel, stove, utensils, paper plates, bio-degradable washing fluid and plastic scrubber, cups, bowl, matches / lighter, your meds as needed; cap, sun lotion, a solar long sleeve shirt is available to ward off burns, and dry bags for keeping things dry. We suggest a map (our Guidebook in a zip lock), a GPS, and a cell phone or VHS weather/emrgency band/radio. Check with our area outfitters - Fairhope Boats (ask for Bob  or Harriett) to outfit you - they are the experts in that area. Fairhope Boats can be reached at 251 928 3417.


I want to include my travel on the Alabama Scenic River Trail in a vacation that will take me through Alabama, so I need to rent a boat and have someone pick it up at my destination so I can continue on my trip. I’ll also need a ride back to my car. Is this possible?

Yes, in some sections of the trail, particularly the stretch from Jordan Dam to Selma and in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta/Mobile Bay region. Call any of our outfitters for arrangements.

How do I get my kayak or canoe around the dams on the Coosa river where there are no locks?

The short answer is that you have to carry them. The best answer is that the portages vary from one dam to another, and potential Trail travelers should read the descriptions in the Paddlers tab at the top of the page.

A set of kayak or canoe wheels made for single-person transport of such boats can be had at outfitters and small boat supply stores. They fold for on-deck or in-boat storage and will make your portages much easier.

Alabama Scenic River Trail in-river buoys mark the beginning of each portage and ASRT blue signs are provided along all portage trails.

Can I lock through the dams on the Alabama River?

Yes, paddlerboaters and powerboaters alike are invited to utilize the locks and the skilled lock operators at the US Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Alabama River, assuming that there is enough water in the river to meet the Corps’ lock operation minimum standards and that a lock operator is on duty. Telephone numbers for lock operators are given in the Paddlers and Powerboaters sections of this website.

What about the tides as I near the Gulf of Mexico?

To inlanders, the tides seem to be the most mysterious and vexing part of coastal boating because they are its least understood component. Many have heard the stories and lore of kayakers whisked out to sea, pursued by rescue craft unable to catch up with them for a frighteningly long while.

These stories are true enough in other parts, but the tides don’t exert so much influence on the waters of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. In fact, the most dangerous aspect of low tide in the bay—especially near the causeway—is the chop set up by winds in the shallow waters.

And not only does the tide vary by time of day, it varies by depth. Tides everywhere are caused by the tug of the moon’s gravity on the earth’s water. Tides are apt to be greatest nearest a full moon and less when the moon is darker. There is about a 20-30 minute difference between the times of the tides from one day to another. In other words, if high tide is at 4:00 on Monday, you can expect the water to start going out at about 4:20 to 4:30 on Tuesday, the day after.

The farther up the Delta, the Alabama, and the Tombigbee Rivers you travel (there are no dams on the Alabama below Claiborne and no dams on the Tombigbee below Coffeeville), the less the water is affected by the tides from the Gulf, but the effect is there. No matter where you are below these dams, you need to be aware that whatever obstacles are exposed to snag your boat at normal water, the effect will be worse at low tide. When water is running high because of rain, high tide can kick in an element of danger that would otherwise not be present.

Is there a magic tide depth number to look for when planning to get on the water? According to Officer Jeremy Doss, the State Lands Division employee who’s out nearly every day with a boat and a chainsaw to see that the Bartram Canoe Trail area is kept clear and safe, the answer is no. He advises to watch local TV weather before you go out because the coastal stations show the tide as part of the weather. If those numbers don’t mean much to you because if your inexperience with tides, Officer Doss strongly suggests stopping in at local stores, bait shops and marinas. You’ll find the best-informed opinions there.

Another angle is suggested on the tour maps issued for the Bartram Canoe Trail. The maps list the number for the US Army Corps of Engineers lockmaster at Claiborne Dam (1 888 771 4601), where river depth at the dam is logged. The maps list the optimum range of depth at Claiborne as it affects each segment of the Canoe Trail. This is a roundabout way of knowing the general water level, not limited to tidal levels, but above or below which the waterway is considered unsafe.

The Internet offers a number of options for those who just want the numbers without the advice (search “Alabama gulf tide” or similar). The website tbone.biol.sc.edu offers a tide chart for hundreds of sites from Florida to Texas. Two-day information is presented along with sunrise, moonrise, sunset and moonset. The site also features a tide predictor for each area that shows the expected tides in time windows up to a month, with calculations extending out for quite a few years. The predictor allows you to customize various colors for day or night tides, rising or falling levels, and other elements. I found a listing for Lower Bryant Landing on the Tensaw River that looked just like the kind of information you could plan a good trip around.

While the site offers no tide predictor, the accuracy and easy-to-read format provides a chart of the water levels during different times of the day over a three-day period at the National Weather Service’s www.tidesonline.nos.noaa.gov/geographic.html (or simply go to www.noaa.gov and search for “tides”).

How can I search this site?

Use Google's site search syntax's and limit the search results to this site.  
Example, Copy&Paste this into Google's search box:  
dead river site:alabamascenicrivertrail.com  
Or:  
dead -lake site:alabamascenicrivertrail.com
where the minus-sign removes results containing the word 'lake'.

Where can I find a Google Map showing the ASRT?

There is an unofficial map at lifeat2mph.com/asrt with GPS/gpx data.


I like to paddle whitewater and small, exciting rain-event streams. Where can I find information on those?

www.alabamawhitewater.org is an excellent resource for whitewater and other off-the-path streams around the state.