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Cahaba River in Alabama

Trip Overview

Brief Synopsis:
Prior to the rain on 7/12/09 the water was far too low to enjoy the trip. You walk/portage at least as much as you paddle, making a 4.5 hour trip a 6 hour trip. It rained heavily on 7/12-7/13 so after the flood runoff is past, this may be a good trip again. DO NOT attempt this run in a fiberglass canoe unless you know it will hold up to a lot of punishment, or bring a patch kit. If you knock a hole in your canoe, there is nowhere to get out very easily, and you see no civilization the whole trip, with the exception of 2 houses high up on bluffs towards the end. There are a lot of nasty rocks due to low water in July. Although I saw quite a few fish, the fishing was poor due to low water. Watch out for snakes, we saw 2 on this trip.

Story:
My wife and I set out Sunday July 12, 2009 to do the stretch of the Cahaba River from Grants Mill Road to Old Overton Road. We completed our inaugural trip in my old fiberglass canoe about 3 weeks prior with little difficulty. There were some shallow spots that scraped the canoe up pretty good on the first trip though, so we bought a new Old Town guide 147 at Academy Outdoors (where it is $50 cheaper than at Basspro, in case you are shopping). We decided Sunday would be a good day to try out the new canoe, so we loaded up the cooler and fishing rods for what we assumed would be about a 4.5 hour trip.

I noticed the water was a little low when we put in, but I knew there were several long stretches of deep water on the trip, so I wasn't overly concerned. II should have been. the new canoe held up fine to the repeated punishment, but we scraped, bumped and dragged it along most of the way.

About half way into the trip, a major thunderstorm caught us. We hid out under a low hanging tree which kept the rain off us until the tree became saturated, then we just got wet. The rain was cold, but the wind wasn't blowing, so we were a little miserable, but we laughed it off and just waited for the thunder and lightning to pass. We must have waited about 40 minutes, it was quite a storm.

After the rain, the river started getting cloudy and murky from the runoff, which made avoiding rocks just under the surface even harder. A 3 foot copperhead passed just in front of us, probably looking for a dry spot of land. We didn't bother him, and he didn't seem to notice us.

We finally made it out about 5:15, so we were on the river over 6 hours. I would rate the old town canoe very highly in terms of comfort. The form fitting seats are great. It's a little too tipsy in my opinion, I did manage to flip out of it one time while trying to get back in from portage, which I never did in 9 years of owning my old fiberglass canoe.

Overall this is a great beginners day trip, if you bring plenty of food and drinks. I also recommend a machete for fallen trees across the river in a couple places, and a poncho in case of rain. We won't head out again without the ponchos!

Accommodations:

Concrete launch pad and both places. A steep walk up and down both places, so you need 2 strong people to carry the canoe.

Fees:

No

Directions:

Grants Mill Road off 459, exit right, past car dealers, launch is 1 mile down on left. Take out is at the Exit 22 off 459. Turn right at the red light where Dairy Queen is on your left, make a right at the next stop sign. Go about 40 yards down the hill, then a sharp switchback left onto Old Overton. Go about 3/4 mile, the take-out is on the right. There is a large parking area you will see.
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip