I am an experienced paddler and we decided we would canoe the Sipsey River from the put in at the picnic area off of highway 33, to the take out at the bridge on Highway 33. This is my second time canoeing the Sipsey river, and we drove in from Huntsville.
My first trip was excellent, not too difficult, some class one rapids, clear water and spectacular views. This second trip, however, the water level was down on the stream gauge to about 3.4 feet. I expected this to be high enough to run, the berth of our canoe was only .6 inches so I expected a decent trip with not too much walking.
Our first trip the water was up, and we hadn't done any research as far as what the the requirements were in order to run the river, the water was up, it took us 4 hours, and we didn't end up walking once.
This trip was far different from the first. We started off at the put-in, and almost immediately we knew we would be doing some walking. It was definitely spectacular views throughout the paddle, but towards the end it turned in to an endurance trip. We had to walk almost every ten minutes, and that paddle that took us just 4 hours the first time ended up taking 7 hours to complete.
My best advice for people looking to paddle this river is that it is definitely worth your time if the conditions are right. The difficulty in this is that it is hard to time when its best to go, you can't really plan to do it, it has to be last minute due to the rapidly changing conditions of the river. Get an early start unless you plan to camp because it is definitely an all day affair. We got started at 12 and didn't finish until 7.
For those wanting to check the depth of the stream google Sipsey River USGS stream gauge. The minimum depth should be about 6 to run it, any lower I would not recommend.
If you decide to go you'll definitely be rewarded, clear water, many different species of fish and fantastic views. Stop at the waterfall for lunch and have fun doing the 100-yard dash. Like I said, be very critical of the water depth, your gonna need 6 feet or more.
IMPORTANT: You will know you're at the take out when you pass under the bridge, look for a piece of concrete on the left shore, that's the path back to your car, you don't want to overshoot it and it may be difficult to see. It should be about 200 yards just past the bridge.
Bathrooms at put-in, no services at the take out.
3.00 For parking at the put in
From I-65, take the Cullman exit and go west on 278 to double springs, right on 33 north and the takeout is on your right (A dirt area hidden in the woods) continue up the road about 10 minutes and turn left to go the picnic area, the put in is just across the bridge.
"Paddling Alabama" book