Cahaba River site of new canoe launch

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Tightly gathered in the Dallas County Centre for Commerce lobby, local and state officials celebrated the acquisition of a new canoe launch site on the lower Cahaba River Wednesday morning.

Located at the Alabama Highway 22 bridge east of Selma, the seven-acre site is part of an effort to develop a Cahaba River Canoe Trail stretching from Birmingham to Selma, said Jim Hodo, chairman of the Dallas County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors.

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The site, which is expected to open in 2007, is a partnership among The Nature Conservancy of Alabama, the Alabama Power Company, the Alabama Historical Commission, the Alabama-Tombigbee Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Sometimes used as an unofficial canoe launch to float the lowermost portion of the Cahaba down to the confluence of the Alabama River at Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, the property – provided by the Holley family of Selma – was acquired by Alabama Power for $90,000, said company Environmental Affairs Vice President Willard Bowers.

“We provided this funding to the Conservancy to lay the groundwork for the development of opportunities for people to enjoy the natural heritage in the Black Belt counties along the lower Cahaba River,” Bowers said.

“Cahaba gets overlooked too much and it’s a great, great treasure to this county,” added Probate Judge Johnny Jones, citing the trail provides educational and environmental benefits to the Black Belt. “Several years ago the Dallas County Commission saw this was a project that really needed doing.”

Nature Conservancy Executive Director Jeff Danter believes the trail will not only embrace education and the environment, but economic prosperity too.

“Our hope by developing this canoe trail is that people will want to invest and move into the community. Our hope is this is the kickoff of something special for this community,” Danter said.

The state’s longest free-running river with over 180 miles of naturally flowing waters, the Cahaba runs through St. Clair, Jefferson, Shelby, Bibb, Perry and Dallas counties.

Deemed a world-renowned site, the Cahaba is one of the most biologically rich rivers in North America and is home to more than 130 species of fish, 40 species of freshwater mussels and 35 species of freshwater snails.

Old Cahawba Site Director Linda Derry reviewed the river’s history briefly and announced the Alabama Historical Commission is exploring the idea of providing a shuttle service and canoe rentals for the trail leg from the new launch site to Old Cahawba.

“We feel that it is most appropriate that visitors will not be able to experience and enjoy one of Alabama’s finest natural wonders, the Cahaba River, while paddling their way towards one of Alabama’s best historical treasures, the historic ghost town of Old Cahawba,” Derry said.

Managed the by the Alabama Historical Commission, Old Cahawba is one of the most heavily toured regions of the Black Belt, showcasing the area’s rich natural and cultural history, Derry said.