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Another year in books for Cahaba Canoe Regatta

Like the 18 previous years, the 19th annual Spirit of the Cahaba Canoe Regatta offered new experiences along its 28-mile length of the Cahaba River through Bibb and Perry counties.

This year, two of the trip’s long-time participants (Ty Cobb and Larry Ingram) were forced to trailer their canoe because of a gash in the canoe’s aluminum hull that was received on the first obstacle of the trip. However, they were able to participate in a portion of the remaining overnight trip.

After some emergency repairs to the canoe, the two loaded everyone’s gear in the truck, drove down river to an intermediate access and ferried the gear to the sand bar, where the group would make camp. When everyone else rounded the bend, camp was set up and their gear was waiting.

The Spirit of the Cahaba Canoe Regatta began in 1990 when Fred Striedieck and Cobb (not the baseball player) decided they needed a weekend getaway from the trials and tribulations of life, and the “Canoe Trip” was born. From the beginning, everyone knew this trip was something special.

The trip not only allows long-time friends to see each other once again, but the group also gets to appreciate the river and the wildlife on one of the nation’s last remaining untouched and unobstructed natural wonders, the Cahaba River.

The trip has included several other members throughout its life. Almost everyone looks forward to the next year the minute they return home. Added to the fun and pageantry of the regatta, the group designs and paints their individual canoes differently each year. Some “Best Canoe” recipients include American flags, John Deere tractors, NASCAR paint schemes and tributes to our military. For the past six years, a trophy has been passed on from winning canoe to the next along with bragging rights.

The route for the trip begins at the Alabama Highway 219 crossing of Shultz Creek just north of Centerville. It continues along Shultz Creek until it reaches its mouth at the Cahaba. From there, the trip heads downriver through a series of rock-rapids that occasionally yield a Cahaba Lily or two. The next stop is Centerville’s Historic Riverfront Park for lunch, where the canoes are loaded with the remainder of the gear. After everything is tied-in and lunch is over, the trip continues downriver to one of several sand bars near the Harrisburg Bridge, where the crew makes camp for the evening. Then, everyone sits back and relaxes for the night, where friends enjoy great food (ranging from Mark’s Mart steaks and twice-baked potatoes, to homemade fajitas, to hot dogs), along with lots of fellowship.

The next morning the group tears everything down, loads the gear, removes all trash and evidence that anyone was there, and heads on. The trip continues down the Cahaba through numerous twists and turns along and within the Talladega National Forest, which throughout the years has seen its share of wildlife.

To date, the group has encountered countless deer, turkey, wild hogs, cattle, ducks, cranes, fish, beavers, snakes, turtles, and the majestic bald eagle.

This year alone, three different bald eagles were spotted, and for some is the highlight of the entire weekend. Occasionally a family or two is seen enjoying the river just as the group does. The trip continues on to its final destination, the Hieberger Bridge.

At the trip’s conclusion, the crew waits on all the canoes to come in, while the gear is loaded onto the trucks.

Everyone shakes hands, says their goodbyes, and wishing each other well until their paths cross for another edition of the Spirit of the Cahaba Canoe Regatta.

The trip can best be summed up by a quote from one of the founding members. “It gets different, but I don’t think it could get any better.”