Trip of Black Belt ends today at Millers Ferry

Published 8:19 pm Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nine paddlers pose with Mayor Evans at Selma’s Market Day on Saturday before they embarked on a week long paddle tour. The paddlers spent seven days going through the Alabama Black Belt organized by the Alabama Scenic River Trail. The paddle went from Selma to Millers Ferry with stops along the way to Old Cahawba, Camden and Gees Bend. -- Katie Wood

Several people in the crowd at Riverfront Market Day were not only listening to soft rock music, eating barbecue or alligator on a stick and browsing through the local fair, they were also gearing up for an adventure on the Alabama River.

“A wish list of stops along the Alabama River turned into a once in a lifetime experience,” Jim Felder, executive director of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, said of the week-long paddle through the Black Belt.

The trip began Saturday from the Selma Marina, but not without an official kickoff on a stage at the annual Riverfront Market Day by Selma Mayor George Evans.

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“It’s a joy and a pleasure to have you all here,” Evans told the paddlers. “Keep coming back, and we’ll keep getting bigger and better.”

The crew of eight paddlers left from the Selma Marina around 3 p.m. Saturday, and will finish their trek at Millers Ferry on Friday.

The week-long paddle has been something Felder has been dreaming about for a long time.

“I’ve always wanted to do a paddle up to some length in the state. We have worked for four years now to create campsites, learn the rivers and put together a network of events. And about a year ago, it all came together,” Felder said. “We looked at a trip from Montgomery to Selma, and we looked from Selma south, because this is the best place in the state to do this. There’s no other place right now, this year, that you could paddle for a week and have enough help from the community and enough places to stop and spend the night.”

The ASRT received lots of help from three specific communities for the river tour.

“The city of Selma and Camden come to mind as two communities who have thrown everything they have at the situation. They have provided meals, provided entertainment, and anything you need,” Felder said. “. The Corps of Engineers, in a way, is a community because they’re sort of the glue that holds everything together. They have access to the parks. They knew the landowners. They were a part of the community in so many ways, and they’re a great partner of ours.”

The crew started in Selma with eight, but throughout the week some others will join in, bringing the crew to an average of 10 paddlers each day.

“We promoted this for a year and we have people here from Atlanta, Montgomery, Birmingham, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Texas,” Felder said.

The only requirements for the seven-day venture Felder said was, “You’ve got to be a little bit adventurous to go out for longer than a weekend. We didn’t put any restrictions on it. Usually when people see a seven-day tour they know what they’re in for – we didn’t have anybody show up with a Walmart raft.”

The paddlers will be traveling down the Alabama River in kayaks and canoes. Highlights of the river tour, Felder said, include a visit to Old Cahawba, a night of storytelling, a meeting with two archeologists from the state that will discuss the latest findings on area history, presentation by Gees Bend Quilters, a fish fry at Millers Ferry provided by the Corps of Engineers and of course traveling down the Alabama River.

When people heard about the ASRT paddling trip, “Everybody just thinks that a trip down the (Alabama) River is just the coolest adventure that they’ve ever thought of,” Felder said.