The Cahaba has long been a resource worth preserving. It harbors some of the most unique and diverse aquatic species in the state, provides unique recreational opportunities and is the source of drinking water for one million Alabama citizens.
It is for these reasons and others that the first organized and long-lasting river protection effort in the state of Alabama began with the Cahaba. In the mid ’80’s a small group began to meet, discussing a way to create a presence for the conservation of the Cahaba River. On September 22, 1988, the Cahaba River Society came into existence, dedicating itself exclusively to the protection of the Cahaba River Watershed. Within a short period of time, the group witnessed an explosion of interest, amassing more than 2,000 members. (Keith)
The Cahaba River Society opened an office, and Don Elder, an avid fisherman of the Cahaba and trumpet player for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, made a dramatic career change and became the full-time Executive Director for the next six years.
Elder’s explanation for the Society’s success was their clear mission. “Without a well-defined approach, we would have been adrift from the start. We were in the business to protect, preserve, and promote the river. We felt once we got the word out that the river is our drinking water source, threatened by pollution and habitat degradation, as well as a source of tremendous biological diversity, it would be a story that people would latch on to.” He was right!
The Cahaba River Society was served as an inspiration for river movements all across the state, and a training ground for many of Alabama’s most formidable river advocates.
There are several groups working on particular issues within the Cahaba Basin or working to protect smaller subwatersheds. Below is a list of this groups.
ACMAR / MOODY Environmental Justice Society
Alabama Environmental Society
Alabama Rivers Alliance
Black Warrior / Cahaba Land Trust
Cahaba Basin Project / Judson College
Committee for the Preservation of the Lake Purdy Area
Friends of the Buck Creek Watershed
Friends of Shades Creek
Friends of the Little Cahaba
Sierra Club – Cahaba Chapter
A 3.5-mile stretch encompassing 3,500 acres of the Cahaba River in Bibb County was authorized for purchase as a National Wildlife Refuge in 2001. According to the Nature Conservancy, the Cahaba refuge site has more species of freshwater fish than the entire state of California.