Recreation and Protected Areas

Cahaba Lily Festival
Every May, the people of West Blocton in central Alabama host what may be the only festival in the country devoted to an aquatic plant: the Cahaba lily (Hymenocallis coronaria). This festival has been around for over ten years and honors the largest remaining stands of Cahaba lilies left in the world.

The Cahaba River is frequently used for recreation by canoeists and fisherman and is probably the most floated stream in Alabama. (Foshee 75)

Most anglers report that access seems to be the biggest problem to fishing the Cahaba River. Currently there are only two improved ramps on the river. One is a state boat launch located off highway 14 at Sprott near Marion and the other is a private launch located just upstream of the Highway 82 bridge in Centreville. (Project)

Present recreational use in the Cahaba River Corridor is light to moderate. Developed or classified sites for recreational purposes are non-existent on the river. Areas popular for boat-fishing, canoeing, swimming, bank fishing, hunting, hiking, picnicking, and sightseeing are traditionally located near bridge crossings or fords. (Project)

Outdoor Recreation on public lands within the Basin can be found at the following areas:

Oak Moutain State Park
Just off I-65, 15 miles south of Birmingham Oak Mountain State Park occupies 9,940 acres that drain to Buck Creek a tributary to the Upper Cahaba.

Paul M. Grist State Park
Located 15 miles north of Selma. This 1,080-acre park was recently improved. Visitors enjoy new camping, boat launch, fishing and swimming areas on this 100-acre lake.

Tannehill State Park
Daniel Hillman, a Pennsylvania furnaceman, first built a forge on the banks of Roupes Creek in 1830, where he had found the richest deposits of brown ore in his experience. He wrote his son: “I believe, George, that my prospects for making a handsome property are better than they ever were…” Hillman died two years later, the family’s fortune unmade. Ninian Tannehill later took up the forge as a sideline to his farming operation.

Between 1859 and 1863, slaves cut sandstone rocks, transported them by skids and stacked them to form three tall furnaces. Tannehill No. 1 was built by the noted Southern ironmaster Moses Stroup, who later built the Oxmoor Furnance, the first in Jefferson County. William L. Sanders purchased the operation in 1862 and set about expanding the ironworks.

Like the wheels and gears of a huge machine, the industrial center at Tannehill kept up a fierce momentum. Trees on the hillsides were felled to be made into charcoal that fed the huge blast furnaces. Roupes Creek and a mighty steam engine powered the blowing machines to heat the fires that melted ore to be formed into “pigs” of iron which, in turn, formed the tools of war for the Confederacy. At the height of production Tannehill turned out as many as 20 tons of iron a day. The iron was cast into ordnance, skillets, pots and ovens for the Southern army.

On March 31, 1865, it all ended in fire and destruction. Three companies of the Eighth Iowa Cavalry swept through the area as a part of Union General James Wilson’s raid on Alabama war industry sites. Smoke rose from the charred remains of the cabins that housed 600 slave laborers. At day’s end the furnaces were no longer operational, and the foundry, tannery, sawmill and gristmill were in ruins. (Website)

Talladega National Forest (Oakmulgee Division)
The Oakmulgee Division of the Talladega National Forest is comprised of about 160,000 acres in west central Alabama. It is located in the East Gulf Coastal Plain physiographic province. Streams of the forest drain into the Alabama, Cahaba and Black Warrior Rivers. (McGregor)

There are two wildlife management areas covering over 85,000 acres.

Central Alabama’s Talladega and tiny Tuskegee National Forests make great comeback stories. They are both wonderful examples of what can happen to land that was formerly cut-over and abandoned. Before it was bought by the federal government, both forests were some of the most abused, eroded wastelands in Alabama.

110-acre Payne Lake

The Oakmulgee is home for two endangered species … the Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.


Bibb County Glades

The Nature Conservancy holds in protection 303 acres of land on the Little Cahaba.

“A Botanical Wonder”, this preserve in Bibb County is home to 61 rare plant species, including the dwarf horse-nettle, which was thought to be extinct since the early 1800’s. Amazingly, eight of the plant species found on the Glades have never before been known to science, including new species of rosinweed, blazing-star, prairie clover and Indian-paintbrush. The Little Cahaba River which flows through the preserve harbors dozens of rare aquatic species, including the round rocksnail and the goldline darter. This breathtaking site is truly a “lost world” of species. (Oberholster)

Public ownership of land along the river is limited to a small portion of the Talladega National Forest (Oakmulgee Division) in Perry County, a section of land owned by the U of A, and the road right-of-ways at bridge crossings. (Project)