The Alabama Scenic River Trail offers more than 5,000 miles of waterways, world-class rapids, free-flowing streams and large lakes, but it remains little known but to a small group of paddlers in the Southeastern United States.
Now river trail organizers there are trying to change that, pointing to water-front campsites, dozens of independent outfitters and a new website with interactive trip-planning tools as reasons paddlers from outside Alabama’s borders should check it out. Paddlers may also be drawn to this fact: The 11-year-old Alabama Scenic River Trail is the longest single-state river trail in the U.S. and it is located in one of the most biologically diverse regions of the country.
Here are eight reasons why you should paddle the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
At more than 5,000 miles, the Alabama Scenic River Trail is the longest single state river trail in the U.S. It includes non-contiguous sections, appropriate for short day trips or long-distance runs. The system also includes the original 650-mile, core section of the river trail, which stretches across the state from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico.
The river trail brings paddlers through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, around pitcher plant bogs, into alligator country and finally to the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. It offers views of towering waterfalls, waterscapes accented with plush, green foliage and encounters with otters, bald eagles, giant turtles and more.
Great Alabama 650
The core section of the trail doubles as a racecourse for paddlers who take on the Great Alabama 650, an adventure-packed, long-distance paddle race in its inaugural year. The Great Alabama 650 stands apart from other races and is recognized as the longest paddle-only race in the United States and the longest annual paddle race in the word.
About a dozen designated trail angels support the Alabama Scenic River Trail. They are available to offer advice, hands-on assistance, and in some instances, even an overnight stay to trail-goers.
River trail organizers have established more than 100 campsites along the system, offering long-distance travellers overnight accommodations at the water’s edge. These sites are listed on the river trail website and are marked by blue signs on the waterfront to make them easier for paddlers to find.
At www.AlabamaScenicRiverTrail.com is a mobile-friendly, interactive map of the river trail. Divided into ten districts, paddlers can scroll over or tap any section of the map for detailed information about each section of the river trail. The website also allows users to develop their own account and add content to the site.
The Alabama Scenic River Trail includes a wide-range of water types. Paddlers can tackle class-five rapids on frothy rivers, schedule tranquil paddle boarding sessions on flat water, or float down narrow streams near city centres.
More than 50 outfitters line the banks of the Alabama Scenic River Trail and are listed on the website. These small, independent shops offer a range of services to include rentals, guided trips, shuttling and boat sales.
You can connect with the Alabama Scenic River Trail on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and it is supported by a team of creative, adventurous ambassadors. You can find more on social media about the river trail by following the hashtag #OnTheASRT.
Text by Laura Gaddy