In this post, I will share my top 6 kayaking spots in Alabama.
Here are some facts about Alabama’s rivers. They are among the most biologically diverse waterways in the world. 38% of North America’s fish species, 43% of its freshwater gill-breathing snails, 51% of its freshwater turtle species, and 60% of its freshwater mussel species are native to Alabama’s rivers. And Alabama has more than 132,000 miles of river and stream channels.
What does that mean?
As a kayaker, I see plenty of potential for adventure, and many reasons to get excited. There are also plenty of streams, rivers and other bodies of water much more inland that also will satisfy your urge to go kayaking in the state of Alabama. No matter your experience level, you’ll find great places to paddle on creek and rivers throughout Alabama.
I hope you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy Alabama’s waters armed with a paddle and explore Alabama the Beautiful through a kayaking adventure.
Have you heard of the Sipsey River before? I’ve been there twice, It was a beautiful scenic trip, with huge bluffs towering over you from both sides. It was well worth it to stop and take in the huge waterfalls where other streams were feeding the Sipsey.
The Sipsey River is a stunningly beautiful body of water with many of years of history and great options for recreational adventures. With clear water and a flow that carves its way through the narrow sandstone canyons of northwest Alabama, the Sipsey River is the perfect place to enjoy the wild beauty of the state.
Cranal Rd, Double Springs, AL. That’s the general put-in spot. And you can finish your river trip at County Road 33. This one is more popular because it has a large parking space and some picnic tables nearby which you can walk your kayak to the put in spot.
Another option is to put-in at Thompson Creek off Forest Service Road #208. Putting in at Thompson Creek would effectively double your trip (from 9 to 18 miles).
The Sipsey River is a great place for beginners. If you are the experienced kayakers, you also can relax and enjoy the beauty of the river.
General speaking, the Sipsey River isn’t so rough. Some places are no more than 1.5 feet deep, but the current is not a force that you can underestimate. Safety precautions must never be ignored.
Overall, the river is calm. I do remember there is a single exception, the 100-yard dash. The 100-yard dash is located at about the halfway point of this trip and gets its name from the approximately 100 yards of class II rapids. Even if you don’t tip, you will likely get soaked unless you have a spray skirt.
How long it takes
Based on the location and length of time on the water, this is an all-day adventure, and easily one of the most scenic and remote experiences in the state.
There are some camping areas that are trail accessible and areas with ladders up the bank and such to access camp areas, but it is a backwoods area. Expect to really camp, no bathrooms or buildings here. It’s a wilderness no more, no less.
Check out the video!
Paint Rock River
The Watershed encompasses about 460 square miles and is one of the most biologically important regions in the state for both aquatic and plant and animal associations.
The river is formed in northeastern Jackson County by the confluence of Estill Fork and Hurricane Creek, and flows generally southwardly, past the town of Paint Rock.
As one of the Southeast’s last free-flowing rivers, the Paint Rock stands out as one of the only places in the region relatively untouched by logging and development.
I’ve been there before and heard some people described as “snaky river.” But I only saw a couple of snakes swimming in the water, and they weren’t interested in me. Aside from the snakes, we saw a baby turtle swimming in the water lots of fish, deer, ducks and beautiful clear water.
John T Reid Pkwy, Woodville. I’ll recommend you put in here and take out at Mill Road.
I’d say the Paint Rock is great for the beginner.
It’s not entirely clam, you can certainly get flipped if you make unwise decisions or fail to execute. I’m not trained in classifying rapids, but I suspect this run would be a Class I. Overall, the Paint Rock is shallower, but If you plan on bringing your cell phone/camera/other things you don’t want to get wet get a waterproof box, or double ziplic bag your stuff and put it in a secure place in case you flip your kayak.
How long it takes
If you putting in the spot I recommend you, there will be a decent 3-hr river trip to Mill Road.
If snakes absolutely terrify you in general, kayaking here may not be for you. Very shortly after we put in the water my kayak ran aground into a bed of four snakes. The snakes didn’t bother us at all thankfully. I think they were just water snakes and not venomous.
Check out this video(a little bit low quality.)
Black Warrior River-Locust Fork
The Black Warrior River drains portions of seventeen counties in Alabama. The area the river drains, known as its watershed, covers 6,276 square miles in Alabama and measures roughly 300 miles from top to bottom. The Black Warrior River watershed is home to over one million residents and contains 16,145.89 miles of mapped streams.
Also, Alabama’s Black Warrior River has been called one of America’s best-kept secrets for boating. It’s also been described as one of northern Alabama’s top secrets for bass fishing.
But I’m targeting the specific part of the river If you have some whitewater kayaking experience and you’re seeking a challenge that’s less daunting than Little River Canyon, head to the Locust Fork section of the Black Warrior.
Highway 31 bridge, Drive north from Birmingham, AL on Interstate 65 and exit 275. Turn right and you will soon see Highway 31. Turn left and after a couple of miles, you will cross the river. The access is very steep on the south side of the bridge on the right facing south.
The takeout spot is the bridge on Mount Olive Road. Take I-65 north and exit 272 and go west about 12 miles. When you cross the bridge turn left and there is a launching ramp under the bridge. It is paved, but narrow and steep.
I’d say the Black Warrior River-Locust Fork is more for experienced paddlers.
The start of the river was very peaceful and there was a lot of fish in the shallow water. The river here is like a series of lakes with easy rapids there were only about 6 rapids in this section and they were easy at this low water stage. Only one rapid had enough waves to splash a little water into the cockpit.
But the rest of the river is not clam at all. It consisting of high-Class II and Class III rapids, depending on water flow. Some solid obstacles, combined with slightly more advanced eddies and waves, will make the Locust a good test of your kayaking skills.
How long it takes
It was a 6-7 mile paddle session, I will say 3-4 hours but sometimes more because of the rapid current might takes you more time.
There are many different spots you can enjoy in the Black Warrior. The river is home to a diverse ecosystem of over 120 freshwater fish and other aquatic animals that are hiding in the river. I suggest you take a kayak and take some time to return to a primal way to hunt.
Limestone Creek is 45.5 miles (73.2 km) long with a drainage area of 144.3 square miles (374 km2) and is a tributary to the Tennessee River. The river rises in Lincoln County, Tennessee, and flows south into Madison County, Alabama before flowing through Limestone County, Alabama, where most of the river’s watershed is located.
In fact, Limestone Creek is where Limestone County gets its name. Limestone Creek terminates in the Tennessee River at Arrowhead Landing, which is the southeastern most point of Limestone County’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The land within this watershed is predominantly agricultural but has experienced significant recent residential growth from the city of Huntsville.
Limestone Creek is a host to several species of fish, birds, and mammals. Sightings of great blue heron are common. Multiple sightings of the American alligator have been reported, especially near the mouth of the river in Limestone Bay, which is the confluence of Limestone Creek with the Tennessee River. There is evidence of beaver presence in the area where Limestone Creek first enters Limestone County and squirrels are abundant near the banks.
Limestone Creek Trail, Madison, AL. Here is an easy put-in for Limestone Creek. From this location, you can easily paddle north or south. Generally, no alligators are to be found north of the waterfall.
Actually, if you don’t want to have to use the buddy system to return to your car up the river. Pick a spot anywhere in Limestone Bay to park and you can pretty much paddle around and return to your car wherever it is parked.
I’d say the Limestone Creek is good for beginners but you must have some experiences.
There’s no experience in the world like paddling up next to one of the planet’s most iconic predators. But if you’re too raw to paddle you might panic them. And please don’t do anything that will lessen the alligators’ natural fear of humans, and increase the danger of viewing them.
How long it takes
It really depends on your paddling route. It can be both a day-trip and 1-hour session.
Be aware that alligators inhabit most of this area, which may either be a bonus or factor that weighs against paddling here, depending on who you are. Remember though: never approach or feed alligators, both activities are illegal and pretty stupid.
The Flint River, 65.7 miles long and draining an area of 568 square miles, is a tributary to the Tennessee River. The river rises in Lincoln County, Tennessee, and flows south into Madison County, Alabama, where most of the river’s watershed (342 sq. mi.) is located. The land within this watershed is predominantly agricultural and has experienced significant recent residential growth from the city of Huntsville. The U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program is currently investigating water quality in the lower Tennessee River basin with several monitoring activities targeted in the Flint River Basin.
The Flint is great for recreational canoe/kayaking north of Hays/Cherokee Landing. The river widens and slows south of there but is better for fishing.
The Flint River provides excellent fishing for spotted bass, largemouth bass, the occasional smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, longear sunfish, channel catfish, and bullheads. An ultra-light spinning rod and reel combo or a short fly rod is the appropriate fishing gear.
If you have your own kayaks and can shuttle paddlers, there are several good spots to hop in along the river including Highway 72 E, Little Cove Road, and Old HWY 431 near Hays Nature Preserve. Hobbs Island Road and nearby Clouds Cove Road are the last places to get on the Flint before it intersects with its much larger cousin, the Tennessee River.
I’d say the Flint River is perfect for the beginners.
The Flint River is an easy river to do on your own. You can take a break practically anywhere. The current is about 1.5 miles per hour. It’s a great place to learn to paddle. There are few hazards to consider, and none in the more popular parts of the river.
How long it takes
The long trip is almost 8 miles or 4 ½ hours at a slow float pace. The short trip is 5 miles and about 3 hours long with you coming out in the same pickup spot on Little Cove Road. You are the master of your own trip. There are plenty of places to stop along the water to explore the shoreline, go for a swim, stop and fish or have a riverside picnic. You can even choose to paddle and get some exercise.
Novice paddlers should probably stay upriver of Hays Nature Preserve. The section below the preserve is not rigorously maintained for paddlers. Dragging your boats around log jams and blockages is, well, a drag. The section of river from Ryland Pike to Little Cove Road is well maintained and monitored by North Alabama Canoe and Kayak, or NACK, for short.
Hambrick Bat Cave
This TVA-owned and managed cave is located on the Tennessee River, about a mile upriver from Guntersville Dam on the north side of the river. It is a gray bat cave and one of the largest maternity colonies of this species. Evening dusk emergences can exceed 60,000. Typically, boats anchor just off the cave entrance to view the emerging bats. Visitors should be careful not to shine beamed lights of any kind on the bats during emergence as it affects the bats and the viewing.
I’ve been there several times. The first time I had joined the local tour, it was a foundational lesson a few years ago, which has allowed me to enjoy kayaking in many other regions with confidence. This trip was mostly an exploration, viewing the start of fall colors, but also bald eagles, blue heron and the beauty of Guntersville.
The put-in is on the north side of the river just east/upriver of the TVA-operated Guntersville Dam. TVA has created a recreation area that is open to the public. From here, it’s only about a 15-minute paddle to the cave entrance.
I’d say the Hambrick Bat Cave is perfect for the beginners.
Actually, the kayak is your big floating device here. But beware of the dam. When the dam is pulling water it creates a bit of a current.
How long it takes
It takes about 15 minutes for you to access the cave, you can also paddle around the area. It’s bio-diversity region which not only have bats but also many different kinds of animals.
This is a popular sightseeing activity so expect other kayakers and bigger motorized boats. Please do not shine non-red lights on the bats during emergence as it affects the bats and the viewing. Besides, it’s typically light enough outside during the busiest part of the emergency.
Hope you find this post interesting and helpful.
I’ve gathered the most scenic rivers in the area and try to give as more information as I can. If you find anything in this post wrong or outdated. Please kindly leave your comments below, I’ll update it as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading. Happy Kayaking.
My name is Whitney & I am the co founder of Seashelles and Southen Belles blog. I live in north Alabama & also enjoy kayaking very much. There is a place in Elgin called Blue Water located in Lauderdale County. We would love to introduce you to this gorgeous place! It’s not too difficult. There are a few areas where the water gets pretty fast but overall its by favorite I’ve been so far! It is very scenic & there is an area with bluffs people love to stop and enjoy jumping off of. The water is always so clear or blue, which is where it got it’s name. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Thanks for the blog. Great stuff. Suggestions for correction. In your put in/ take out section for the Sipsey please change County Road 33 to State Road 33. It is a major distance difference. Best to you and happy kayaking