Cahaba River Kayaking – The Ultimate Paddling Guide

Paddlers looking for a secluded trip away from crowded waters will rejoice in what the Cahaba River in Alabama has on offer. The problem with less-popular kayaking destinations however is the fact that information on them is…well scarce.


Luckily, we’ve compiled this nifty guide. We’ll tell you what to remember when planning your trip and what to avoid at all costs. Read up and then start planning your Cahaba trip, down to the last T!


Cahaba River- Fast Facts

Location:                                 Alabama

Average Trip Duration:          1-2 Days, depending on your pace.

Paddling Difficulty:                Easy to Moderate

Current Pace:                          Slow


Before You Paddle

The Cahaba River banks offer lots of shade since it’s lined with dense trees, but please don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a reason to forego the sunscreen.


The Trip at a Glance

The Cahaba River has a slow and steady pace, but it’s not still, which means you’ll still be able to get around without totally tiring yourself out.

The river has 16 different launching and take-out points, which means that you can basically start just about anywhere you’d like.

Some parts of the river have Class 1 rapids, so just keep that in mind when you’re doing your planning.

One of the most popular launching points is at Grant’s Mill Road. Otherwise, you’d do well by using Overton Road as a put-in point.

You can take a break at one of the shady rest stops located along the river banks.

Try to make an overnight stop once you’ve done about 11 miles of paddling. The other thing that you’d do well at trying to achieve is to stop at a spot that has access to higher, flattened ground where you can set up camp for the night.

Your second day of paddling should roughly come to an end at River Road, which is where you’ll find a suitable take-out point.


The Case on Swimming

Swimming isn’t exactly advised as a to-do activity since there are a lot of water treatment plants in the area. Fecal bacteria are at very high levels, even more so after a rainstorm, which only leads to nastiness like ear infections. Just steer clear of the idea altogether.

You are permitted to get out of your kayak and enjoy some recreational activities like the old rope swings located at spots throughout the trail though. Use your own judgement here.



Fishing Friendly?

Fishing on the Cahaba River isn’t easy at all. A lot of folks just forego the idea altogether. That being said, if you’ve got mad skill, you can still try your luck at reeling in local species like crappie, bass, and sunfish.


Local Wildlife

The fact that the river isn’t as crowded with paddlers and tourists might be the reason why the Cahaba banks are home to the wide range of wildlife. You can spot whitetail deer, sakes, moccasins, and hawks in the area.

One thing that you should be looking out for here is snakes. Some species are venomous, like copperhead.


The Portaging Issue

Portaging isn’t hard work everywhere along the river banks, but some fallen trees can really up the intensity of portaging.


Camping Options

The Cahaba River area doesn’t have any formal (official) camping grounds. The closest public park is 20 miles away. Empty sand bars along the river’s edge make for great camp sites, although you should aim to get as high up as possible since water levels can rise unexpectedly during the night.


Packing List for the Trip

We won’t even lie here: You need to bring everything and anything that you’ use to survive a night out in the wilderness to the Cahaba River. Make sure that your kayak is in a good condition and that you’ll be able to make do with what you have on hand in case of emergency. Spotting other paddlers while you’re out there would be a rare occurrence.

Make sure that you’ve packed dry bags, extra paddles, and life jackets for the whole team.


Are There Any Fees Payable?

The short and sweet answer is NO. What you do need however is permission to park at the put in point located at the Cahaba River Bridge.


Need More Info?

If you’re still feeling like you’re short on vital information needed to plan your Cahaba River kayaking trip, here are a few links that might prove to be valuable:

This post shows you what kind of recreational activities are permitted in the area.

This article also has a bunch of useful tips and tricks regarding paddling the Cahaba.


We really hope that you’re now armed with all the info you need in order to plan a Cahaba River kayaking trip that’ll you’ll never forget. Just remember to use your own judgement when it comes to water safety, and don’t forget to indulge on the solitude that’s on offer here. There’s truly no other river in the area that can match what the Cahaba puts on the table!