As the state capital, Montgomery is known more for politics than paddling on Alabama’s rivers. However, the city’s centralized location puts it within striking distance of some of the finest canoeing and kayaking found in Alabama, making it a favorite launching point to explore one of the state’s finest natural resources.
The paddling options within an hour’s drive of Montgomery range from a paddler’s playground on the Coosa River to a flatwater paradise on the Tallapoosa River. There are also outfitters nearby, including Coosa River Adventures and Coosa Outdoor Center, which you can contact for all your rental or shuttle needs. To help you plan an excellent day on the water, we’ve highlighted the best paddling destinations within about an hour’s drive of the capital city.
1. Coosa River in Wetumpka
Just 30 minutes northeast of Montgomery in Wetumpka, you can enjoy an entertaining seven-mile jaunt on the Coosa River, with flowing flatwater, light rapids, and some of the best fishing in the state.
Put in at the Jordan Dam, where Alabama Power controls the river flow. They release a minimum of 2,000 CFS daily, which keeps the water flowing, and bump it up to 10,000 CFS during the spring and summer months. Unique rock formations in the river create one of the best places for beginning paddlers to get a taste for whitewater kayaking in Alabama.
There are three sets of rapids. Moccasin Gap is the largest and most known, marked by the large rock island splitting the river, the right side of which will offer Class III rapids, while river left can have Class II rapids during the right flow. The island is large enough to hang out and have a snack, and there is even a swimming hole to explore.
River Falls, the initial rapids on the river, weave around small islands and old Cypress trees. You’ll encounter the last set of rapids, called Pipeline, about one mile south of Moccasin Gap.
Close to the dam you will find some of the best bass fishing in the state, and many varieties can be found, including spotted and redeye.
2. Tallapoosa River
The Tallapoosa River is well-known as one of the premier floats in the south. Many sections of the 265-mile river are perfect for a day trip or a multi-day paddle excursion, and the Tallapoosa is also part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
If you’re searching for a extended kayak or canoe trip close to the capital, Coosa River Adventures in Wetumpka has you covered with a 51-mile float though some of Alabama’s most picturesque landscapes. The outfitter will drive you just south of Tallassee to put-in, and your paddle will take you west to Fort Toulouse, where the Coosa and Tallapoosa merge. There are earlier take-out points if needed.
While exploring the Coosa you can spend the night on a sandbar under the stars, with just nature and a few friends to keep you company. Just make sure to check the scheduled water releases at night to avoid an unexpected water rise. Along the way, you will travel through a diverse ecosystem of clay cliffs and dense forest.
3. Hatchet Creek Canoe Trail
Flowing near the town of Rockford, Hatchet Creek is 42 miles north of Montgomery, and runs for around 41 miles, broken up into five sections. The creek is considered a spur trail of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
Hatchet Creek is somewhat narrow, enough so that trees on its banks incline to form a natural canopy in places, while leaving plenty of space to paddle. Make sure the water flow is over 300 CFS so that you won’t have to carry your craft too often. While paddling the river you’ll encounter interesting natural features, including a rock garden, Humpback Rock, and Boulder Island. Plus, you can find the Cahaba Lily here. During moderate flows, you’ll also find plenty of sandbars where you can stop for a break.
There are six launch spots west of Highway 511 in Goodwater, with the first just east of the Goodwater Dam. You can easily turn this into an extended paddle, and there are four camping spots scattered along the length of the creek. Hatchet Creek is heavily affected by rain, so be aware of rapid changes in water flow and level if you run into a heavy storm.
4. Weogufka Creek
Another Coosa County gem, Weogufka Creek runs nearly parallel to Hatchet Creek, just a bit farther north. There are six sections across nearly 30 miles, a good portion of which will snake through primitive terrain in the Coosa Wildlife Management Area and Weogufka State Forest.
The first launch area is on County Road 112, east of the Weogufka Cemetery. Do not underestimate the length of this trip, as some sections feature low water flows, with above 700 CFS being ideal for passage. The narrow nature of the creek combined with steep banks will cause portions to become blocked by fallen trees, and most rapids you encounter will be Class I.
Camping is available if you want to turn this into an overnight trip. Along the banks of the creek there are four designated campsites on private land, and one public site. Remember to use proper campsite etiquette and respect the owners property so that these sites will remain clean and available for use. Abundant flora and fauna will accompany you on whatever section you decide to paddle, and you may see a few bald eagles as you explore this impressive ecosystem.
Written by Hap Pruitt for RootsRated Media in partnership with BCBS of AL.