We are about half way through ‘Lily Season’ here in central Alabama. If you haven’t already done so, taking a trip to the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area just outside West Blocton, AL to see the annual bloom of this rare flower, is a must-do trip.
The lilies only bloom from mid-May through late-June each year and the stands along this 7 mile stretch of the Cahaba River are some of the last remaining places in the southeast where you can see the flowers in such abundance. Frequent, shallow shoals between slow moving sections of river are where the lilies set up camp and the brilliant white blooms stand out in stark contrast to the lush green backdrop of rugged shoreline. Each bloom lasts for only one day before withering away, only to be replaced the next day by another flower. Visiting this section of river either by boat or on foot will feel like you’re in a pristine wilderness river canyon, even though it’s only 40 minutes from the state's largest city.
Randy Haddock, naturalist at Cahaba River Society recommends paddling the river when the flow is no less than 900 C.F.S. Anything less and, “it’s a death march with a lot of walking and dragging your boat over the shoals.” If the water is too low or if the logistics of a shuttle are too difficult, then he recommends a shorter 2-mile paddle from the first put in on River Trace road, to the end of the road. Then it’s a short 30-40 minute walk back to the car. Don’t let the lack of a boat deter you from this adventure, because many of the shoals are accessible from the gravel road and there’s a well beaten trail downstream from the road’s end that provides access to some of the most abundant stands of flowers.
Either by boat or on foot, this trip is worth the effort. Take a bathing suit, some water shoes, and your camera for an hour to day-long family adventure on the river.