Recreational Canoeing in the Huntsville, Alabama Area

An introduction to the many canoeing possibilities for the beginning paddler in the North Alabama and South Tennessee areas.
By Murray Carroll

The diverse waterways of the North Alabama/South Tennessee area offer the novice paddler a wide array of riverine environments to explore. Most of us are familiar with the Tennessee river and its impoundments, but these are generally unsuitable for canoes because of motorized boat traffic.

The Flint River, which flows through the eastern portion of Madison County, is a mild Class I float. Occasional shoals and downed trees are encountered on many sections of the river, but beginners will have little trouble at moderate flow rates. The river is generally floatable from Oscar Patterson Road south to Hobbs Island Road. A word of caution - don’t overestimate you ability to float long segments of the Flint in one day, or you could spend an unplanned night on the river. The river is serviced by Flint River Canoe Rentals.

At an overnight camping spot everybody watches the river for friends

The Elk River is a cold water, Class I stream which flows from Tims Ford Lake to Wheeler Reservoir. The upper sections from near Winchester, Tennessee to Fayetteville, Tennessee, are popular with canoeists and trout fishermen. Don and Luann Townsend operate the Elk River Canoe Rental near Flintville, Tennessee and service this lovely pastoral stream.

Relaxing by the beached canoes watching the rest of the group come in

Bear Creek, near Russelville, Alabama is a dam-controlled tributary of Pickwick Lake. TVA releases water from Bear Creek Lake into this narrow stream, which provides an excellent introductory canoeing experience. This stream features on section through a deep canyon with streamside ferns and hemlock trees. Two rapids on this canyon section have mandatory portages. Canoe rentals for this creek are available from Bear Creek Canoe Run near Phil Campbell, Alabama.

Two paddlers rest from their trip on a rocky stream side

The Bankhead National Forest near Molton, Alabama offers several scenic waterways, but no outfitter offers canoe rentals or shuttle service in this area. The Sipsey River, Brushy Creek, Thompson Creek, and Hubbard creeks should only be floated when accompanied by experienced canoeists. The Sipsey, a beautiful Class I trip with on Class II rapid, has been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River.

Everybody beaches their watercraft for a quick lunch break

All the rivers mentioned are suitable for beginners, but caution must always be used. Paddling any river requires good judgment and a basic knowledge of equipment and paddling technique.

Murray Carroll is past president of the Huntsville, Alabama Canoe club and an avid purveyor of many waterways in the nation as well as the nation. He is currently working on a book describing canoeing in the Alabama and South. For further information contact Murray Carroll of the Huntsville Canoe club at 205-881-7930. This article was provided for Huntsville Athlete magazine and all pictures are file photos.

All pages copyright R-Sports and Sharp Enterprises. Permission granted to print complete pages only, which includes advertising and this notice. Any other form or use is infringement on this copyright. For more information call 205-536-0690.

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