Fishing and Floating the Little Cahaba River

The Little Cahaba River is probably best known for its very popular and scenic canoe trails. These trails are enjoyed by canoeists and kayakers, who regularly make the downstream float from Bulldog Bend towards the juncture of the main stem of the Cahaba River. The Little Cahaba is a major tributary of the upper Cahaba River Basin watershed, which includes 190 miles of bluffs, shoals, and sharp ridges before entering the lower Cahaba Basin on the Coastal Plain.

The Little Cahaba River is idea for beginning and intermediate canoeists since it offers shoals and runs, deep pools, and several nice rapids to challenge paddling skills depending upon your level of expertise. Since the Little Cahaba lies above the Fall Line in the Alabama Valley and Ridge region, the river’s path is characterized by large rock outcroppings with ridges running northeast to southwest composed of sandstone and chert while nearby valley regions are made up of limestone and shale deposits.

The Nature Conservancy oversees 480 acres of land, known as the “Glades” (The Kathy Stiles Freeland Bibb County Glades Preserve), located along the Little Cahaba River. This unique preserve is often referred to as a “botanical storehouse” because it is home to approximately 61 rare species of plants, several of which are considered threatened or endangered. In addition, dozens of rare aquatic species and organisms, including the round rock snail, cylindrical lioplax snail, goldline darter, Cahaba shiner, and rocky-shoal spider lilies (commonly known as the Cahaba Lily) are found in the Little Cahaba River as it meanders through the preserve. According to Bill Garland, retired Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, this part of Bibb County is recognized as the most biologically diverse piece of real estate in the state of Alabama.

Cahaba Lily courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife ServiceIn an effort to further protect this region’s fragile natural resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge in 2002 that incorporates over 3,500 acres of land and lies adjacent to property purchased by the Natural Conservancy. Over seven miles of the Cahaba and Little Cahaba rivers lie within the boundary of the National Wildlife Refuge. This area is located approximately six miles east of West Blockton, AL on County Road 24, and river access is provided by a gravel road running south, just past the refuge sign entrance. Activities include hiking, fishing and hunting opportunities and interpretive kiosks, which are available to the public. Popular sportfish species available to anglers include bream (bluegill, redear and longear sunfishes), spotted bass, largemouth bass, and crappie. This small river also has an abundance of catfish, suckers, and other non-game riverine species.

Environmentalists and conservation minded citizens continue in their efforts to protect this area and its unique aquatic resources; however, concerns about the future remain. The Cahaba River Society indicate that over 55% of the Cahaba River and its tributaries have been placed on Alabama’s 303(d) list of waters that do not meet current water quality standards due to excessive amounts of sediments and nutrients. These factors, along with polluted stormwater runoff have resulted in a decline in the number and species diversity of fish sampled over the past 20 years. In addition, the blue shiner has disappeared from the Cahaba River watershed and the range of the endangered Cahaba shiner has decreased significantly. Historical trends in sampling data have shown generally decreasing numbers in sensitive species, such as darters, shiners, other minnows, madtom catfish, and various mussels, while species more tolerant of contaminants and siltation are increasing in number. These concerns reinforce the need for local communities, government agencies and non-government conservation organizations to unite in protecting the Little Cahaba River and the unique ecosystem that is associated with this small river and the entire Cahaba River Basin.

For more information on the Little Cahaba River, please contact the District III Fisheries Office.