2009 Forrest Gump in a Kayak

The Alabama Scenic River Trail

652 Miles Downriver, 647 Miles Upriver, & 80 Miles Down in 114 Days

The Alabama Scenic River Trail is the only blueway that claims to have it all: mountain streams, endless rivers, our nation's 2nd largest river delta the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, dams, locks, and really good people - river people. It begins in a creek five miles east of the Alabama border and ends in the salty waves of the Gulf of Mexico. While all of that is true, a considerable distance is traveled on lakes and reservoirs. For the unknowing arm-chair adventurer that means two things: slow-to-not moving water; and, dams. Dams mean portages and solo-portages mean difficult and hard work. Perhaps you've noticed where dams are usually located - at the narrowest and steepest places along a river.

This paragraph from the ASRT website says it all:

"All of these lakes, in order from the state line south Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lay Lake, Mitchell Lake and Jordan Lakes along with their respective dams, offer no trouble to the powerboater wishing to trailer around the dams. Paddlers will find adequate portage at each dam with the exception of Mitchell Dam, whose topography is so steep that a portage would require superhuman strength." Going downriver, I carried the yak and supplies around five of the six dams including the Mitchell, receiving unsolicited help at the Jordan (a road walk just under two and a third miles). Going upriver I asked for help at the Jordan. A new, much shorter, route around the dam had been recently opened but I couldn't reach the new route located on the west end and just below the dam which was spilling some serious water. The local outfitters were making hourly runs between their shops and the dam dropping off floaters and paddlers. It seemed a bit foolish to not take a ride from someone driving a truck that was pulling an empty trailer designed to carry dozen yaks and canoes.

I should add that the six mile paddle upriver through the white water at Moccasin Gap between COC's Dirt Farm and the bottom of the dam took the entire day before, dawn to dusk and that effort may have influenced my thoughts about shuttling my kit to the upriver put-in just to prove I could.

One thing is for sure, "...the Alabama Scenic River Trail and it's Mitchell Dam?" "Been there, done that, ...twice!"

The ASRT is officially 647 miles, the longest in-one-state river trail. Starting on Thursday July 9th, I paddled the distance from Brushy Branch Creek located about five miles east of the Alabama/Georgia Border to Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay in 45 days.

With the summer heat being mostly done, on August 24th I started a trip up-river; returning up the Alabama and Coosa Rivers.

If you are going to travel the ASRT, then you really should do some paddling on the Bartram River Trail in the Delta. Going downriver I could not find the points of entry from the Alabama or Tensaw Rivers. A good prior study or gps coords are needed. I purchased a navigation chart to help on upriver trip and even with a gps'r, made good use of it.

I strongly recomend the Bartram; the camping platforms, narrow bayous, alligators, overgrown passages, low branches, lilly covered water, and sounds of the wildlife are very memorable. I've marked two good choices for connecting by creeks and one on the Tensaw Pass for the weak of heart. Regardless of how you reach Mobile Bay, I recommend that you at least attempt the bayou between the Tensaw and Stiggin's Lake; when you meet an alligator on that bayou you'll have another story for your adventure.

Flooding from record setting rainfall that occurred upstate during the month I was headed downrive caught me just north of Salem. There, I was stopped for several days before I could continue upriver. From there north, the turbines at the various dams were running full on. When heading downriver the dams usually had just one or two generators running, and then only for a few hours each day, usually in the early morning - offering little help to push me along my way.

Going upriver north of Salem my miles-per-day were tough. The rivers were usually out of their banks and moving fast; however, I made steady progress at the quieter river edges underneath low-hanging limbs and slumped trees. I did, in fact, paddle through more than a few front yards of expensive riverfront homes - right up to barbarque pits, children's swing sets, and and swamped boats. However, the six to ten miles just below the dams were always tough, usually taking a full day to make the short distance.

After sixty-three days, on October 24th, I had returned to the Alabama/Georgia border as marked by the state and power company's building permits that were attached to the piers. When I found my marker, like Forrest Gump, I swung the bow of ole'yellow around again, this time heading south for ninety miles to my final take-out at the Neely Henry Dam on Friday, October 30, 2009 - thirteen-hundred and eighty-odd miles in one-hundred fourteen days.

There, Steve DeBoalt picked me up on a cold winter day and carried me home.

This kayak trip was preceded by a 1200 mile bicycle tour of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi and followed with a 30-ish day, 300-mile winter yo-yo of Alabama's Pinhoti Trail through the Talladega National Forest.

2009 was a very good year.

Note: I was the third person to thru-paddle the ASRT; and, so far, the only person to paddle south-to-north. The shown map is my update to the Trail showing the 40-plus campsites that have been added over the last five years. There was one private home to over-night at; as well as the Dirt Farm in Wetumpka. None of the PC sites existed as part of 'the Plan'. Finding campsites, places to re-supply, and not being lost was happen-stance.