The Cahaba River is Alabama’s longest free-flowing river and one of the most biodiverse waterways on Earth with more species of fish than any river of its size in North America. It’s also home of the aquatic Cahaba lily with its dazzling three-inch-wide, star-shaped white flowers.
So, it comes as no surprise that the Cahaba River is a popular canoeing destination.
Listed as one of Alabama’s Seven Natural Wonders, the Cahaba River meanders through the greater Birmingham area including Irondale where a new parking area recently opened at Moon River Canoe Launch to provide better access to this remarkable waterway. This new launch area is part of the greater Cahaba Blueway.
Moon River Canoe Launch opened in 2013, but getting a canoe into the water at this spot was difficult without a way to drive up to the launch. The project was spearheaded by Freshwater Land Trust, a Birmingham-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve, connect, and care for land and water in Central Alabama, as a result creating dynamic green spaces for future generations.
Locating the gravel parking lot on the Alabama Department of Transportation right-of-way protects the area’s native habitat, notes Sam McCoy, Land Stewardship Director for the Freshwater Land Trust. The new parking area is designed to accommodate seven vehicles.
“There are floodplain wetlands located closer to the Cahaba River,” McCoy explains. “If we put the parking lot on FLT property, closer to the Cahaba, then we would’ve had to clear those wetlands to build the parking lot. By putting the parking lot farther from the Cahaba, on the ALDOT right-of-way, those wetlands didn’t need to be cleared in order to construct the parking lot.”
Funding for the Moon River Canoe Launch parking area was provided by the following partners: the City of Irondale, The Daniel Foundation of Alabama, Alabama Power Foundation, Jefferson County Department of Health and Vulcan Materials Company.
The canoe launch was named for a roadhouse called Moon River Beach, a one-stop gas station, fish camp and dance hall that operated from the 1930s to the early 1950s along the Cahaba River on U.S. 78. Painted on the two-story log structure was a sign: Swim Dine Dance. These early roadhouses were the original mixed-use buildings.
*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Freshwater Land Trust