By Kennedy McJunkin
This summer, you won’t have to look far for your recreational water getaway.
The Cahaba Blueway has dedicated 10 new canoe and kayak launching sites and swimming access points along the Cahaba River in Mountain Brook, Irondale, Trussville and other locations.
“The Cahaba River has always been a recreational outlet in our community, but you have to be a local person who is familiar with the area to know where those access points are,” said Brian Rushing, program coordinator for the Cahaba Blueway.
In efforts to heighten awareness of the river as an outstanding recreation- al asset for tourism, the Cahaba Blueway Society partnered with the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development to provide new infrastructure and information outlets.
“Through the Cahaba Blueway Program, we want to provide information so people know where the accesses are and be able to navigate safely along the river,” Rushing said.
The society also is building new infrastructures on the river that pro- vide safe and easy access for the public.
“In addition to working on new infrastructure, we are working to enhance the connections between recreational tourist and local businesses,” Rushing said.
Printed materials containing a detailed map of roads leading to all 31 access points are kept in public tourist information centers, libraries, City Hall and participating local businesses.
“We feel very strongly the Cahaba River is a nationally significant natural resource that is worthy of being on the national radar screen for recreational tourism,” Rushing said.
At 191 miles long, the Cahaba River is the longest free-flowing river in America.
“It is one of the most biologically diverse rivers in all of the United States and has more species of fish per mile than any other river in North America,” Rushing said.
There are 131 species of fish in the river; 18 of which are found nowhere else in the world. In addition to fish, there are 40 species of mussels; 35 species of snails, 13 of which are found nowhere else in the world; and 69 rare and imperiled species inhabit- ing the Cahaba River.
The Cahaba Blueway Society encourages paddling, swimming and fishing. Each access point is designed for different activities.
“There are times of the year, and particularly after rainfall, (that you must) be careful about swimming in certain areas due to bacteria,” said Rushing.
The Cahaba Riverkeeper has a swim guide on its website that lists the water quality at points along the river and that is updated frequently.
“Every access point has a link to the nearest swim guide page so you can see what the safety reading is of that particular location,” Rushing said.
For more information visit cahabablueway.org or cahabariverkeeper. org.