The Alabama Scenic River Trail (ASRT) is the longest recreational water trail in any single state in the United States. The ASRT begins at the Alabama/Georgia state line, where the Coosa River enters Alabama northeast of Cedar Bluff, Cherokee County, and ends 631 miles later at Fort Morgan at the Gulf of Mexico.
The original trail included parts of seven rivers: the Coosa, Alabama, Mobile, Tensaw, Apalachee, Cahaba, and Blakeley rivers, as well as the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, and Weogufka and Hatchett creeks. In late 2010, the Tennessee River and Terrapin Creek were adopted as part of the trail. The ASRT also crosses nine lakes: Weiss, Neely Henry, Logan Martin, Lay, Mitchell, Jordan, R.E. "Bob" Woodruff, Claiborne, and the William Dannelly Reservoir. The ASRT was conceived in early 2006 by a small group of boating enthusiasts who enlisted the participation of the Alabama Power Company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which own and manage locks and dams on the rivers), the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and numerous organizations and individuals in developing the trail. The idea came to fruition with the official designation of the trail on June 6, 2008. In that same month, the ASRT was designated as a National Recreational Trail by then U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne during a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony at Montgomery's Riverwalk.
Most of the ASRT is on wide, slow moving rivers, and for that reason it is widely used by power boaters. For whitewater enthusiasts, the best part of the trail is Moccasin Gap near the town of Wetumpka, Elmore County, on the Coosa River. This section of the trail is a fairly interesting run that includes some Class III rapids; therefore, it is not recommended for powerboaters.
The different types of waterways that make up the trail present boaters with a variety of scenery, topography, and challenges. Boaters experience the wide diversity of Alabama along the way, beginning with the mountainous terrain of the Appalachian foothills in northeastern Alabama. From this scenic start, boaters travel past heavily forested stretches, farm country, some of Alabama's largest cities, and numerous historic sites. The ASRT passes near several established birding trails, includes many of the state's best fishing grounds, and connects to the Bartram Canoe Trail in the Delta area. Sites of interest along the ASRT include Historic Blakeley State Park, Meaher State Park, Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, and Fort Toulouse National Historic Park. Boaters also may glimpse Alabama's natural beauty as alligators, waterfowl, shorebirds, beaver, mink, and deer share the waterway.
Because much of the ASRT follows commercial navigable waterways, long distance trips on the trail may require portaging around or going through large locks and dams. For this reason, and also because of the lack of campsites, marinas, and other facilities on some stretches of the trail, many boaters opt for day trips on limited sections. Some parts of the trail have amenities available to long-distance boaters such as campgrounds, stores, canoe and kayak rentals, and outfitters, but boaters should consult maps and Web sites before planning a trip.
The volunteer-based Alabama Scenic River Trail Association promotes the trail, works to clean rivers, establishes river access points and campgrounds along the trail, and seeks funding to maintain and improve the trail. The association also publishes trail guides with detailed information regarding campgrounds, marinas, put-in and take-out locations, and points of interest along the way.
Thomas V. Ress
Published March 3, 2011
Last updated March 13, 2013