The morning was slightly fall-scented, but the weather reports promised it would get warm enough to swim, so we decided to explore the Cahaba River. So we drove towards Birmingham and got off at the West Blocton exit, drove for a while, then turned right onto County Road 27. This is when we realized that we had no clue where to begin our exploration. Lo and behold, directly before us appeared The Country Store. So we hopped out of the car and asked the two lovely ladies behind the counter if they knew where we might find a swimming hole.
The ladies gave us directions to a place they called "Limestone Park". But our family outings always have a tendency towards wandering off course, so we discovered a few gems on our way to Limestone. From The Country Store, we continued up County Road 27 until we arrived at a 4-way stop. At the 4-way stop, we turned left onto Cahaba River Drive. We passed the West Blocton Food Center, a mini-grocery store, and just before we crossed a bridge over Caffee Creek, we passed an Italian Catholic Cemetary from 1901. It seems the area was heavily invested in coal mining during the Civil War period; Patrick thought he spotted a few "mine markers" along the way.
We struck unexpected gold after entering the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area. Turn right into River Trace just before you go over the bridge crossing the Cahaba River (about 5 miles after turning onto Cahaba River Drive). You can pick up a map and a little packet about the Cahaba River wildlife, flora, and fauna at the wooden kiosk. Basically, the gravel road runs alongside the Cahaba and turns into a dirt road (which the Cadillac road as gracefully as might be expected). Along the gravel part of the road, you will find several stops with rope swings, catapults, and fun water activities. If you continue driving after the road turns to dirt, you will find our gold nugget- a swimming hole just after the shoals, lined by a cliff, and surrounded by gorgeous scenery. There are even little rapids that carry swimmers over moss-covered rocks for a natural water slide!
After playing in the water, we climbed back in the car to find the legendary Limestone Park. From River Trace, we took a right onto Cahaba River Drive and continued until we got to a 3-way stop, where we took a right onto County Road 65 (also known as Bulldog Bend Road). We drove no more than 5 miles before spotting blue canoe marked "Limestone Canoeing Club" on our left. So we turned left and kept driving past a few foreboding "Private Club" signs before pulling in to the Limestone Canoeing Club. We were greeted with grunts from three teenage boys propped in black inner tubes. Canoes can be rented for $30, and tubes can be rented for $10. Limestone is open on weekends through the month of October. You can find more Cahaba canoeing resources at the Cahaba River Society's website. There are a few great swimming and BBQ areas on site.
You might be able to reach someone at 205-926-9672, but you can definitely find Limestone at this address:
1531 Linestone Pkwy
Brierfield, AL 35035
The Cahaba River, all 190 miles of it, is the longest remaining free-flowing river in Alabama. Its watershed covers an area of 1,870 square miles, with water flowing through portions of 8 counties (Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby, Bibb, Perry, Dallas, and small portions of Tuscaloosa and Chilton,), beginning at its source on the southern slope of Cahaba Mountain, northeast of Birmingham. .. The first 100 miles of the river, the Upper Cahaba, is the most mountainous, full of steep banks, high bluffs and rocky shoals. From its initial elevation of some 1,200 feet, the river descends at an average slope of 15 feet per mile for the first 25-30 miles, then falls more gradually at 2.5 feet per mile. After another 44 miles the river begins to flatten with a slope of just 0.6 feet per mile to its mouth.