Fun ways to enjoy the Cahaba River

Flowing through the heart of Alabama, the Cahaba River offers a wide assortment of recreational options for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and fitness levels. Just minutes from some of Alabama’s most populated areas and with a number of public access points, roads, and trails making it simple to reach, the Cahaba provides a valuable natural oasis right outside of some of Alabama’s largest urban centers. Visitors travel from near and far to enjoy the unique opportunities for fishing, paddling, swimming, hiking, camping, and wildlife-watching provided by this special river.

Where can I access the Cahaba River?

There are a number of locations where you can access the Cahaba River. The Cahaba Blueway is a scenic water trail created by a coalition of partners that consists of improved Cahaba River access points marked by wayfaring signage.

Click here to see an interactive map of Cahaba Blueway access sites.


Cahaba River Access Points
(Click to enlarge.)

Check out the map at right from Alabama Scenic River Trail. Click the map to enlarge or click here to download a PDF file.



The Cahaba River offers a phenomenal paddling experience for canoeists, kayakers, and paddle boarders of all experience levels.

Take a guided canoe tour with Cahaba River Society.

Cahaba River Society offers naturalist-guided canoe trips that offer an experience like no other. Click here to read about our trips.

Gear rental for paddling the Cahaba River

Need to rent gear for your Cahaba River adventure?

Check out UAB’s “Outdoor Pursuits” Adventure Recreation Rentals | 205-996-4913



Many people ask us if swimming in the Cahaba River is safe. While many people enjoy swimming in the Cahaba safely, it is always important to use caution and common sense around the water.

Our partners at Cahaba Riverkeeper monitor water quality along the Cahaba River during the summer months with their Cahaba River Swim Guide program. Click here to view their results. Keep in mind that Swim Guide results are a snapshot of what the water quality was at a specific location. Samples are generally taken on a Thursday and reported Friday. Conditions may change within a few days.

Cahaba River Society pays attention to Swim Guide data as we are planning CLEAN Environmental Education Field Trips and recreational canoe trips. Most CLEAN trips are in the Little Cahaba River. The sections of the Little Cahaba where youth will be wading in the water are well upstream of the Cahaba River locations where Swim Guide monitoring has sometimes found water quality problems. CLEAN activities do not include swimming or putting the students’ heads under water. In our experience over 22 years of the CLEAN program, this is a safe and healthy place for youth to enjoy and benefit from hands-on river education.

There are a couple of river conditions that always make swimming unsafe. You should never swim:

  • When the water is muddy. After a rainstorm, the Cahaba River becomes muddy and rises quickly. Pollution levels, including pathogens that could make you sick, can rise. Putting your head underwater can put you at risk of illness.
  • After and during a rain. When the river rises from upstream rains, the current can be surprisingly strong. Swiftly moving water can be dangerous.
  • Downstream from waste treatment facilities. There are many wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the upper Cahaba River below Highway 280 and above Highway 52 near Helena, it is a bad idea to put your head underwater and there are too many risks for something to go wrong with the treatment plants’ disinfection process to reliably submerge yourself in the River.

A note on paddling safely on your own during the Covid-19 pandemic:



Alabama has four State Parks and a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Shelby and Bibb Counties that offer some interesting hiking and camping opportunities. The Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge in West Blocton does not allow camping but does have some excellent trails for hiking.

If you do intend to camp, be sure that you are aware of the regulations and designated areas for camping because these rules and regulations are in place for your own safety, the safety of others, and to protect the environment itself from detriment. Be aware of how to contact local law enforcement and emergency services before you need them.

Fishing on the Cahaba River

With over 135 fish species–more than any other temperate river of its size–the Cahaba River offers ample opportunities to anglers. Popular sportfish species found include bream (bluegill, redear and longear sunfishes), spotted bass, largemouth bass, and crappie. The Cahaba is known for its fishing and has been featured in publications such as Fly Fishing for Redeye Bass: An Adventure Across Southern Waters by Matthew R. Lewis.

The Cahaba is noted for the unique experience that it offers to anglers. Unlike the large reservoirs found on other Alabama river systems, the free-flowing Cahaba is not as simple to access by motor boat or by shore. Many anglers opt to fish from a canoe or kayak, which can present the challenge of coordinating casting, paddling, and dodging obstacles all at once. But for just that reason, not so many people subject smaller streams to the fishing pressure that reservoirs regularly endure. The result can be some very productive fishing.

Anglers are required to purchase an Alabama Fishing License before fishing in the Cahaba River. This can be done online or in person. Click here to read more about where to get an Alabama Fishing License.

Cahaba Fish Consumption Advisories

When catching fish to eat, it is critical that anglers know where fish are unsafe to eat. The Alabama Department of Public Health issues yearly fish consumption advisories for Alabama Rivers. In 2019, they issued more than 100 warnings statewide, including three on the Cahaba.

Click here to read about Alabama’s 2019 Fish Consumption Advisories for the Cahaba River.

Where to catch fish on the Cahaba
      • The Highway 280 dam is a good spot to catch crappie, bass, and sunfish. In the upper Cahaba River, stream segments below the Hwy 280 diversion dam receive significant nutrient loading from wastewater treatment plants. While this has impaired populations of some native fish species, it has probably enhanced the Spotted and Largemouth Bass populations.
      • Lake Purdy offers a variety of fishing options. Contact the concessionaire at 205-991-9107.
      • Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge in West Blocton makes fishing accessible to shore and shoal fisherman on foot or for those using a jon boat. Bass and Channel catfish are commonly caught here.
      • The Cahaba Historical Park in Centreville, AL is also open to the public and you can find bank fishing and wading opportunities there. A boa launch is available there and a small donation for its use is requested.
      • The Perry Lake Park is another fishing option in the lower basin. The lake may not be the most productive fishing, but it is remarkably scenic. In the lower basin, the numerous tree-snags are great cover for bass, but you would do better with some really heavy-test fishing line and snag-less lures.

For more information on the Cahaba River, please contact the District III Fisheries Office.