The Guide:



The Cahaba River

The Cahaba River: Cahaba Lily in springThe 190-mile long Cahaba River is Alabama’s longest free-flowing river and one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the United States.  More than one million people live within and depend upon the Cahaba River watershed for their water. 

Development and land use upstream in the Cahaba River as well as dams on the Alabama River downstream have decreased the historic diversity of the river.  Despite these impacts, the Cahaba River has 135 species of fish, more aquatic snail species than any river in the world and 35 species of mussels.  The river also shelters the largest known stand of the imperiled Cahaba Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) in the world. 

A great diversity of life depends on the Cahaba River, with Alabama’s longest remaining stretch of free-flowing river, the primary drinking water source for one-fifth of the state’s people in the Birmingham metro area, and a treasure of biological diversity of national and global importance.

The Cahaba River is featured in the 2008 National Geographic College Atlas of the World as a global superlative of biological diversity, noting that it has more fish species per mile than any other river in North America. 

Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)

Established in 2002, the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) helps to protect the biological heart of the Cahaba River.  Thirteen federally threatened or endangered species occur within the refuge boundaries.   Over 20,000 people visit the refuge annually to enjoy fishing, hunting, wildlife observation and other compatible wildlife dependent activities.  Most visitors come during the mid-May to mid-June period to see the flowering of the Cahaba Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria). The Refuge contains a vehicle accessible road along the river and a parking area with access to trails and river access.

Resources near the Cahaba River (Cahaba River Society) (The Nature Conservancy) (Cahaba River NWR) (Auburn’s Urban Studio) (Black Belt Treasures) (Donovan Lakes)