One of the greatest benefits to living in the state of Alabama is the access to so many great lakes and rivers. With 23 public lakes and 14 major rivers, the options for short or long distance paddling are endless.
Recently, I spent a day paddling on the Alabama River in the southern part of the state. I started and ended my adventure at the Millers Ferry Campground outside of Camden. Deep in the heart of the Black Prairie Belt, this region is rich in farmland and natural beauty. Pushing off from the boat launch at the campground, it was only a matter of minutes before I saw my first glimpse of wildlife. Only about 100 yards away, the water rippled and what appeared to be a log with eyes slowly moved across the river. It’s not uncommon to see alligators all throughout this area. It wanted nothing more to do with me than I wanted to do with it. It’s safe to say that my paddle strokes became a bit faster!
The goal of my paddle was to explore the different small islands and channels nearby. It’s only about a mile from the campground, which sits on the Dannelly Reservoir, to Millers Ferry Lock and Dam, and there are so many great places to explore on the water.
Paddling around the small islands and near the dam was peaceful. The quiet was only occasionally interrupted by a passing fishing boat. Easily the best part of this paddle is the previously mentioned wildlife all around. A large variety of birds can be found throughout the area. The Alabama River is a part of the Black Belt Birding Trail, and it’s common to see a variety of woodland birds, songbirds, bald eagles, ospreys, and raptors. In fact, there’s a well-known osprey nest right near the boat launch. I was not fortunate enough to see any eagles or osprey on this trip, but that only gives me a reason to come back soon!
As the sun began to set, I made my way back from the dam and towards the campground. Boat traffic was minimal by this time, but the popularity of the area with fishermen means its smart to be safe and finish your paddle before dark. With the Dannelly Reservoir being 27 square miles and the Alabama River stretching for over 300 miles, I could have spent the entire week exploring.
I highly recommend Rack and Reel Sports Grill after a long day on the water. This restaurant is perfect for post-paddle eating and rehydrating. The filet mignon is fantastic! Remember to check online or give them a call before you go, in case hours have changed due to Covid-19.