Water trail to benefit county

More than 77,000 miles of rivers and streams flow through Alabama. About 1,400 of those miles are navigable. The Alabama Scenic River Trail, opened in June 2008, takes advantage of 631 miles of those navigable waterways. Shelby County is part of this trail, which is the longest recreational water trail in the 50 states. The Shelby County section of the Coosa River is part of the central section of the Alabama River Trail.

The trail is designed primarily for kayaks and canoes, but can also accommodate powerboats from Montgomery to the Gulf of Mexico. The trail moves along seven rivers and two creeks. Campsites and outfitters can be found along sections of the trail, making it easy for travelers to take short multi-day trips. The scenery ranges from the forested river bluffs along the northern sections of the trail to the river delta area of Mobile Bay. There are even stops along the way where travelers can eat in restaurants or spend the night in a hotel.

The Alabama Scenic River Trail represents a growing trend in natural travel and tourism destinations. As awareness builds, it is expected that travel along the trail will increase rapidly. In fact, several websites and journals have begun to highlight the trail as a spring break destination for students and families.

It is roughly estimated that paddlers and wildlife watchers spend over $350 million annually in Alabama. Our state will benefit greatly as the popularity of the Alabama Scenic River Trail grows, and so should Shelby County.