Oak Mountain offers tranquil spot for families

Published 9:49 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Skies still filled with rain clouds from a passing thunderstorm as I turned off Cahaba Valley Road near Meadowbrook and into the eastern entrance to Oak Mountain State Park.

Dense trees nodded over the narrow lane, heavy from a downpour, which had just passed through. This forest — even on a sunny day — maintains perpetual twilight, still as a cathedral.

I followed the road down to the gate, and was greeted by Park Ranger Juanita Dixon. In a pavilion nearby, a class reunion gathered, and a family sat around a picnic table. One couple fished from the lake bank.

Driving down the road toward the day–use area, I noted more families fishing, some in johnboats. Lingering raindrops made polka–dot patterns in still water. The spillway looked too deep for my sedan to cross safely so I turned, came back and chatted with Dixon, who seemed happy to bring the park’s fishing area to public awareness.

“This spot is more relaxed than the other end of the park,” she said. “We have covered and open picnic areas, rent johnboats, canoes and kayaks, a trolling motor. Many come here for reunions or corporate retreats. We’re open to having fishing tournaments.”

I scanned photos on a wall of large fish caught in this lake: bass, bream, crappie and catfish.

“We sell bait, minnows, red worms, night crawlers, crickets and artificial bait,” Dixon said.

They also have snacks, fishing supplies — rods and reels, poles — and fishing licenses.

“I love my job, would like to promote this area, our fishing,” said Dixon, “This is a real good deal, especially in our economy. Some come here just to relax, read a book,” she said. Park entry fees vary by age from free to $3, depending on age and day of week. Annual passes are available.

I have sweet memories of my family coming here many decades ago, in an era of slower pace. When I was a child, a strip of sand marked the lifeguard-monitored beach. Dad rented a boat and fished, stopping long enough to enjoy a picnic lunch with our family.

Now, more park visitors arrived. Dixon went back to her job. I wandered down to the lake, lapsed into reverie of life, past times and people. Rain stopped dripping. Doves cooed softly. Occasionally, soft conversation could be heard from families.