Barton's Beach on the Cahaba
Tue, Mar 10 2009 at 12:32 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
Why you should visit
As the Cahaba River flows through Perry County in the upper coastal plain, the floodplain broadens and creates areas of bottomland hardwood forests, oxbow lakes and extensive sand and gravel bars. Bald cypress, wreathed in Spanish moss, blows in the breeze, bringing a distinctly southern feel as you hike along the trail to the Beach, which is really a large sand and gravel bar that has long served as an important nesting area for turtles.
How to prepare for your visit
This preserve is open to the public during daylight hours and located adjacent to the Perry Lakes Park which is operated by Perry County. A website that gives more detail on the county park can be found here: Perry Lakes Park
• Take 1-59 south towards Tuscaloosa
• Take the West Blocton/Alabama Highway 5/U.S. Highway 11 exit and head south on Alabama Highway 5 for about 4 miles
• Turn left (south) on Alabama Highway 5 where U.S. 11 and Highway 5 split
• Travel south, passing by Centreville and Brent
• About 17 to 18 miles past the junction with U.S. Highway 82 (near Centreville ), bear left onto Alabama Highway 175 toward Sprott, following the signs to Perry Lakes Park and Marion Fish Hatchery. The Nature Conservancy Preserve is located on the east side of the Perry lakes park and can be accessed by a trail (old road) leading from the pavilion area.
• Take US Highway 82 west past Centreville, then turn left onto Alabama Highway 5
• Follow the directions as above.
What to see: Plants
This preserve contains many plants that are common in most bottomland forests of the southeast. As you take the trail to Barton's Beach you will see bald cypress, water tupelo, sweetgum, ironwood, sugar maple, red maple, loblolly pines, river birch, and willow trees, among many others. In the early spring, several varieties of lilies decorate the forest floor.
What to see: Animals
This part of the Cahaba River is home to many rare fishes, including freckled darters, skygazer shiners, Alabama sturgeons, crystal darters and frecklebelly madtoms. More than two dozen mussels have been spotted here, including some mussels, butterflies and turtles that are disappearing in other places around the State. This is one of the most well known and productive bird-watching sites in central Alabama. Bald Eagles have been seen soaring above the river!
Why the Conservancy selected this site
This river has the most freshwater plants and animals in need of protection anywhere in the State. Some of these plants and animals occur nowhere else in the nation now because loss of their freshwater environment has caused their extinction. The Cahaba River contains more types of freshwater fish than any other river in North America! The location of this preserve also provided opportunities to work at a larger scale because we have partners here. Local and state agencies and individuals are managing a larger site next-door to this preserve and that helps protect a larger area when combined with our preserve.
What the Conservancy is doing
Plans are underway for the completion of a recreational park adjacent to the preserve and The Nature Conservancy serves on the board that will manage this park. Plans include the building of public accessible nature trails, picnic area, and a canoe launch.
MNN is working with The Nature Conservancy to bring you state-by-state environmental information.