THE BEST CLASS II TRIP IN ALABAMA AND I CAN GUARANTEE THAT YOU HAVENíT PADDLED IT YET!
By Murray Carroll
Yes, I know thatís an awfully big statement to make in this esteemed journal that equates to the gospel for north Alabama paddlers, but I believe that we have all overlooked the best Class II in the state.† Several years ago, Mark Dí made a first HCC trip down the ďUpper, Upper, Upper MulberryĒ (Highway 67 to U.S. Highway 278) and since then it has become a favorite of Huntsville boaters who donít like the steeper style of creek.† In fact Iím also fond of that run, but I believe now that we have found a creek in the same neighborhood that has much more whitewater but doesnít intimidate beginning paddlers.
After a long hiatus from boating brought about by a combination of a heart attack, starting a weekend business and my weakness for bass fishing, I decided to take advantage of this extremely wet early winter and lead a trip.† I watched the river levels for about two weeks and decided to give the Duck River between Cullman and Arab a shot.† Mark Dí had the run listed in his Alabama Whitewater paddling guide, but he and Dave Curry had only ran a section of the river south of U.S. Highway 278.† He had photos and a brief description of the run above Hwy. 278 based on reports from Birmingham paddlers.† Mark advised that he was not impressed with the section that he had paddled and thought that we should try the section from County Road 1669 to Hwy. 278.† The level was 4.8 feet on the gauge and the time had come to make this trip.
I was able to recruit a small crew to make this first HCC descent of this section on the Sunday following the HCC Christmas Party.† The brave souls all were paddling open canoes and included Bob and Brenda Barnett, Chris Phillips, Brenda Collins, Orrin Long, Kay and myself.† The put-in at County Road 1669 has parking for about 4 cars and the access is fairly easy.† The run down to an intermediate bridge at County Road 1651 could best be described as nearly continuous shoals with good moving water between the closely spaced shoals.† At County Road 1651 the topography changed dramatically and steep bluffs began to line the river.† From County Road 1651 to U.S. Hwy.278 the river features gave way to more actual drops and light rapids mixed with some shoals.† I couldnít guess how many shoals and rapids are on this run, but youíre never bored nor will most paddlers be intimidated.† The run passes through what appears to be total wilderness, but you know that the chicken houses must be just out of sight beyond the bluffs and trees.† The run ends at the Hwy. 278 bridge take-out thatís none too easy, but is not as bad as a lot that I know of.†
Beware of a few downed trees on the run; I believe that we had to portage about two or three.† One of the trees was at the lower end of a blind-turn rapid and blocked the egress.† Thankfully a good eddy was located just upstream of the downed timber; it saved the day for us.†
Well, Iíve made the claim that this is the best Class II in the state and Iíll stand by the statement.† Be sure to make the run before the Cullman dam builders start moving dirt and cutting trees.