A 20-mile Flint Creek canoe and kayak trail that will run from Alabama 36 near Hartselle to Point Mallard Park through a portion of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge will soon be part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail system.
When the work to finish clearing the creek is completed and kiosk signs are installed, the stretch will officially be the Flint Creek Canoe Trail section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, said Jay Grantland, the executive director of the nonprofit trail. He and state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, announced plans for the trail last summer.
“It’s a great recreation area for local residents and visitors,” Grantland said.
“People are looking for outdoor activities, and this increases access to the refuge for citizens,” Orr said.
Decatur-Morgan Tourism Executive Director Danielle Gibson said the trail is a way for guests to enjoy scenery on the Tennessee River.
“We believe this will create another attraction for families to create their adventures,” she said.
From an economic impact standpoint, “every mile of navigable waterway adds value to a community,” Grantland said. “Typically, when a significant section of waterway opens, an outfitter or guide service opens.”
The Alabama Scenic River Trail already features more than 5,300 miles of accessible waterways including the original, historic 650-mile core trail that runs from northeastern Alabama to Fort Morgan.
Grantland is now trying to get quotes from contractors he’s spoken with about clearing a logjam of about eight large trees that are stacked on each other, blocking the Flint Creek trail.
“It’s a 9-mile boat trip just to get to the log jam,” he said last week. “It’s not your normal tree service task, so it may be a few more days before we get any quotes. Unless we get a quote very soon it may be October before we can do the official opening.”
Volunteers from the Morgan County Rescue Squad had been working on the project, but Grantland said it’s unsafe for them to tackle the removal of the large trees.
The launch sites will be located at Alabama 36 west of Halbrooks Road on the southern end of the trail, Vaughn Bridge Launch, U.S. 31 Launch near Bowles Bridge Road, Osprey Point Landing at Alabama 67, Hickory Hill Launch with access from Hickory Hill Road off Alabama 67, Duncan Hill Launch adjacent to the Tennessee River main channel and Point Mallard Park near the trails and behind the ice rink.
Tony Bean, a kayak angler who kayaks with his wife, Regina, also owns The Kayak Store in downtown Hartselle, which is about 5 miles from the trail.
“That’s one of the reasons I was excited to open the store in Hartselle,” said Bean, who bought the store, previously located in Priceville, and reopened about a year ago in Hartselle. “It brings a lot of opportunities. It’ll be a nice natural attraction.”
When the trail officially opens, a map of it will be available on the Alabama Scenic River Trail website and at kiosk signs at the launch sites. Designated campsites will be marked on the map.
The 15-mile portion of the trail from Vaughn Bridge Road to Point Mallard Park is unofficially open, Grantland said, while the first 5-mile stretch from Alabama 36 to Vaughn Bridge Road isn’t yet open.
About 10 campsites are available on the section of the creek from Vaughn Bridge Road to U.S. 31, according to Grantland.
“We’ll probably have five more campsites added” on the first 5-mile stretch north of Alabama 36, he said.
“When the trail is open and the kiosks are in place, we’ll come back and install mile markers,” Grantland said. He said that will be helpful for paddlers to pinpoint their location, in case of an emergency.