The iconic Cahaba lilies are back with guided tours and a virtual festival

Cahaba Lily
Cahaba lilies at Cahaba River Park in Shelby County. Photo by Jim Schmalz for Bham Now

This is my favorite time of year. The Cahaba lilies begin emerging on the Cahaba River. And this year you can enjoy them several ways.  Here is how.

Cahaba River Society’s Guided Tours

Bailie Clark and Payton H Stantis. Photo courtesy of Bailie Clark.

After a one year absence, Cahaba River Society’s (CRS) Guided Cahaba Lily Tours resume this weekend.

Alabama’s most iconic plant blooms between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day –  or –  mid-May to mid-June. The CRS-guided float trips make it easy for you to enjoy this special flower. The group supplies the canoes, paddles and life jackets. A naturalist will provide you a once in a lifetime up close experience with the lilies on the Cahaba River.

Be mindful, the outings are rigorous and require wading and dragging a canoe over rocky shoals.

This is CRS’s most popular outing so book your reservations today.

Register below:

May 8th – Cahaba Lily Tour I 

May 9th – Cahaba Tour II

May 23 – Cahaba Lily Tour III

May 29 – Cahaba Lily Tour IV

June 5 – Cahaba Lily Tour V

How Much Does It Cost?

CRS asks for a donation for each person over the age of 12 for the use of their boats and equipment and to cover staff time.

A reservation must be made for each adult participating in a canoe tour.

Here are the requested donation levels:·          

  • Donation for members: $20
  • Donation for non-members: $40 (includes membership)
  • Children under 12: No charge, but everyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

*Donations must be made at the time of reservation either online or over the phone.

Cahaba Lily Festival on May 15th

Longtime Samford professor Larry Davenport. Photo courtesy of Larry Davenport

For the 2nd consecutive year the annual Cahaba Lily Festival in West Blocton will be virtual. Once again, Samford’s Dr. Larry Davenport will provide nature lovers a “state of lilies” report. Presentations by Davenport and community partners such as The Nature Conservancy in Alabama and the Friends of the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge begin at 9:10AM. You can live stream the event on YouTube – HERE.

In the afternoon, the Cahaba River Society will have canoes available at the National Wildlife Refuge. 

Below are directions to the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge.

About 40 miles southwest of Birmingham, the National Wildlife Refuge is only six miles from West Blocton, Alabama.

  • Take I-59 South from Birmingham for about 30 miles to the Hwy 5 West Blocton/Centreville exit (Exit 97).
  • Hwy 5/Hwy 11 is 4-lane for about 3 miles where Hwy 5 turns abruptly south (to the left) as a 2-lane. Watch for this turn!
  • Travel about 8 miles south on Hwy 5 to a blinking yellow light. Turn left (onto County Road 24) to West Blocton.
  • Continue straight at the stop sign (passing West Blocton High School and West Blocton Elementary on the right) for 5 miles.
  • Look for the Refuge sign on the right (not the 1st wooden sign which is a sign for the Wildlife Management, but the 2nd sign). Shortly after the sign is a dirt road on the right, River Trace, leading directly into the Refuge.

See the Lilies

Lily Byington
Cahaba Lily at the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge in 2020. Photo Pat Byington for Bham Now

Are you going to see the lilies this year? Remember, they only emerge from Mother’s Day to the middle of June. Share your favorite photos and trips on social media and tag Bham Now.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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