A standout river in the northwest, the Sipsey is the epitome of wilderness paddling in the state with a fun Class I rapid around large boulders. It also boasts beautiful towering limestone canyon walls, waterfalls after a good rain along the banks, hundreds of varieties of wildflowers, and clear turquoise water. All of the rivers in Alabama are unique and beautiful in their own way, but none stand out like the Sipsey. The river is the only National Wild and Scenic River in the state, and for good reason. The Sipsey begins its flow deep within the William B. Bankhead National Forest where the waters of Thompson and Hubbard Creeks converge. From here the river travels 61 miles through its namesake wilderness area and eventually into Smith Lake.
Trail Statistics & Information
|Activity Type:||Whitewater Paddling|
|Nearby City:||Double Springs|
|Length:||10.1 total miles|
|Skill Level:||Moderate, with considerable maneuvering around boulders: Class I.|
|Duration:||5 to 6 hours|
|Season:||Best in winter and spring, but may be run at other times after rains|
|Local Contacts:||USDA Forest Service, William B. Bankhead District|
|Local Maps:||DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer; USGS Bee Branch, Houston, Grayson|
The water of the Sipsey is beautiful in itself. It is crystal clear for most of the trip until it flows into deep pools, where the color turns to a beautiful turquoise. The bottom for the most part is sandy, with rocks and boulders strewn about. The clarity of the water makes it easy to avoid the rocks and to see—and catch—a variety of fish, such as largemouth bass and bluegill. The gray canyon walls are accented with brilliant wildflowers in the spring and early summer. There are too many varieties to name, but the many wildflower photographers who spend weeks at a time in the wilderness will be more than happy to talk to you about them.
What makes the river so spectacular is the canyon itself, which has been carved by the river over the centuries. The limestone walls jut skyward 300 feet in some places. Huge overhangs protrude where we float by. Many small caves that have been formed by the river invite exploration. And after a rain the sight and sound of waterfalls cascading off the walls and into the river prove that this is still a work in progress.