Natural Sites

Payne Lake Recreation Area

kids_boat-250x187.jpgPayne Lake is a 110-acre manmade lake inside the Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee Ranger District. The Payne Lake Recreation Area provides opportunities to kayak, canoe, boat fish, bird watch, hike, and bicycle. The recreation area also contains two camping loops.

The Payne Lake area offers two hiking trails. One trail follows the east shoreline of the lake. Starting at the boat launch, this trail is 1.1 miles and winds through the forest with several access spurs to the lake's edge for fishing. The other trail is at the north end of Payne Lake and is approximately 1.5 miles long with interpretive signs along the way. The trail meanders along the ridges and the drainages of the north end of the lake.

Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee Ranger District

This area is home to the largest population of red-cockaded woodpeckers in the National Forests in Alabama. Two clusters of red-cockaded woodpecker cavity trees are located close to Forest Service Roads 724 and 745. You can view these shy endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers from a distance at the break of dawn when they leave their cavity trees in the morning to go foraging and at dusk when they return to the trees for the night.

The red-cockaded woodpeckers are the only woodpeckers in North America that excavate cavities in living pine trees. Here in the Oakmulgee Ranger District they seem to prefer the longleaf pines, but they will use other living pine species. Nesting occurs in mid-April when the female red-cockaded woodpecker lays a clutch of three to five white eggs in the breeding males roost cavity. The eggs hatch after 10 to 12 days of incubation and nestlings fledge from the nest cavity 24 to 27 days after hatching.

Piper Interpretive Trail

The Piper Interpretive Trail is a 2.5-mile out-and-back hiking trail that runs through the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. The trail offers scenic views of the river and is an easy walk--in fact much of the trail is a six-foot-wide gravel path that is accessible to those with disabilities. It runs along an old railroad route that served Piper Mine No. 2 near West Blocton in Bibb County.

Bibb County Glades Preserve

Kathy-Freeland-Glades.jpgMore than 60 rare plants have been found in and around the Bibb County Glades Preserve since its discovery in 1992. The Bibb County Glades Preserve, which covers 480 acres, is located along the Little Cahaba River and runs through the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. The glades are home to eight plants that had never before been seen or named by scientists. This type of discovery might be expected in the Amazon Rain Forest, but it was unheard of in North America in modern times.

The Little Cahaba River

The Little Cahaba River is a critical habitat for four species of federally protected snails, mussels, and fish. It is also home to gray bats, and the riparian habitat for Georgia rockcress and Mohr's Barbara's Button, both of which are federally listed species. The Cahaba River contains more than 100 species of fish, including 12 fish and mussel species that are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The National Geographic Society and the World Wildlife Fund both recognized the Cahaba River watershed as an outstanding global resource for diverse freshwater life. The Little Cahaba River in Bibb County is classified as an Outstanding Alabama Waterway by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and is a major tributary to Alabama's longest free-flowing river, the Cahaba River.

Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge

canoeing.jpgThe Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge is home to five federally listed threatened or endangered species including the Cahaba shiner, goldline darter, round rocksnail, and cylindrical lioplax snail. This area has been recognized as the most biologically diverse section of land in Alabama and has been credited with supporting the most significantly diverse plant species in the southeastern United States. You won't see plants and animals like this anywhere else in the area.

The Cahaba River

300.jpgThe Cahaba is no ordinary river! It currently supports 64 rare and imperiled plant and animal species, 13 of which are found nowhere else in the world. It is also home to 131 fish species, a greater number per mile than any other river in North America. The river has another unique feature--its rock shoals. These shoals create small pools that provide habitats for many rare plant and animal species. The shoals (Cahaba) lilies, which bloom from mid-May to mid-June, create a truly breath-taking scene on the river.

Bibb County Lake

Bibb County Lake is located on AL Hwy 5 between the towns of West Blocton and Centreville, Alabama. It is open yearly from February 1st to November 30th. Bibb County Lake is a 100-acre state lake stocked with Florida black bass, bluegill bream, shellcracker, crappie and channel catfish. The lake has picnic tables and grills and a pavilion for events (please contact the lake to reserve the pavilion for your special occasion). A bait shop selling artificial and live bait is on site. Boat rentals and accessories are also available.

Oakmulgee Ranger District - Talladega National Forest

Payne Lake Recreation Area:
Offers outdoor enthusiasts solitude, a scenic lake, and picturesque campsites. Payne Lake Recreation Area has two swimming beaches and bathhouses for users of the recreation area. Each bathhouse has restrooms and showers. Camping is permitted at 76 developed sites along the shoreline of the 110-acre Payne Lake. Each site has a picnic table, cooking or fire circle, and tent or trailer pad.

Payne Lake Recreation Area is open year round and offers boating, nature trails, fishing, picnicking and swimming opportunities for Forest users. A trailer dump station is located in the campground.

The Cahaba River

The Cahaba River flows through Bibb County and is the home of the beautiful "Cahaba Lily".  It provides many forms of recreation: swimming, fishing, canoeing.


Imagine paddling down the Cahaba River in the early morning sunlight as the mist rises off the water. Paddling around a bend, you notice a blanket of white. As you get closer, this blanket transforms into thousands of white Cahaba lilies. This scene is what one could expect to see paddling the Cahaba River in mid-May.

The Cahaba Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) is one of many species found in the Amaryllis family or spider lily family. Spider lilies are found throughout the Southeastern United States. Three species of spider lilies are found in Alabama: the northern spider lily (Hymenocallis occidentalis), Choctaw spider lily (Hymenocallis choctawensis), and the Cahaba lily. All three of these lilies are very similar in appearance and easily mistaken for one another.

Directions to see the Cahaba Lilies

  1. Take I-59 south from Birmingham for about 30 miles to the Hwy. 5 West Blocton/Centreville Exit.
  2. Hwy. 5/Hwy. 11 is 4-lane for about 3 miles where Hwy. 5 turns abruptly south as a 2-lane. Watch for this turn!
  3. Travel 10 miles south on Hwy. 5 to a blinking yellow light. Turn left onto County Road 24 to West Blocton.
  4. Continue straight at the stop sign (passing West Blocton High School and West Blocton Elementary on the right) for 5 miles to the Cahaba River.
  5. A couple of hundred yards before you can actually see the bridge, turn south (right) on a rough dirt road that runs along the west side of the river. Use your judgment about whether your vehicle can negotiate the road.
  6. There is a good stand of lilies just under 1 mile down the road, and the largest stand in the world just over 2 miles down the road.

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This page contains links to attractions in the Natural Sites category.

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