Day 31 – Paddling Through the Black Belt of Alabama

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Poco and I are currently in a cheap, older – but very clean – hotel. The canoe is stashed by the river, hopefully out of the way, at an undisclosed location. We were all set to stealth camp until we discovered the ants had invaded. From the last campground in Aliceville to Demopolis, take outs & public access are sparse. Industry rules the roost down here, in Alabama’s “Black Belt” region (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Belt_(region_of_Alabama) ). I have nothing against industry, as long as it doesn’t pollute and as long as it does not infringe on the people’s right to clean water and access to their waterways. After all, I’ve been paddling safely through plenty of industrial areas.
Sometimes companies do the right thing, or appear to do so. After all, they need local people to work their jobs, and if you pollute a place so much that folks don’t want to live there anymore, you won’t have any workers to fill those jobs. I did see a couple of guys from Weyerhaeuser testing the water-I’d hafta go back in my notes but I think they were between my Columbus, MS, stop and my Pickinsville, AL, stop. I guess if they want to lease their land to folks they really do need to make sure the water is clean! Looking for the correct spelling of their company name I came across this- https://www.weyerhaeuserhuntinglands.com/
What is so sad is that the lack of access kind of kills the hope of any kind of outdoor recreation on the water. Outdoor recreation in Alabama generates 7.5 billion dollars in consumer spending in this state, according to the Outdoor Industry Alliance’s info, as well as provides 86k jobs for Alabamians, $2 billion in wages here, and $494 million in state and local tax revenue. You can check it out yourself at https://outdoorindustry.org/resource/alabama-outdoor-recreation-economy-state-report/ It’s sad to see something with such great potential to provide an economic boost to local economies not be realized.
I do think it’s possible to have all types of industry sharing our waterways, but we’ve got to make sure it stays clean. After all, we don’t just paddle and swim in it, folks here eat the fish, and of course this river water also perks down into the aquifers. People drink this water, too.
The beauty of this river I’m on should be shared. As I paddle downstream in a very sluggish to no current, I’m constantly wondering, what will be around the next bend? The white cliffs of Espes are something to behold. Jim Felder, of the Alabama Scenic Water Trail wrote me this little bit about Espes, the town we are closest to: “You will pass by splendid white chalk bluffs, a geological feature deposited of the same material and the same times that the while cliffs of Dover, England were formed. ” On yesterday’s stretch I saw my first wild boar, grunting and running through the reeds by the water, an alligator (seen them before-you cannot paddle the ICW in SC WITHOUT seeing them), a nutria, gars, and of course lots of herons and egrets, ospreys, and bald eagles.
More on Jim’s organization here- http://www.alabamascenicrivertrail.com
The ACoE does have some property, I think, along the river in this area. It would do well for the people here if some of that could be used for a camping/fishing/boat launches-there should be something like that between all the locks along the Tenn-Tom Waterway in this state. Alabama has such wealth in its waterways, and their economic potential is barely being realized. There really is a “clean water economy,” and towns and cities, as I keep seeing over and over again throughout my travels along this great nation’s waterways do well when they realize it and capitalize on it. But of course, it demands clean water and safe public access.
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One thought on “Day 31 – Paddling Through the Black Belt of Alabama

  1. Read your blog with interest as I live in Demopolis. I certainly agree with your assessment regarding access to the river, and therefore, the lack of recreation opportunities. Thanks for visiting and come back when you can!

    Like

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