“It was an idea I had that just wouldn’t go away,” said Fred Couch, president of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
Couch said while leading a river trip in another state, he thought about the variety of beauty Alabama rivers offer. And in 2006, the idea that wouldn’t go away became the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
“We did it all in 18 months,” he said. “We set goals and met them.”
Couch said hundreds of people across the state were involved in the project.
“It really turned out quite well,” he said.
Couch said the Great Seal of Alabama shows Alabama’s rivers.
“Eighteen percent of water in America that flows into an ocean flows through Alabama,” he said. “The Alabama Scenic River Trail is the longest river trail in a single state. It is the closest thing we have to a national park.”
Couch said so far eight people have traveled the entire trail and many others have done portions of the trail.
“We didn’t build it—we packaged it for use,” he said. “We established access, campsites, portages, fuel points, guidebooks and events.”
Couch said the Alabama Scenic River Trail is a national recreational trail.
“We mapped and took GPS locations at every point on the trail,” he said.
Couch said guidebooks were created for different sections of the trail.
“We dealt with two landowners, Alabama Power Company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” he said.
Couch said there are two types of access. Physical access includes ramps, docks, parking areas and more. Mental includes maps, guides, descriptions, directions and suggestions.
“There is no point in creating one without the other,” he said.
Couch said grants provide most of the funding.
“Pretty much everything we do is through grants,” he said.
Couch said landowners have the opportunity to participate and help the river trail grow.
“We have 83 campsites around the state,” he said. “We are asking landowners to consider having campsites on their property.”
Couch said the campsites do not have to be large, typically about a 20-foot-by-20-foot area, big enough for one or two tents.
“We don’t encourage trespassing,” he said. “But a safe place to camp for the night is essential. We want to have campsites every 10 miles.”
Couch said the Alabama Scenic River Trail has grown from the 631-mile original trail to more than 2,000 miles of trail in Alabama.
The Alabama River, Coosa River, Tensaw River, Tennessee River, Cahaba River and other Alabama rivers, the Mobile-Tensaw delta, and the Terrapin, Hatchett and Weogufka creeks comprise the main waterways of the trail.
“We think when we finish we will have 7,000 miles of river under our belt,” he said.
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.