Best places in Alabama to photograph Cahaba lilies


A lot of the Cahaba lilies in Alabama are located on private property or accessible only by canoe. The easiest and most obvious place to photograph them is at the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. It has the largest stand in Alabama and possibly the world but that is contested by the one at Langsford Canal State Park in South Carolina.

The Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge

The shoals on this stretch of the Cahaba River is known as Hargrove Shoals. I like to divide the shoals into three sections:

Upper section of Hargrove Shoals - This section offers scattered patches of lilies beside a gravel road that runs alongside the river for more than a mile. It is probably the most accessible and easiest place to photograph Cahaba lilies there is anywhere. The maintenance of the gravel road varies from year to year and sometimes it would not accommodate a car built low to the ground. They tend to do maintenance work before the Cahaba Lily Festival in mid-May each year.

          lilies at hargrove shoals     cahaba lilies at hargrove shoals
Cahaba lilies grow in shallow shoals. The first photo was taken from the road and the second one by wading into the Cahaba river with water hardly going above my knees. I did have to pick my way across a current to get to this spot and used my tripod for a staff.

Middle section of Hargrove Shoals - To reach the middle section you have to park and wade the shallow Caffee creek. The trail that follows is well worn and easy walking and a short distance to the next Cahaba lilies.

cahaba river

Lower section of Hargrove Shoals - As you make your way further down the trail the shoals end, the river deepens and you might think that's the end of the lilies but if you continue walking for about 15 minutes you will come to more shoals and another large section of lilies. The river is much wider there than at the upper sections of shoals. They are not as easily accessible for wading and the landscape is not as picturesque.

The river deepens on the way to the last shoals

Cahaba lilies
          at Hargrove Shoals
Hargrove Shoals. (This photo is included in The Natural Beauty of Alabama)


The Cahaba River NWR is about 30 miles southwest of Birmingham in Bibb County. From Birmingham, make your way to West Blockton, then take County Road 24 for about five miles and take the unpaved road to the right, just before you reach the Cahaba River bridge. There should be a sign but if you miss the turn, just cross the river and turn around.

Or, go south on I-65 and turn at Alabaster or Calera to make your way on to Montevallo and then Wilton. Turn right on County Road 65 and follow it a few miles to the end. Turn left and when you pass over the Cahaba River, take the next left to the river. There is a sign at the entrance of the road.

Hatchet Creek

Patches of lilies grow on the last section of shoals on Hatchet Creek, right before the water deepens and makes its way on to Lake Mitchell.

last stand of
          Cahaba lilies on hatchet creek    Cahaba lily
If you bring your own canoe you can put in at Double Bridges on County Rd 29 and reach this spot in 15 or 20 minutes. Alternatively you can put in at Kings Bridge and travel downstream to this spot in six to eight hours while passing other stands of Cahaba lilies on the way.

          lilies below Kings Bridge landing    cahaba lilies
          on hatchet creek
Hatchet Creek is narrow and picturesque. This particular spot (pictured above) is not far downstream from Kings Bridge and may be the most beautiful stand of lilies anywhere but the best photos would require being there at daybreak.

Other smaller patches of lilies

Shelby and Bibb County

Buck Creek - Just downstream from Helena's park are small patches of Cahaba lilies, some of which you could walk to but the sign at the end of the park now says "no trespassing". Alabama Small Boats offers a popular Buck Creek canoe rental trip but it's not worth it just for the few lilies you would see.

Cahaba River - I've been told there is a nice patch of lilies not far down river from the bridge where the Caldwell Mill Road crosses the Cahaba River. You'll need a canoe for this.

Buoxahatchee Creek - This small creek flows into Lay Lake. The lilies are only accessible by crossing private property. I imagine they could also be reached by canoe from Lay Lake but am not sure how practical that would be.

Coosa County

Weogufka creek - I have read that some Cahaba lilies are there.

Tallapoosa county

Tallapoosa river - a few scattered lilies are near Peters Island. Some are at Irwin Shoals just upstream fro the last navigable water on Lake Martin. Lilies can also be found upstream from Horseshoe Bend National Park and Jay Bird Creek on the Tallapoosa.

Near Peters Island

Entichopco creek - I've read that some are there.

Blount County

Locust Fork - The Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River offers at least two populations of lilies. One is in the Standridge Bend area on the lower river, with two other stands farther upstream in the Susan Moore area. Bloom time may be a little later here than on the Cahaba and Hatchet Creek.

Mulberry Fork - I've read there are some Cahaba lilies on the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River there but I'm not for certain. Bloom time may be a little later here than on the Cahaba and Hatchet Creek.

Cahaba lilies outside of Alabama

The three largest remaining populations of Cahaba lilies are located in the Cahaba River in Alabama, the Catawba River in South Carolina, and in the Flint River in Georgia.

Outside of Alabama they are known by variations of names such as the "shoal lily" or "rocky shoals spider lily". Significant populations remain in the Savannah River basin, with three in the main channel and one each in the tributaries of Stevens Creek in South Carolina and the Broad River in Georgia. The Catawba has one very large population within the Landsford Canal State Park; and the Flint has four, from Yellow Jacket Shoals to Hightower Shoals.

cahaba lilies on langsford canal Langsford Canal State Park - South Carolina