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Cahaba River
National Wildlife Refuge

P.O. Box 5087
Anniston, AL   36205
E-mail: cahabariver@fws.gov
Phone Number: 256-848-7085
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The Cahaba hosts the largest remaining stand of the imperiled and beautiful Cahaba lily
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Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge

Cahaba River NWR is one of nation's newest National Wildlife Refuges, the 540th in fact. Established September 25, 2002 for the purpose of protecting and managing a unique section of the Cahaba River and land adjacent to it. Cahaba River NWR is home to five federally listed species including the Cahaba shiner, goldline darter, round rocksnail, and cylindrical lioplax snail.

The Cahaba River itself stretches for almost 200 miles and is Alabama's longest free-flowing stream. The river currently supports 64 rare and imperiled plant and animal species, 13 of which are found nowhere else in the world. The river has more fish species at 131 than any other river it's size in North America. Over seven miles of the Cahaba lie within the approved acquisition boundary. The rolling uplands surrounding the river are forested with mountain longleaf and loblolly pines. Mixed upland hardwood species line ravines and the river's edge.

The largest known stand of the imperiled shoals lily (known locally as the Cahaba lily) also occurs within the Refuge. During summer months, this beautiful plant blooms and people come from across the region to view this magnificent display of nature. There is even an annual Cahaba lily festival that draws thousands of visitors to the area the last Saturday in May.

Getting There . . .
Cahaba River NWR is located in Bibb County, Alabama, approximately six miles east of West Blocton on County road 24. River access is provided by a gravel road on the south (right) side of Bibb County Road 24 approximately 250 yards past the refuge entrance sign.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Cahaba River NWR was historically a longleaf pine forest with hardwood forests along the Cahaba River and within drainages leading to the river. Prior to refuge establishment, much of the longleaf pine forests were converted to loblolly pine plantations. Gradually, over the next few years, we intend to restore longleaf pine to its historic distribution within the refuge through the harvesting of loblolly pine and replanting of longleaf pine. A few areas within the refuge contain significant stands of longleaf pine that are in decline due to the absence of fire which is integral to maintaining longleaf pine forests. The refuge will begin to restore these longleaf pine stands by conducting prescribed burns.

Many migratory birds use the Cahaba River NWR. Kentucky, hooded and prairie warblers are known to breed on the uplands adjacent to the Cahaba River while prothonotary and yellow-throated warblers can be found in the hardwood forests along the Cahaba River within the refuge. Cahaba River NWR supports many rare endangered plants and animals. The refuge contains suitable habitat for 8 federally endangered and 5 federally threatened species as well as 2 federal species of concern.

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The area that is now Cahaba River NWR has been greatly impacted by previous human actions. Coal mining first occurred within the area that is now the refuge in the mid-1800's. Piper #2 underground coal mine cut through the refuge. A portion of the area was strip mined in the mid-1900's. This mining pit is still visible today. Following the depletion of coal within the refuge area, commercial timber companies purchased most of the area that is today Cahaba River NWR. Most longleaf pine left following coal mining days were cut and, over the years, replanted to loblolly pine.

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Management Activities
Restoration of native longleaf pine communities will be a prime focus for Refuge management. Much of the land was previously owned by timber companies and was planted in loblolly pines for timber production. Removal of loblolly pine via timber harvest and then planting the area with longleaf pine will be a time-consuming, expensive, yet necessary process. Prescribed fire will be used to rejuvenate existing stands of longleaf as fire is required to prevent hardwoods from taking over longleaf stands and is required for regeneration of new trees.

Partnerships with the community and other conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy and the Cahaba River Society continue to be a top priority. The Nature Conservancy has been instrumental in negotiating land purchases with adjacent landowners and many nonprofit groups like the Cahaba River Society have played a large role in educating the community and organizing river cleanups.

Land acquisition and the subsequent marking of many miles of boundary continues to be a large part of management activities as we are still in the early stages of acquiring Refuge lands. Development of public use programs and facilities such as hiking trails, interpretive kiosks, and fishing and hunting opportunities will play a large role in the future management of the Refuge.