CAHABA RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
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.
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.
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.