Editor’s Note: Charles Seifried is a photographer who has captured images of some of the most beautiful places in the world. A resident of Decatur, Charlie has a keen eye for the places and creatures that make Alabama such a special place to live. He has generously shared this blog post and the accompanying photos to give readers a glimpse into kayaking the Tennessee River. Charlie also provided the stunning photos for Conservation Alabama’s website. We are grateful for Charlie’s support! For more of his work, visit his website.
Over 25 years ago I bought my first kayak, and it has lead me into some of the most wonderful areas in the state of Alabama that hardly anyone knows about. It started when a friend of mine let me get into his Current Designs Titan. Somewhere around 18 feet and 24 inches wide, it was a real cruiser, and today I have that exact boat. A little longer and lighter, fast and stable. Many a time we have loaded up with all our camping gear, food, tents, water, etc., and headed out for a week of boating in the quiet solitude that kayaking can provide.
What I like about it is that you can be with several of your friends but you also can have your own time by yourself observing things, photographing and just plain thinking. I also find kayaking to be safer than being in a canoe, especially in a storm with heavy winds and higher waves. The chance of flipping is far less if one pays attention to the winds and wave formations. Besides that, all your gear is safe and dry in the fore and aft dry hatches that can hold tents, cloths, food, pots and pans, etc. If you flip over, then you can rest assured that the gear will be protected. When I first started learning to kayak I flipped over maybe three times, but after I have not done so. It really is just learning how to read the water and always keeping a paddle in the water to brace. If you are going on an extended journey, you really should have an extra paddle, spray skirt, and pump, and you should always have a life jacket, hat and rain gear, and some food, water and sunscreen lotion.
Several years ago, around November, I called four of my friends and gave them some plans to do a short 7-8 mile trip, so that day we all took off for Florence. Our intention was to head out towards Coffee Slough which is west of Florence by several miles. You have to get to Pride Landing which is on the right hand side of the road; a great spot to put in with easy access. We had stopped in Florence to meet with Jim and Faye Lacefield for lunch and after that they showed us how to get to Pride Landing. We were a little apprehensive about the day as it started to cloud up and looked like rain. The wind picked up out of the west, but I would rather kayak in any weather than not kayak. So off we went, and that was a good decision as the sky turned beautiful and the weather was just perfect.
The area is similar to other parts of the Tennessee. It is wide and shallow in some spots which is perfect for the kayak as they can go in very low water and you can get to places that other boats have no chance of going. There are Bald Cyprus trees throughout the area that are just beautiful. Wildfowl are abundant along much of the Tennessee.
Many of the areas of the Tennessee backwaters are home to the fall and winter migration of White Pelicans which are plentiful and really beautiful to watch as they seem to just float in the air without much effort. Their landings are smooooooth. Then you have the Sand Hill Cranes and of course the multitude of ducks, blue Herons and white egrets. All of them just a real pleasure to see. In a kayak you can get a lot closer without spooking them. If you have a good camera and a long lens you should be able to get great shots of all kinds of birds, alligators, beaver and trees.
To protect your camera gear you should have a dry box and/or a dry bag to hold your lenses and cameras. After each shooting I put them back in the bags and tighten them up as one never knows if there is a problem coming up. Paddling over sunken branches or cypress knees that are just below the water can put you off balance if you are not careful.
We have wonderful water in the state and we should put forth an effort to keep the water we have clean and clear and potable. If we take our water for granted we will lose it. It is already polluted enough from the boats, plants and businesses that use it daily. Just take a look at what is happening in California. Who would have thought??
Besides that, we all have children and family that live and drink our water. We certainly want to care for their best interests now and in the future. Everyone lives downstream.
First and foremost, THANK YOU for speaking up for Alabama’s public lands! Over 900 messages were sent to state legislators to let them know that Senate Bill 38 was a bad bill and we would not choose between Forever Wild and Alabama’s state parks. On August 7, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab), the bill’s sponsor, withdrew his support for the bill, effectively killing it. The first special session ended on Tuesday, August 11, with no further threats to Forever Wild. While our political system can sometimes be frustrating, in this case it functioned exactly as it was supposed to: voters stood up for what matters to them, and our representatives listened and acted accordingly.
While Forever Wild is safe for now, there will be a second special legislative session since the legislature did not pass a budget that Governor Bentley considered workable. We expect more battles over funding for vital programs like state parks, and will likely need your help again to fight for Alabama’s natural resources.
The second special session hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it must take place before the state’s new fiscal year begins on October 1. As soon as we have more information we will share it with you.
During the special legislative session that resumed in earnest on Tuesday, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab) introduced Senate Bill 38, which would effectively end the Forever Wild Land Trust program by transferring its budget to the state parks system and prohibiting Forever Wild from acquiring any more land. Forever Wild is one of the most popular conservation programs in the state’s history, and was renewed for another 20 years in 2012 by an overwhelming majority of voters.
Conservation Alabama deployed an Action Alert to make it easy for conservation voters to communicate with their state senators about their opposition to SB 38. Over 200 messages were sent, but the bill passed the State Senate by an astonishing vote of 32-1. Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) was the only senator who took a stand for Forever Wild and voted no.
When we saw how quickly the bill passed the Senate, we updated our Action Alert to target the House Ways & Means Committee as well as general House members. Thanks to great partners like Alabama Rivers Alliance and Black Warrior Riverkeeper who shared the alert, over 400 messages were sent to state representatives to tell them that Forever Wild must be protected. (If you haven’t already, click here to tell your representative to vote no on SB 38!)
The Ways & Means Committee heard you loud and clear, and postponed a vote on SB 38 to allow time for people to voice their opinions on the bill. Rep. Randy Davis (R-Daphne) and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Gunter Guy spoke against it. Commissioner Guy made it very clear that SB 38 would not solve the state parks’ budget problem, and that the state was not in favor of removing Forever Wild’s funding.
As of Friday morning, the Ways & Means Committee has not scheduled a vote on SB 38. The legislature is expected to stay in session over the weekend, and we will be watching closely to make sure we alert you as soon as a vote is scheduled. In the meantime, give your representative a call today and let them know to vote NO on SB 38. You can find the contact information for their offices on our website.