Autauga Creek: a nice getaway that flows through the heart of Prattville, AL.
A small, well-canopied creek with a fun current and some pleasantly surprising scenery along the way.
SKILL LEVEL: Beginners, families, and advanced beginner. Some maneuvering is required. Beginners and families should choose lower water levels.
SCENERY: Pretty nice, especially considering civilization is so close at hand.
LOCATION: Prattville, Alabama.
ONLINE GAUGE: Yes, check it out here.
The perky current on this narrow, twisting creek makes for a really fun, but short, trip. Most of this section is heavily canopied, which is great for summer paddling. We definitely welcomed the shade. While you can sometimes hear the nearby city activities, they never intrude upon the river experience. There are also several nice sandbars along the way for lunch or a break.
Autuaga Creek offers a lot of obstacles to dodge in the water and plenty of curves to maneuver, but no real whitewater. At normal water levels, it has a quick current that is fun to paddle -- so don't be too alarmed by the sign about a mile downstream from City Hall urging "Use Extreme Caution Ahead." That's mostly to discourage tubers from going further, which they shouldn't. There are some spots where the current wants to take you where you don't want to go, and tubers don't have any control. Beginning paddlers and families may also lack control, so they should definitely exercise caution. A fast current combined with trees in the water (aka strainers) can definitely be dangerous.
The greenway along the river is nice enough, but we were completely caught off guard by the impressive, giant bamboo forest that lined the shore. The bamboo itself was giant, more than 50-feet high, and the bamboo forest continued along the shore for maybe a half mile or so.
The 4-mile section of the Autauga Creek below Prattville City Hall was highly recommended by one of our gang from Alabama whose only complaint was that the trip ended too soon. This is the only stretch of the river that we have paddled. The launch area is an attractive and well-maintained park, but things quickly turn more wild as you go downstream. If you are in the area and want a nice way to spend part of the day, this is a nice kayaking trip. Be prepared for tubers for the first mile on warm, sunny days.
The Autauga continues on for another two miles below the Canoe Trail Takeout where it joins up with the Alabama River, which is a little too big by our standards. There is also a longer 7-mile trip possible on the Autauga starting upstream from Prattville, but our navigator said that the shuttle would be fairly long, and we weren't sure how clear the waterway was, so we decided to do the short, mellow section instead.
Much of the work in creating the Autauga Creek canoe trail was done by volunteers of the Autauga Creek Improvement Committee (ACIC). You can find more information at their website. ACIC suggests that the best water levels on the creek are between 5.65 and 5.95 feet. We went when the water was at the bottom end of that range and had a great trip. Higher water levels mean more potential danger, so be careful.
River Miles reflect the approximate distances from the previous launch site.
LAUNCH SITE MAP (Click on map for directions)
I like this dry bag because it has shoulder straps and a water bottle pocket. I've been hauling this a lot lately.
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LAUNCH SITE DETAILS
Behind Prattville City Hall
Launch: 100-foot carry down grassy, sloped levy bank.
Parking: Paved parking for 10+. Highly visible.
Facilities: Portable toilet. Downtown facilities nearby.
Canoe Trail Park
Launch: End of the road, past treatment plant. Short carry to sandy launch.
Parking: Plenty of parking. Isolated.
Facilities: Flush toilets. Picnic tables.