The FLFR river guide is based on the book Alabama Canoe Rides and Float Trips by John Foshee with permission from The University of Alabama Press. Information about each section of the river is available by navigating through the tabs below. Each section’s page contain a description from John Foshee’s book about that stretch of the river and a link to a corresponding Google Map.
Though we have begun this project using John Foshee’s book, our hope is that individuals who have knowledge about any section of the river will help us keep information updated. Please contact FLFR if you are interested in collecting data or if you already have information you would like to share with our community.
OVERALL DROP: 7.4′
SECTION 1 OVERALL LENGTH: 10 miles
Hwy 14 bridge to Hwy 26 bridge length = 8 miles
Hwy 26 bridge to Cold Branch Road = 2 miles
PUT-IN AT COUNTY HWY 14 BRIDGE:
Hwy 14 in Snead, aka Lurleen Drive, bridge is a good access. Put in on river right, then park your car on the other side of the bridge.
This is a pleasant, easy run with frequent small shoals and a few harder ones thrown in for interest. Minimum water level to float this trip with no problems is 1.4, but you will have to be a little selective of your path in places at this level. A level of 2′ should give you an easy float.
The river is about 50 feet wide at the put-in and holds this width to the take=out. This stretch is typified by eight to 10 foot high dirt banks, usually steep and usually going back flat to very low hills off the river. There are also a few low cliffs off the river. The shores are heavily forested, mostly hardwood, and the ride is pretty and interesting. There is a great variety of trees on this run and quite a few relatively rare cardinal flowers.
The length from County Hwy 14 to County Hwy 26 bridge is 8 miles. There are numerous small shoals, rocky peninsulas, and islands. These peninsulas and islands would require some care at higher, swifter water level. After 4.5 miles there are remains of an old bridge. From this point there is a series of very small shoals with the area in between filled with small grass islands, small rocks, and rocky peninsulas out from the shore. Many would become shallows or vanish at a level of about 1.8. These shoals are all very easy with gradual drops not exceeding about 12 inches.
At the end of the long pool there is a rock island in the middle of the river with upturned 36 inch high slabs on it. Watch this in higher water. On the left by the next pool you’ll see the only large rock formation on this stretch and past the next shoals you can spot a low line of cliffs off the river on your right.
The next couple of shoals are a little harder and would probably have standing waves at higher water, but they’re still very easy. After the next long quiet pool you will find several more of these island, shallow, small shoal areas. These are a little longer but simple as are the shoals following them.
As you come in sight of the County 26 bridge, there is a shoal with about a 24 inch gradual drop. Another similar shoal is just below the bridge. Both would probably have standing waves at higher water.
Just below the bridge, note the old concrete-filled 24 inch steel pipe bridge foundations. The ones on the left shore are still standing, but the ones on the right have fallen into the river and could be a definite hazard at about 2.4 and up.
PUT-IN AT COUNTY HWY 26 BRIDGE:
The banks are high, steep and slippery and should be used with care. Take-out would be very difficult and not recommended. Parking is available down the road at an abandoned store. From the shoal below this bridge on down to the next take-out is a long pool with only two minor shoals. You’ll notice some clearings and fields on your left slightly back from the river.
PUT-IN / TAKE-OUT AT COLD BRANCH ROAD:
The take-out is easy. A gradual dirt bank and only about a 25 foot carry. Parking is down a little dirt road off the main dirt road with room for about six vehicles and no turn-around space. Again you can park on the side of the main road but get off of it as far as you can.
OVERALL DROP: 9.8′
HAZARDS: ONE 5 FOOT WATERFLL, TWO CLASS 2 RAPIDS.
SECTION 2 LENGTH: 10.2 miles
PUT-IN: Five Points Road (dirt).
The put-in is easy dirt shelving into the river and only about a 25 foot carry to the water. Park on the side of the main road, but get off of it as far as you can.
This is a pretty stretch of the Locust and forms a prelude to the “whitewater” of Section 3 by gradually leading you from shallows to shoals to harder shoals to rapids Minimum level to easily float this section is 1.5
The river is about 50 feet wide at the put-in, holds this average width for a few miles, then gradually widens out to about 100 feet at the take-out. For the first three miles of the run, the banks are mainly dirt, rather low, and wooded. A few rock formations and one group of bluffs can be seen off the river. At the end of the first mile, the shallows begin to turn into shoals. Many of these shoals and all of the shallows would vanish at a level of 1.8 or better.
After mile 3 the terrain begins to change to some very pretty bluffs and more rock formations. Some of the shoals are a little more difficult but still no real problem.
Your signal of the waterfall’s approach is the two islands just above it, one large and the next small. The waterfall is in a very pretty set of bluffs with some large, flat rock slabs on the right just above it. The fall itself extends all the way across the river, and it’s quite possible to be swept over it at higher water levels. The left-hand side is a straight down drop, but the extreme right is more of a stair step affair that is runnable after scouting and if there’s enough water over it. On the other hand, at higher water levels beware of a possible hydraulic at the bottom of the fall. There is a good portage on the right if you want to walk around it.
The fall is in sort of a rocky canyon, and below it are a couple of rapids, both with small drops. Both are short and runnable, but you need to go through the slots and should scout them first or at least be cautious in your approach. The canyon ends about mile 5 and the shoals and shallows from here to the bend (about mile 7 2/3) will be hidden at higher water levels. From mile 7 2/3 to the end you have more bluffs and cliffs, slightly rougher shoals, and more frequent low drops, but none that are of any real consequence.
TAKE-OUT: The take-out is just downstream of the State 79 bridge and on your left. It is a good landing place but a steep climb up to the road on a path under the bridge. If you wish to drift down through the first shoal below the bridge, there is an equally easy take-out and longer but gradual path to the highway. Parking is on the side of the highway, but there is plenty of room.
OVERALL DROP: 23′
DIFFICULTY: 2 – 3
HAZARDS: Up to Class 4 rapids
SECTION 3 LENGTH : 3.4 miles
PUT-IN: U.S. Hwy 231 (aka State Hwy 79).
The put in is under the U.S. Hwy 231 (State Hwy 79) bridge or just downstream on the left. Directly under the bridge is steep but short. The other put-in is a trail through the woods on the left bank at highway level that is gradual but longer. Take your choice. Parking is on a very wide shoulder, so you won’t have any problems being well off the road. WARNING! Some vandalism has been experienced at this put-in!
This section of the Locust Fork is “whitewater” and can range from a bottom-dragging, rock-picking trip up to Class 4 rapids depending on the water level. The rapids occur from the State 79 put-in to Scarum Bluff (Section 4); after that there are shoals only to just below the County 160 bridge.
This map was made at a water gauge reading 2.1. At this level you can float through everything and the rapids (Class 1 and 2) are no particular hazard although they are still perfectly capable of destroying your boat.
THIS IS NO STRETCH TO BOAT ALONE! Only skilled river canoeists should venture on it at a level of 2.6 or better. Above 4.0 it’s best to stay off of it.
The river is about 100 feet wide at the put-in but averages 50-75 feet with much “necking down” to less than this by rocks out from the shore. This is an extremely scenic stretch. Numerous rock formations occur in the river and on the shore, and there are some quite pretty sand beaches scattered along. Several high cliffs plunge straight into the water, and a lot of lower ones pretty up the hillsides back off the bank. There are no signs of civilization except the bridges themselves, and the whole valley is lovely.
Most of the shoals and rapids have a very noticeable drop in elevation; a few have an abrupt drop. At higher water levels many of them will have big standing waves that are quite likely to swamp an open boat.
The first rapid likely to cause you any trouble is “House Rock”, so named because of the enormous boulder on the left of the river and just below the rapid. Rock formations on the right squeeze the river to the left toward House Rock. When running this, stay to the right side of the rapid (about a five foot, 45 degree drop). If you go to the left side, you may be swept under House Rock. Watch for the powerful eddy on the right side below the rapid. It, too, can flip you.
At mile 2 the river takes a long downhill curve. The rock ledge on the map has to be avoided by ferrying to the left. This is complicated a bit by having to enter the stretch on the right because of the shallowness of the water. If you just follow the outside of the curve, you’ll be swept over the ledge. Immediately below this curve is “Double Trouble” — so called because it is two trouble spots separated by a short pool. The upper part is in a blind curve to the left. Pull out on the left and scout it if you’ve never run it before. To run it, approach it as close to the rocks on the left as you can. You may run to either side of the pyramidal rock halfway down the drop, but don’t rely on the current to take you by it — it won’t. At the end of the pool you may run through the rocks and far to the left and have a 12 inch drop or less depending on the water level, or run just to the left of the big boulder on the right-hand shore. By just to the left, I mean practically scraping. This is about a 30 inch straight down drop, but the slot is clear. Most of the rest of the rough spots from here to Swann Bridge should give you no great trouble. The rapid just pas mile 3 is best run on a long diagonal from right to left. All of them will have big standing waves at 3.0 or better.
Some of the prettier places along here are the high cliffs on your left just above mile 2 and mile 3 and the sand beaches on your left at mile 3. The most spectacular cliffs are about .3 mile above Swann Bridge on your left.
TAKE-OUT :The take-out is on the right just at the covered bridge. Parking under the bridge is easy and you can drive right around in a circle and back onto the road.
OVERALL DROP: 25 (first 2.4 miles) 1 (last 1.8 miles)
DIFFICULTY: 1 – 2
HAZARDS: 8 FOOT WATERFALL
SECTION 4 LENGTH: 4.2 MILES
PUT-IN: Swann Covered Bridge
Parking under the bridge is easy and you can drive right around in a circle and back onto the road. There’s a nice beach. This section ranges from wild to peaceful as you can probably guess from the drastic change in drop between the first and last parts of it. The drop is actually about 25 feet from Swann Bridge to mile 4.4, 16 from there to the County 160 bridge and something like 22 on to the island at about mile 6.3. At least eight fee of the 16 foot drop section is concentrated in a waterfall. The rest is pretty evenly distributed. After mile 6.3 the river is practically flat to the take-out. Water level is a matter of experience. If the USGS gauge at Hwy 79 reads less than about 1.6, you will have floating problems. See the warning in Section 3 for higher water levels. The river is about 50 feet wide at the put-in, spreads to about 75 feet near the 160 bridge, then narrows back down to about 50 feet, and holds this to the take-out.
All the rapids are milder than in Section3. High cliffs and a placid pool at mile 4.6 are both scenic and the announcement for an eight foot, 60 degree waterfall. This waterfall can be run on the RIGHT SIDE ONLY. There is a big rock island splitting the fall. you can portage down the island if you wish or run the fall on the right a little left of its center Be careful when you land on the rock island–it’s sloping and the current will try to sweep you to the right hand over the falls Just before you get to Skirum Bluff pool there is a 18 inch drop and a rough little rapid. Skirum Bluff and its pool are very scenic places. There’s a nice beach on the left, and the bluffs are high and plunge straight into the water. This is a good place to stop and swim in the summer. The river necks down at the end of this pool and has a right-hand bend. in higher water levels this could be a tricky place if you can’t ferry. At the lower end of the bluff is a pretty little waterfall running out of the bluff, and just below this on your left are some attractive rock formations.
The shoals are very mild from here on and turn into shallows at the end of the island at mile 6. As you pass under the County 160 bridge you’ll see why this is not used as a take-out — it’s very steep and overgrown. The islands shown are pretty, and the ride from here to the take-out is cool and shady between shore lines that are lower and made of dirt instead of rock and sand as in Section3.
The take-out is a sand beach, a low bank (short but slippery), and a well beaten, gradually sloping, easy path for about 75 feet. Parking is limited, but it’s easy to get completely off the road. Don’t block the dirt road going into the woods.
OVERALL DROP: 2′
SECTION 5 LENGTH: 5 MILES
PUT-IN: Nectar Covered Bridge
This put-in has a sand beach, a low bank (short but slippery), and a well beaten, gradually sloping, easy path for about 75 feet. Parking is limited, but it’s easy to get completely off the road. Don’t block the dirt road going into the woods.
This is a slow moving, peaceful stretch of river with a few minor shoals usually consisting of a single line of rocks across the river. The river is about 50 feet wide at the put-in and gradually spreads to about 125 feet at the take-out.
Water level can be read on the gauge at the US 231 bridge if you want to drive that far. This map was made at a reading of 2.2. you should be able to easily float this section as low as 1.5 If you don’t wish to drive to the gauge, there is a yellow mark on the upstream end of the right-hand bridge pier at the take-out. The bottom of this mark is 2.2, and you can judge from there.
The banks in this section are earth, heavily overgrown, about six to eight feet high, and go back to flat areas on the right. The left-hand shore has some small ridges set back from the shoreline. At two places there are rock formations and bluffs along these ridges, the major ones being between mile 2 and 3.
At mile 1 1/2 you’ll see Blackburn Fork come in on your left. This is a pretty stream, and you may want to spend a while paddling up it. Two rides on it are covered in this book. The two islands shown on the map just before the take-out are so close to the left hand shore that they are hard to distinguish as islands. The grass islands upstream are only a few inches high and are actually weed grown shallows. The group about 1/4 mile before the take-out may have lilies blooming on it in the late spring and early summer.
TAKE-OUT The take-out is a slab of rock next to the bridge pier. There is a well-beaten, not very steep path up to the parking area. The parking area itself is a local picnic spot and is clear and open. You may prefer to drift on down about 25 yards and take-out just as easily at a clearing on the bank. Either way, when you park, don’t block the picnic area roads.
OVERALL DROP: 6”
HAZARDS: Low bridge at mile 5.7
SECTION 6 LENGTH: 10 miles
PUT-IN: Bridge at County Road 13.
This put-in is a slab of rock next to the bridge pier. There is a well-beaten, not very steep path up to the parking area. The parking area itself is a local picnic spot and is clear and open. You may prefer to drift on down about 25 yards and take-out just as easily at a clearing on the bank. Either way, when you park, don’t block the picnic area road.
This is a scenic, relatively peaceful stretch of river, despite the appearance of the shoal just below the put-in. The river is about 125 feet wide at the put-in but gradually narrows to about 60 feet at the first low water bridge and holds this width to the take-out. (We at FLFR would love to have a comparison of the reading at the bridge on County Road 13 compared to the USGS electronic gauge at Hwy 79)
Water level can be read on the upstream end of the right-hand bridge pier at the put-in bridge. The bottom mark is 2.2. You can just barely float this entire section at 1.2 if you very carefully select a path.
The banks in the section are generally low with alternating 15 foot high banks and low hills. It is pretty well forested, with some signs of fields and pastures along the way. Below the private low water bridge the forest is thicker, the hills steeper, and there are very few signs of civilization.
One word about this private bridge: It is private as is the road to it and the land by it. On the Nectar map it is identified as a covered bridge. If you decide to use this as a alternate put-in or take-out then get permission first and leave nothing on this property but footprints.
One other word: Both this bridge and the take-out bridge have only about six feet of clearance between them and the bottom of the river. Hence the name “low water” bridge. They are covered up at high water. Being low, they present two hazards to the boater — for one they create logjams and for the other there may not be enough clearance below the bridge to float under it. Both cases could result in broad siding, capsizing and drowning. So at a water level of about 3.0 or higher be very cautious. Make sure that you can stop the boat if you need to and that you can control it well enough to go to shore and portage if necessary. And don’t get overconfident — it’s not easy to halt a boat in a fast flowing current.
The shoals in this section are generally easy. The first one below the put-in is the hardest you’ll have, although at some water levels the ones at about mile 1.8 and 4.0 could be a little turbulent and tricky. The rest of the shoals will be no problem at all; in fact most of them will vanish at a level of about 2.0
There’s a long “rock garden” for about 1/3 mile above mile 6i. Again, a level of 2.0 will wipe this out for the most part. Run by to the left of the big island below the private bridge. to the right of the second one, and on the left again around the last little island. There are a lot of small grass islands and shallows by the big island, and you’ll have to find your own path here unless the water is high enough to cover them.
Scenery on the river is mostly forest, but there are a few low cliffs and rock formations of interest. One of these cliffs is at about mile 1. There is usually a small waterfall off the low ledge on your left about mile 1.8. At mile 4.8 there is a tremendous rock formation on your right — a solid sloping boulder with a waterfall right down the middle of it. Don’t look for this fall in the dead of summer though. The most impressive cliffs are those about mile 5.7, slightly back off the river. Watch for them just after the huge boulder on your right about 1/8 mile below the private bridge. TAKE-OUT: Bridge at Armstrong Loop / Center Springs Road. The take-out is on the left downstream side of the bridge. It’s a short (about 20 foot) carry to the vehicles. This carry will be extremely slippery if it’s wet. Parking is very limited, but there is room to get completely off the road. If you prefer you can unload, then drive about 50 yards further and park on a paved road, but if you do, then park well to the side. The last 1/2 mile of road to the put-in is on a sharp slope and will present problems if it’s muddy. If it0 is, I suggest you buy a topo map and come in to the river on the other side.
OVERALL DROP: 2.2′
HAZARDS: Low water bridge and boulders in the river
SECTION 7 LENGTH: 9 miles
PUT-IN: Bridge at Armstrong Loop / Center Springs Rd.
The put-in is on the left downstream side of the bridge. It’s a short (about 20 foot) carry to the vehicles. This carry will be extremely slippery if it’s wet. Parking is very limited, but there is room to get completely off the road. If you prefer you can unload, then drive about 50 yards further and park on a paved road, but if you do, then park well to the side. The last 1/2 mile of road to the put-in is on a sharp slope and will present problems if it’s muddy.
This section is a little faster moving than Section 6 because of the width of the river. Its 75 foot put-in width necks down to about 50 feet and holds this to the take-out.
The water level can be read on the marks at the Shoal Creek put-in (See Section 5 or 6). This map was made at a reading of about 1.2, and you can easily float the section at this level.
The banks in this section are earth, fairly overgrown, and about 15 feet high. From the bridge at Armstrong Loop (marked Vaughns Bridge on the map) to Deans Ferry Bridge they are usually low, with a few small hills scattered along and one set of 20-30 foot bluffs at mile 3. Below Deans Ferry Bridge the first 3/4 mile on your right is pasture, but after that the shoreline is more rugge and frequently has a bank, a flat area, and then a line of hills that are sharper and steeper than the upstream four miles.
The strip mines, once visible from the river along this section have been reclaimed and the mining has moved toward the east. The stripped area at mile 7 3/4 is the only danger spot on this run (if you’ve read the low water bridge warning under Section 6). Five foot high boulders have rolled into the water here, and you will have to snake your way through them. At water levels of 2.5 and up they could create a maneuvering problem as well as serve as a foundation for a logjam.
Despite the strip mines, the ride is very pretty and peaceful The few shoals are small, either about a 12 inch elevation drop, and the shallows are not so shallow as to offer problems. The two islands just before mile 1 should be run on the left for the first one, on the right for the second one. The island shown at mile 6 is not an island except at a water level of 3.0 or better. Run to the left of it in any event.
There are a few rock formations and cliffs along the river. all of them relatively low and most of them back off the bank except those at mile 3 and just below Deans Ferry Bridge. The highest bluffs are about 50 feet tall on your left at about mile 4 3/4, and off the river.
TAKE-OUT: At Warrior-Trafford Road, the take-out is disconcerting-looking, but isn’t as bad as it looks. Take out on your left about 100 yards upstream from the bridge. You’ll have about a 100 yard carry up a trail with a 20 degree slope to the dirt road running under the bridge. The trail is good and so is the dirt road, but the road will be slippery if it’s wet, so you’d better check before driving down it.