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Flint River Adventure: Paddle Huntsville’s Hidden Gem

52 Weekends on the Water
On the Alabama Scenic River Trail, there’s something new to experience every weekend of the year.
Flint River Adventure: Paddle Huntsville’s Hidden Gem


Bodies of Water to Explore

Flint River

Best Season

Summer, Fall

Skill Level

Paddles: 1 – no skill, desire to learn; 2 – moderate, knowledge needed; 3 – advanced, know what’s up


11.5 Mile Paddle

Trip Duration

1 Day

Outfitters Nearby

Trip Summary

Embark on a scenic 11.5-mile paddle down North Alabama’s Flint River, perfect for both novice and seasoned paddlers, and best enjoyed in the summer and fall. Starting at Ryland Pike Access (34.768038, -86.442341) on HWY 72 and ending at Hays Nature Preserve Access/Cherokee Landing (34.643805, -86.465769), this trip offers a peaceful retreat into nature with opportunities for wildlife spotting and excellent fishing for bass, bluegill, and catfish. The river’s calm waters and easy access points ensure a leisurely float, with the most challenging obstacles being occasional blown-down trees.

Also don’t forget to check the water levels before you go. The best gauge to check for this float is the USGS 03575100 FLINT RIVER AT BROWNSBORO, AL. The best level to run the Flint River is at seven to eight feet on the gauge, which is just over four feet in actual river depth.

There is also the opportunity to explore Hays Nature Preserve’s hiking trails or take a helicopter tour with Rocket City Helicopters for a unique perspective of the area around the Brownsboro community.

For those looking to extend their paddling adventure or complete a different section of the river, nearby outfitters like Brown Bear Canoe and Kayak, TGL Adventures, and North Alabama Canoe and Kayak (NACK) offer a variety of shorter trips, kayak and canoe rentals, in addition to shuttle services. They are also an excellent source of local information and can give advice on paddling the Flint you can’t get anywhere else.

Trail Highlights

Day 1

This paddle can be broken into several floats with access available at Brier Fork Bridge, Hwy. 72 (Flint River Canoe Tail: Talado landing), Little Cove Road Crossing, Hwy. 431 crossing and Hobbs Island Road/Chickasaw landing. The lower section, detailed here- on this trip, is an easy float with no difficult rapids to maneuver. The most difficult obstacles encountered will be blown down trees. Learn more on the Outdoor Alabama Website.

  • Stop 1: Grab your to-go lunch from Good Company Cafe in South Huntsville if coming in from the West or from Mary’s Pit BBQ in Gurley if coming from the East before heading over the mountain to start your adventure.
  • Stop 2: Put-In at RYLAND PIKE ACCESS, 34.768038, -86.442341
    • Access is conspicuous from highway 72. Parking for a dozen or so vehicles with a turnaround at the end. Next down the river will be little cove road (privately-owned but the public is allowed), three hours away via canoe or kayak.
  • Stop 3: Take Out at HAYS NATURE PRESERVE ACCESS / CHEROKEE LANDING, 34.643805, -86.465769
    • For more information on the Hays Nature Preserve check out the Huntsville website for hiking trail maps and the areas public access rules.
    • If you decide to continue on past the Hays Nature Preserve: “Notice that there is a 23-mile gap between Hays Nature Center and Chickasaw Landing. That, in and of itself, would make for a long day of paddling. However, this section rarely gets run, so it’s overrun with fallen trees and often drops into swampy bottoms. I’m not saying don’t go there, but think long and hard about it, know your capabilities, and come prepared.” Source: Coleman Concierge & Visit Huntsville Paddling Trails (2021)

Side Ventures & Optional Activities to Add to Your Trip

Bonus Sightings

  • Angler Tip: The Flint River provides excellent fishing for spotted bass, largemouth bass, the occasional smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, longear sunfish, channel catfish and bullheads. An ultra-light spinning rod and reel combo or a short fly rod is the appropriate fishing gear. Learn More on the Outdoor Alabama Website.

Non-Paddler Recommendations

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