Alabama Bucket List’ Shoals of the Tallapoosa River

Photo courtesy of Bradley Robertson

By Bradley Robertson

Since early Spring, my family and I have spent many weekends at a friend’s hideaway located on the Tallapoosa River. Each trip, we load up all the goods for water and outdoor fun on our truck and we take off as a modern day Swiss Family Robinson.
Buried down dirt roads and miles and miles of forest our escape is like a 2020 treehouse. Tall stilts above a deck, camp rooms and an outdoor kitchen hold weight for the largest porch in East AL, overlooking the flowing downstream waters of the Tallapoosa.

It is this sweet spot only 30 minutes from home that my family has space to breathe and room to play. We all jump out upon arrival, greeting our friends and taking yummy food to our host, Sandy Buff. We soon begin chatting about who’s going to “float” that day and soon we are loading up kayaks, heading to our drop off location.

We have kayaked this portion of the River, up from Bibby’s Ferry, about 5 times this year. Each trip brings a new story, new memories and views that will never escape your mind. My first trip this year brought me a great blue heron, which I followed and admired for over an hour. But our most recent trip, on the 4th of July, brought us to the rustling and lively shoals of Alabama.

The first thing you must know about the Tallapoosa is that there are hardly any people or houses along its way. The river is far from the business of Lake Martin, and the quiet air, calm waters and trees cannot be replaced anywhere. Islands of green, lush, tall grasses and mild rapids become art fit for anyone. What the eyes see and the ears hear are life-giving.

I never knew of Alabama “shoals” till I met Sandy up here on the river. Shoals are places in water where rocks, sand or other natural life like logs stop or slow the movement of water. This creates pools, sandbanks or in our terms, places to hang out and play.
Arriving to the shoals on the 4th was like arriving to an oasis of pure happiness. We docked our kayaks on island banks and among millions of rocks, stones, boulders and logs – a southern living space for whoever was lucky enough to find it.
A grill and house-size tent were set up amid smooth orange pebbles with just enough water to cover your feet. Waterfalls stretched across the river making the perfect playground for older children. A water slide fit for the smallest was carved out to the left, for when the rushing water pushed over the rocks and around the islands, it created a lazy river. And all was found right in the middle of the river.
Finders keepers perhaps. The Farmer and I found ourselves perched upon a log in the river forming a waterfall and fit for 30 people to sit on. He assured me the log had been there since the Civil War, the water preserving it, and I felt as though I sat upon time. Water pushed over the log and there we sat with friends laughing and gazing upstream at the vast sky and never ending sound of rushing water.
I watched my big children in the distance, becoming acrobats as they waded across massive rocks and skyline to get drenched among waterfalls and wade in the pools. Shep found himself on the Civil War log too, building towers of rocks and playing knee deep in cool, running waters. There is just nothing like this natural scene of Alabama; the sights, the sounds, the water upon your skin. It forces one to become childlike. To hold nature as a playground and become one with it. We held space with freedom here for the rest of the day. Freedom to just be, an escape we seem to be longing for.

I think we forget how connected we truly are to nature. It’s the great creation we are meant to enjoy. My family and I are forever grateful for the fun we enjoyed that day on the shoals. A sneak peak into the glory of the world, right in our own backyard.
If you have interest in visiting the Tallapoosa, please visit You may also Google Search Harold Banks Canoe Trail. It has all the public access sights as well as camping.

Get outside friends, I’m pretty sure we are meant to be there!


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