The Old Cahawba Prairie Preserve is a 3,000-acre tract of remnant blackland prairie, one of the remaining half dozen such areas in the entire Black Belt. The western portion of the parcel is almost five square miles of predominately native grassland, early emergent scrub and small trees. The topsoil is quite shallow and covers a deep layer of dark chalk-Selma chalk. This layer is too thin to support the root systems of a mature forest but well suited for native tallgrass, small trees (Eastern Red Cedar, Redbud and Hackberry) and scattered shrubs.
There are numerous Eastern Kingbirds, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, some Northern Bobwhites and Wild Turkeys and many soaring hawks, as well as a handful of Mississippi Kites. Prairie Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, White-eyed Vireos, Carolina Wrens, and Field Sparrows are easy to find in the scrub and small trees. The grassland should be alive with winter sparrows, as well as Palm and Orange-crowned Warblers in the colder months. The trails consists of old jeep trails that lead deep into the property. The hike in and out of this western part of the tract–the preserved prairie land–can be accomplished in a couple of hours.
The eastern portion of the tract includes several miles of the Cahaba River and Big Swamp Creek, where there is a canoe/float site. Anticipate Louisiana Waterthrushes, Swainson’s Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Warblers, Northern Parulas, American Redstarts and Prothonotary Warblers. Substantial stands of plantation-planted pines provide homes for Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches and numerous woodpeckers.
The Old Cahawba trail system is comprised of three trails with a combined length of 11.6 miles. The individual trails are: the Federal Trail, 3.7 miles; Cahawba Trail, 6.3 miles; and the Indian Trail, 1.6 miles. The trails are free to all and open during daylight hours year-round to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. The best way to access the pine-forested portion of the preserve is to walk in from Old Cahawba Archaeological Park. Check in with the visitors’ center at the Archaeological Park for directions to the southeastern entrance to the preserve. The visitor’s center can be reached at (334) 872-8058. To cover a substantial part of the preserve would require a full day.
Visitors to the Old Cahawba Prairie tract can also access to the Cahaba River via a canoe launch at the nearby Cahaba River Bridge on AL-22. There is a canoe take out downriver at the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park. The tract is also open to hunting when in season. All hunting season(s) rules and regulations apply. This property was purchased by the Alabama chapter of the Nature Conservancy in 2008.
Directions: From downtown Selma (ample food, fuel, lodging available; scarce after leaving town) take AL-22 (Dallas Avenue) west for approximately 8.5 miles. Turn left (south) on CR-9 and proceed 3.1 miles. The parking areas are on the left. Note that the Prairie Preserve may also be accessed via the northern portion of the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park’s nature trail system.
GPS N 32.315495 W -87.125966
Old Cahawba Prairie Preserve c/o Old Cahawba (Mailing address)
719 Tremont Street
Selma, AL 36701