Cahaba Lily Festival in West Blocton celebrates featured flower

Cahaba Lily Festival in West Blocton celebrates featured flower
The Cahaba lily is the star of the Cahaba Lily Festival this weekend. (Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)

It was my second time in a kayak.

Helen Todd, owner of Fluid Communications and a kayaking instructor, made sure I slipped in correctly. Then she took off, gliding on top of the still and quiet Cahaba River. My kayak was half on the dirt and half in the water, so I started “scootching” like Todd instructed, and the kayak eventually was floating.

Peace on earth was mine.

Cahaba lily is the jewel of the Cahaba River from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The kayak glided on top of the water like an outsider welcomed in a serene and peaceful environment. When we arrived at the lilies, stunning beauty joined the peace and serenity. The lilies greeted the sun with their soft white petals and yellow filament. I left the kayak and walked onto the rocks wondering why this incredibly beautiful species chose Alabama to show off.

“This particular lily likes rocky shoals with moving water, just like we have here,” Todd said. “They are also propagated by a moth that pollinates them in the evening. A very unique set of circumstances. The Cahaba lily only lives for one day, but you would never know it, so many of them.”

We put in at Hargrove Shoals, home to one of the highest concentrations of the Hymenocallis Coronaria, known as the Cahaba Lily. From early May to late June, the shoals of the Cahaba are transformed into a lily paradise.

“Coming out here and showing people how to be responsible with our resources is important. Most people don’t know that the Cahaba is one of the main drinking water supplies for Birmingham. So it’s really important to teach our kids how to be responsible and how to love the river,” said Todd, who serves on the board of the Cahaba River Society. She teaches kayaking and whitewater rafting and volunteers as the state director of the American Canoe Association. Todd has been teaching canoeing and kayaking for more than 20 years, and considers the Cahaba a treasure.

“This place is special; you go from calm water to exciting rapids and everything in between. We just need to keep taking care of it. It is home to many endangered species, and is one of the most bio-diverse rivers in the world. Habitat loss, invasion by non-native species and pollution will always threaten the Cahaba, that’s why education is key,” Todd said.

On Saturday, the city of West Blocton will hold the Cahaba Lily Festival. Lectures, viewings, storytelling, food and music are on the schedule.

For information about the Cahaba Lily Festival, visit

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