HUNTSVILLE — The 200-plus miles on the Singing River Trail will be a greenway trail of connection through the towns that make up the North Alabama region. Bonds between communities will be strengthened by creating opportunities for tourism, education and health and wellness.
Alabama is in the bottom five states in the country in terms of the overall health of its residents. Even in the beginning stages of planning the greenway, the proposal would contribute to 8,174,000 minutes of new physical activity for people in North Alabama.
According to the trail’s website, “the implementation of a well-designed, connected trail system would encourage a shift from inactive modes of transportation such as cars and trucks to active modes such as bicycling and walking that help promote active lifestyles” while also providing “free opportunity for recreation and exercise.”
Each of the eight counties on the Singing River Trail offer various unique opportunities for residents to get and remain healthy through their natural resources, sprawling parks and reserves, as well as state-of-the-art facilities located right in the heart of the communities that make up the trail. Here’s what the SRT has to offer in the way of health and wellness:
Jackson County is home to limestone caves, one of which is Stephen’s Gap in Scottsboro. The 150-foot cave features a stunning waterfall and is known for its spelunking, a popular and extreme form of cave exploration. The outdoor wonder is a true hidden gem in Jackson County.
Outdoor activities abound on beautiful Lake Guntersville, a prominent part of Marshall County. From paddling, fishing, boating and even hiking at Lake Guntersville State Park, time spent in the vibrant small town is always memorable. For staying fit year round, visit Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater in neighboring Albertville. This winter season, the amphitheater debuted Sand Mountain Skate, the largest real outdoor ice skating rink in North Alabama.
With no shortage of things to do, experience, or see in the area, the opportunities to stay active in Huntsville are limitless. Led by the mayor, the city has been working on a Healthy Huntsville initiative and includes ways for citizens to get involved in a healthier lifestyle, which include 100 Miles Alabama Challenge, nutrition classes taught in partnership with Huntsville Hospital Wellness Centers, the Mayor’s Bike Ride, and Fitness in the Park.
Decatur is known as the “River City” and sits on the Tennessee River and Wheeler Lake. It isn’t unusual to spend time in Decatur completely outdoors, canoeing, biking, hiking, or exploring Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is rich in recreational and wildlife opportunities, and visitors are completely immersed in nature while there.
For a culturally rich experience in Lawrence County, the Oakville Indian Mounds Park & Museum offer exhibits on the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek tribes, who were all native to the area. The Indian Mounds are shaded by the 180,000-acre Bankhead National Forest, which holds 18 trails that are wonderful for hiking, walking, and bird-watching.
Big Spring Memorial Park in downtown Athens is the perfect place to spend time outdoors, with plenty of areas for everyone in the family to run around, exercise, enjoy fresh air, and even feed the ducks at any time of year. The park, which is widely known as “The Duck Pond,” includes fountains, tennis courts, a large pavilion, and a playground. The annual Athens North Pole Stroll is in December, with decorated Christmas trees throughout the park.
Bursting with traditional Southern charm, Florence offers something for everyone with its historic districts, world-class fishing, breathtaking natural scenery, and even the oldest four-year public university – the University of North Alabama. There are several parks as well, including Diebert Park, McFarland Park, River Heritage Park and Pickwick Lake, all of which offer all types of family-friendly outdoor activities.
Colbert County encompasses the Shoals area of North Alabama, offering everything from a legendary music scene to natural and historical wonders, like the birthplace of Helen Keller and the Natchez Trace. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals is a fantastic way to get in some exercise and recreation, as well as take in some terrific views of the natural topography along the Tennessee River. Also in Colbert County is Cane Creek Canyon Creek Nature Preserve in Tuscumbia is a 700-acre nature preserve with 18 miles of hiking trails and Lacefield Falls, which is part of the North Alabama Waterfall Trail.