Twenty-three paddlers – 15 solo and four two-person teams – will depart at 10 a.m. on Saturday from Jake’s on the Lake on Weiss Lake in Cherokee County on the fifth annual Great Alabama 650.
It’s the longest paddle race in the United States, according to organizers with the Alabama Scenic River Trail. The course is made up of the core of that trail’s network, which runs from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico.
The race covers 650 miles, 10% of that network, and will take participants through riverfront cities such as Gadsden, Pell City, Wetumpka, Montgomery, Selma and Fairhope. Competitors will likely encounter whitewater conditions and difficult currents, and will have to negotiate around nine dams.
Locally, they’ll move through Centre, Cedar Bluff, Leesburg, Gadsden, Rainbow City and Southside, before heading south into Calhoun and St. Clair counties.
There are checkpoints at Coosa River Adventures in Wetumpka (8 p.m. Oct. 3 cutoff) and at Miller’s Ferry Campground near Camden (10 a.m. Oct. 6 cutoff).
Between those, the participants will move through Montgomery and Selma, then through more rural areas like Gees Bend. They’ll then head through places like Lower Peach Tree and Claiborne, before the final stretch from Stockton to Spanish Fort, Fairhope and the end point at Fort Morgan in Baldwin County.