Hiking with Hailey: Canoeing at Roland Cooper State Park

Hiking with Hailey: Canoeing in Roland Cooper State Park

CAMDEN, Ala. (WSFA) - Roland Cooper State Park is tucked away Camden, located in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt in Wilcox County. It’s nestled right along the Alabama River.

Instead of walking along the shore-side, we decided to buckle up our life jackets, pack up some canoes, and head out on the water for this week’s episode of Hiking with Hailey.

We were lucky enough to once again work with naturalist Lauren Muncher, who we met in our very first episode at Oak Mountain State Park.

Park Naturalist Lauren Muncher leads a guided eco-tour on the Alabama River at Roland Cooper State Park
Park Naturalist Lauren Muncher leads a guided eco-tour on the Alabama River at Roland Cooper State Park (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Muncher guided us through a river eco-tour, which she says in the best way to enjoy the park.

“A lot of people go out on the water and only think of fishing. Fishing is awesome, but there’s a lot more to see,” said Muncher. “There’s fantastic birds to see, and all kinds of really awesome wildlife that people don’t usually look for when they’re out on the water.”

Thanks to organizations like Alabama Black Belt Adventures, visitors get the chance to immerse themselves in the variety of ecosystems on the Alabama River.

“Eco-tours are really special because you have to plan them out and what’s neat about them is you can’t ever predict nature. So, eco-tours can be really special in that you never know what you’re going to see,” said Muncher.

To learn more about how to set up your own eco-tour, visit https://alabamablackbeltadventures.org/.

Alligators can often be found lying among the reeds on the river shore.
Alligators can often be found lying among the reeds on the river shore. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

And, there are plenty of creatures that can catch your eye while out on the water, including fish, snakes, and alligators. In fact, the largest alligator ever captured in Alabama was taken from the Alabama River, weighing in at more than 1,000 pounds and 15.9 feet long!

If you turn your attention to the skies, you’ll also see a variety of aviators; if you’re lucky, you’ll get a glimpse of a bald eagle.

“When you think of a bald eagle, you’re seeing a picture of it, you’re not really seeing it in the wild,” said Muncher. “Well during an eco-tour, you can see one hunting 20 yards in front of you. You’re in their realm and you’re getting to see how they live versus how we see it on TV or just pictures of them.”

If you're lucky, you can get a glimpse of a wild bald eagle hunting for fish in the shallows of the Alabama River.
If you're lucky, you can get a glimpse of a wild bald eagle hunting for fish in the shallows of the Alabama River. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

But none of the wildlife at Roland Cooper State Park could survive without the rich soil found in the Black Belt, which has been around for millions of years.

“Back in the Cretaceous period, which is anywhere from about 65 million to 105 million years ago, the Black Belt area was actually shoreline for the coastal plains, which mean this area was once covered in shallow seas,” Muncher explained. “There were a lot of marine plankton that died off in that area, and their exoskeletons, which were high in calcium, formed this super rich soil that is the Black Belt region.”

And now, it’s more important than ever to protect these historic ecosystems for the next generation.

Roland Cooper State Park is nestled along the Alabama River, in the heart of the Black Belt region of the state.
Roland Cooper State Park is nestled along the Alabama River, in the heart of the Black Belt region of the state. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

“I think everyone here can agree that we’re trying to protect our natural resources. Nature is for everyone, this park is for everyone, all state parks are for everyone, so we want to make sure that people are starting to fall in love with our natural resources so they want to protect it, so our future generations can then also fall in love with it too,” said Muncher.

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