Alabama is criss-crossed by 17 major river systems encompassing some 132,000 miles of channels. The state leads the nation in miles of navigable channels with 1,438 miles. Damming of rivers for power generation has created numerous lakes, as well. Most of Alabama’s rivers flow toward the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in the southwestern corner of the state, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Alabama’s water resources are a significant draw for economic development and recreation and support the state’s high biodiversity, including the world’s greatest number of freshwater mussel species.
The Coosa River begins in Rome, Georgia, where the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers meet, and flows southwest through northeastern Alabama to Montgomery, where it meets with the Tallapoosa River to form the Alabama River.
The Cahaba River photographed from the Cahaba River Historical Park in Centreville, Bibb County. The park offers camping, picnicking, walking trails, and rental pavilions, among other amenities. It is operated by the city.
Elk River is a tributary of the Tennessee River that begins near Elkhead in south-central Tennessee and flows northeast-southwest into Limestone County. It empties into Wheeler Lake in the southwestern corner of the county.
The Tennessee River flows some 650 miles through the Southeast, beginning near Knoxville, Tennessee, and dipping through north Alabama. It is the largest river system that passes through the state and is one of the only rivers whose course enters and leaves a state at more than one point.