We Scenic City residents are reminded of the natural beauty that lies just beyond every time we open our doors, but did you realize there are legitimate wonders of the world in our midst? This year, we'll introduce you to a few of them. The rest will be up to you.
Claim to fame: Most diverse river in North America in terms of species of fish per square mile; longest free-flowing river in Alabama
Location: Helena, Ala.
Drive time from downtown Chattanooga: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Lure of the lily: The river is reportedly the most floated in Alabama, perhaps because of another of its lures: the elusive Cahaba lily. Each year in May and June, people flock for a glimpse of these otherworldly beauties — the largest stand left on earth. Each delicate bloom lasts for only one day.
The best viewing time is at dusk or dawn, as the lilies' stark white color is meant to stand out against the inky cover of night so that their prime pollinator, the nocturnal hawk moth, can easily find the flower. For your own scouting expedition, we suggest you head to Hargrove Shoals.
Diversity of life doesn't just apply to the waterway. Bibb County Glades Preserve is the most biologically diverse piece of land known in the state of Alabama. That means more than 60 rare plant species spread across 480 acres.
Eight of the plants found there were previously unknown to science, and another eight were previously unknown in Alabama. Botanist James Allison, with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Georgia Natural Heritage Program, reports that one, the dwarf horse-nettle, had been presumed extinct since it hadn't been spotted since the 1830s.
Famed fishing: With 131 species of fish — 18 of which aren't found outside the Mobile River Basin — the Cahaba River is a fisherman's dream. Expect to find crappie, spotted and largemouth bass, channel catfish and more.
While the water is safe for the fish, it is not recommended that people swim in the headwaters above Trussville down to where the Little Cahaba River joins the main channel due to contaminants caused by urbanization.