“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

UA Press Treasure, Part I: An Astonishing Ride on Alabama Rivers

Spittin’ Grits’ last post, October 14, promised to feature several treasures published by The University of Alabama Press. Like other Southern university presses, the UA Press is a treasure trove of books for everyone, not just scholarly and research books, but also books of general interest, gorgeous art books, nature field guides, books on the particular presses’ states and regions, great cookbooks, books on off-beat topics, books on overlooked subjects, and books the major publishing houses wouldn’t touch for fear that they wouldn’t contribute to profits.


Headwaters: A Journey on Alabama Rivers is the first of the series of treasures; it combines the features of an art book, a nature guide, and a portrait of Alabama’s natural beauty. Headwaters takes the reader on a breathtaking trip down the abundance of rivers, called metaphorically Alabama's Great River, from the northern part of the state to the fall line, through the coastal plain to the Gulf of Mexico. Truthfully, it is an astonishing ride.

Conservation photographer Beth Maynor Young teamed with John Hall, longtime UA professor, former curator of UA’s Museum of Natural History, and currently curator of the Black Belt Museum at the University of West Alabama, Livingston, to raise awareness of the rivers’ beauty, the wildlife they serve, and the need to continue conservation efforts in Alabama. The Dedication says it all:

“For all of the people: advocates, scientists, teachers, paddlers, fishermen, and agencies; who are working to secure a future for these waters, that our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren may enjoy and be inspired by the mystery of rivers.”

Locust Fork / Cornelius Falls

The Beginnings

Alabama’s “Great River” begins in the state’s northern uplands, particularly in Jackson County – as drops, trickles, seepages, creeks, falls, streams, which transform into the big rivers that all make their way to the Gulf.

“At Cheaha, walk the Chinnabee Silent Trail from Turnipseed to the top of the [Cheaha] mountain. Follow the little stream up on the flank of the mountain to where the little trickles run down and it smells like damp earth and mint and Galax.”

Or start at Lethe Brook in north central Alabama’s Winston County: “Surely the Great River of Alabama must begin in a place like this. Humidity fills the air, and groundwater oozes onto the roots of ferns and mosses. Slowly the trickles gather and begin to flow downhill, five hundred miles, home to the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Falls

Where the waters of the uplands fall from the geologically older granite rocks onto the younger, softer rocks into the coastal plain is the Fall Line. Below that, rivers become slower, lower, more meandering. In Alabama the fall line runs from the Shoals, with Florence being the fall line town, down to just below Tuscaloosa, over to Tallassee at the falls of the Tallapoosa River, into Georgia; after that the waters begin to fall into the Atlantic Ocean, through the Appalachians, and all the way to New Jersey.

The fall line physically demarcates features that can or cannot occur on either the up- or down-side of the line. For example, our Cahaba Lilies (shoals lily) can only survive on the upside of the fall line. The water’s flow must be strong enough to sweep away fine sediments that can smother the lilies’ roots.

Cahaba Lilies / southern experiment in biodiversity

The Exit

The waters of the Great River seep, drain, and spill into the Gulf by way of two major rivers – the Tombigbee, which gathers the western waters, and the Alabama, which gathers the eastern waters; these two rivers merge north of Mobile Bay to form the Tensaw Swamp. Finally fresh water merges with salt water in salt marshes. The journey is then completed.

Headwaters boasts more than 150 full color plates of Young’s inspiring photos, each with descriptive and informative text comprising the captions.

Once readers complete this journey, they have the knowledge and inspiration to ensure the future of Alabama’s Great River. And it’s a trip they can take over and over again.

For a slideshow of a sample of the photographs at Young’s Web site, go to: http://www.kingfishereditions.com/headwaters/phpslideshow.php?directory=.&currentPic=14

To order go to http://www.uapress.ua.edu/.

Options include ordering on line, calling the toll-free number, or faxing an order. Photos reprinted by permission of the UA Press.

By phone: 800-621-2736 or 773-702-7000

To fax: 800-621-8476 or 773-702-7212


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