This spring, Freshwater Land Trust® (FLT) was presented with the opportunity to partner with innovative and award-winning local brewery, TrimTab Brewing Company, on a special and exciting project: a limited release brew dedicated to an environmentally significant area within greater Birmingham that is close to FLT’s heart, the Shades Creek watershed. Shady Spot Pale Ale was thoughtfully crafted to highlight this ecologically important tributary to the mighty Cahaba River and the varied efforts to support and protect its waters and neighboring habitat.

FLT protects land surrounding Shades Creek through our conservation work. Additionally, we facilitate a growing network of publicly accessible trails and greenspaces along this waterway as part of the Red Rock Trail System®. We are proud to contribute to the care of, and connection to, beautiful Shades Creek, and we are extremely grateful to TrimTab for choosing to support our mission with Shady Spot, the first edition in the TrimTab Watershed Series.

Shades Creek is 55.8 miles long and courses through six cities in the greater Birmingham metropolitan area: Irondale, Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover, and Bessemer. It flows through Shades Valley, which sits between Red Mountain in the west and Shades Mountain in the east, before emptying into the Cahaba River, one of the most biodiverse rivers in the U.S., containing 128 native fish species and 10 federally endangered fish and mussel species.

Since its founding in 1996, FLT has played a significant role in the conservation of the Shades Creek watershed. FLT currently conserves 1,223 acres surrounding Shades Creek, either through purchases of land or conservation easements. 1,000 of those acres border the creek itself and were acquired early on as the result of a 1996 enforcement action settlement under the Clean Water Act. FLT later opened two publicly accessible properties within this conservation footprint, leading to the creation of Homewood Forest Preserve and Wildwood Preserve.


The protection of Shades Creek and the wildlife it supports has long been of great interest to the local community. Most notable are the efforts to aid the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), a species of mole salamander that is a beloved resident of the creek’s wetland environment.

Photo: A spotted salamander at Wildwood Preserve. Photo taken by Jeffrey Drummond.

Friends of Shades Creek, along with numerous other salamander supporters, have worked for many years to raise awareness of this charismatic native amphibian. The group brought to light the salamander’s unique annual migration movements and pushed for protection of this once a year event. The spotted salamander breeds early in the year; late January rains summon a mass migration from the woods to the ephemeral pools near the creek where they reproduce. The salamanders occasionally encounter roadways that they must cross to reach these pools, and on dark, rainy nights, this trek can be treacherous. In 2003, overwhelming community support, driven in large part by Friends of Shades Creek, resulted in the City of Homewood’s designation of a quarter-mile long stretch of South Lakeshore Drive as an official Salamander Crossing Zone. Homewood Forest Preserve, one of FLT’s publicly accessible conservation properties, is home to many rainfed ephemeral pools, and spotted salamanders can often be found in the old-growth forest there on the northern slope of Shades Mountain. This property is protected in perpetuity through a 2007 conservation easement placed with FLT by the City of Homewood.

                   Photo: A spotted salamander in its larval stage

Red Rock Trail System

FLT aims to increase appreciation for the beauty and ecological significance of Shades Creek by providing greater access to these green spaces via the Red Rock Trail System® (RRTS). The current RRTS trails along Shades Creek include Jemison Park, the Irondale Furnace Trail, the Shades Creek Greenway, Homewood Forest Preserve, and Wildwood Preserve.

The Shades Creek Greenway is one of the most popular trails in the RRTS. In a 2017 survey conducted by FLT, there were estimated to be 150,000 users a year, with 36 zip codes represented on the trail in a 10-hour period. It is easily accessible to many schools, businesses, and neighborhoods, and is even designated an Alabama Birding Trail. Currently, the Shades Creek Greenway runs for 2.5 miles along Lakeshore Drive, where it meets the Jemison Trail, but it will soon extend to a total of nearly 4 miles. The trail will eventually connect to Red Mountain Park in the east via Corridor G of the recently released Red Rock Action Plan (RRAP) and to Ruffner Mountain in the west via Corridor F, creating the southwestern portion of the RRAP’s proposed 36-mile trail loop around the greater Birmingham metropolitan area.

To find a trail in the Red Rock Trail System®, click the link below.

Find a Trail

The Valley of Shades Creek and the precipitous north-westerly face of Shades Mountain offer perhaps the best opportunity for enclosed natural landscape and inspiring broad outlook in the Birmingham district…Its wild character must be faithfully guarded against all encroachments.” – Olmsted Brothers, A Park System for Birmingham, 1925.


Distracted by Alabama: Tangled Threads of Natural History, Local History, and Folklore by James Seay Brown Jr.
Shades Creek: Flowing Through Time by the Birmingham Historical Society


To support FLT’s efforts in the Shades Creek Watershed, follow the link below to donate.