Thirteen routes that lead birders in canoes through the upper Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, known for its abundance of waterfowl, waders, raptors, and songbirds.
By Eric Soehren | Published: 10/16/2012
In 1999, Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust purchased a significant portion of the upper Mobile-Tensaw River Delta for conservation and public outdoor recreational opportunities. The delta is known for its rich biological diversity, particularly an abundance of birds, including waterfowl, waders, raptors, and songbirds.
To experience the delta fully, I recommend devoting a day to canoeing along one of the 13 established routes that make up the Bartram Canoe Trail. Paddling is easy and enables you to enjoy birds in surroundings that evoke a sense of early exploration. My favorite of the six launch sites is the French’s Lake Coastal Access Kiosk and Landing, which provides access to two creeks. When paddling in the spring and summer months, I regularly flush waders and ducks, hear singing Swainson’s Warblers and many other breeders, and often see Swallow-tailed Kites overhead.
Although canoeing is ideal, it isn’t required to enjoy the area’s birds. You can also explore the adjacent piney uplands or walk or bike a gated road accessing the upper delta when water levels are low. — Eric Soehren
Eric Soehren is an ecologist, the manager of the Elhew Field Station, a facility of the Alabama State Lands Division, and a past president of the Alabama Ornithological Society.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Cypress-tupelo swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, natural levees, oxbow lakes, sloughs, backwater streams, adjacent piney uplands.
Flat. One gravel road leads into delta.
Winter: Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler. Spring: Yellow-throated and Swainson’s Warblers, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Acadian Flycatcher, White- and Red-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Summer: Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Tricolored Heron, Prothonotary Warbler. Fall: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Spotted Sandpiper, White Ibis, wintering sparrows. Year-round: Belted Kingfisher, woodpeckers, Fish Crow, Great Egret, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Common Yellowthroat.
When to go
Parking, kiosk and canoe launch, marked canoe trails, and designated campsites (riverside and floating platforms) for overnight stays. Restaurant, gas station, and country store located 14 miles to the south in Stockton.
Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust property. No access or usage fees. Overnight camping on floating platforms along the Bartram Canoe Trail requires reservation and nightly fee, payable at www.bartramcanoetrail.com.
Check water levels before you go at http://water.sam.usace.army.mil or http://al.water.usgs.gov or call (888) 771-4601. Wear lightweight, breathable clothing and bring plenty of water and snacks. If you’re canoeing, bring a float bag to keep valuables dry, and prepare for the unexpected.
For more info
Alabama State Lands Division, (800) LAND-ALA.
Bartram Canoe Trail
Splinter Hill Bog
On County Rd. 47, two miles west of I-65 exit 45. Specialties include Bachman’s Sparrow year-round; Henslow’s and Le Conte’s Sparrows in winter.
Take Hwy. 225 south 6.5 miles from I-65, turn right onto Cliff’s Landing Rd., and go west to river. One of the best spots in the state for Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites.