In Part 1 of this blog, I mentioned how my paddling bucket list keeps growing longer. The longer I’ve been back home, the more I find myself endlessly staring at maps of our local waterways. In an area where motorboats largely reign supreme on the open water, the amount of rivers, creeks and bayous available to explore continue to surprise me. From the swampy waters of the Delta and tranquil creeks of Foley to quiet stretches of the Western Shore’s most well-known rivers and bayous, this list encompasses a wide range of waterways for any type of paddler out there. And as always, each trip isn’t fully complete without a celebratory visit to the nearby neighborhood watering hole.
1. Be an Eco-Tourist
Sometimes all it takes to discover a new area is just a simple turn off the main highway. As we found out, there’s a lot more to Foley than the outlet mall and the beach express that unfortunately it’s better known for. Just off the Foley Beach Express and down County Road 20 lies Wolf Creek Park, a quaint and fairly new establishment as part of a movement by the City of Foley to promote eco-tourism. At the launching area, paddle out of the small cove and head North until you arrive at the intersection of two creeks: Wolf Creek and Sandy Creek. Both creeks are typical of many smaller waterways found throughout Baldwin County: peaceful, narrow and shady with cool temperatures and rope swings abound. This is truly one of Baldwin County’s best kept secrets, but maybe not for long. Once you feel paddled out, head to Wolf Bay Lodge for their famous “Cha Cha” dip and a salty margarita to complete your Foley fill.
Still feeling adventurous? Be sure to check out Graham Creek Nature Preserve while you’re in the area.
2. Discover the Delta
Despite being a Mobile native, I can only count the number of times I’ve been back in the Delta on one hand. And though I’ve barely even cracked the surface in exploring America’s Amazon, I’m already planning my next trip back. If you’re a Delta newcomer like myself, there’s no better place to get your feet wet than paying a meager $3 launching fee at Buzbee’s Camp, located just off of the Highway 225 bridge in Spanish Fort. Start your journey by heading east up the wide, quiet waters of Bay Minette Creek, and keep an eye out for several small, side channels to explore along the way. Unfortunately, we were limited on time and turned around once we reached Wilkins Creek, but the Delta leaves a lifetime worth of discovery. On your way back, paddle past the launching point and under the bridge into the calm, marshy waters of the Bay Minette Basin just in time for sunset. Then, reward yourself for a long day’s worth of paddling with fresh seafood, cold beer and live music on the deck at the Bluegill Restaurant.
Want to dig deeper into the Delta? The Alabama Scenic River Trail is offering a guided tour by Bob Andrews from Rice Creek to Indian Mounds and back on Sunday October 11. Click here for more information.
3. Keep it Local
OK, enough with Baldwin County for now. Let’s give some credit to the waterways along our beloved, yet often overlooked Western Shore. And what better place to start than the river that flows through Mobile’s very own backyard. For a $5 launching fee, embark on your journey at the River Shack just next to the Dog River Bridge. Head west around the bend as you admire the impressive fleet of boats at the Dog River Marina before making your trek north across the open water. Once you reach the other side, continue paddling as the river narrows and make your way into Perch Creek. The sounds of motors begin to fade in the background as you wind around the open creek waters, surrounded by abundant marshland and pine trees in the distance. The water gradually narrows and straightens with several different routes to choose from. After you explore each direction, finish your afternoon with drinks on the River Shack patio while you watch the boats speed in from the Bay.
Want to get involved? Become a member or volunteer with Dog River Clearwater Revival to help maintain a healthy Dog River for all of us to to enjoy.
4. Search for Solitude
Though it’s hard not to love the plethora of boats, unique docks and picturesque houses that make up the distinct character of Fowl River, it might not be the first place that comes to mind if you’re looking for complete solitude. Well, at least not the Fowl River you’re probably familiar with. Leave the people behind and head to Memories Fishing Camp, a low key joint where a $5 launching fee is your ticket to tranquility on the Upper Fowl River. From the launching area, paddle north and explore these peaceful waters on your own terms. When the river is no longer navigable, turn around and slowly make your way back into civilization. As you head south from the starting point, the river gradually winds and widens, while offering you a glimpse into why so many people proudly call this place their home. After you pick your dream house, call it a day and head over to the Pelican Reef Restaurant for their famous garlic crab claws and a glass of wine to wash it down.
5. Boat Through the Bayou
Whether you prefer shrimping and shipbuilding or creek swimming and rope swinging, this paddling destination offers a little something for everyone in the boat. Head south to the “Seafood Capital of Alabama” where Forrest and Bubba made their mark, the peaceful little fishing town of Bayou La Batre. Begin your paddle at the public launching area where the bayou meets Portersville Bay before making your way up the bayou. Shipbuilders with hard hats diligently work away while fisherman on massive shrimp boats set out for another day on the job. The real highlight here are the shrimp boats of all colors, shapes, and sizes that tower along both sides of the bayou. Boat names ranging from “Boss Man” and “Mighty Tide” to “Thanh Liem” and “Minh-Mai” remind you of the rich cultural diversity that Bayou La Batre has to offer. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see one of the boats pass under the bayou’s famous vertical lift bridge. If shrimp boats and shipyards aren’t your thing, take a detour from the industrial bayou to Carls Creek, where excellent swimming and a massive rope swing await. At the end of the day, quench your American or Asian hunger cravings with a stop at Von’s Market & Eatery.
Already planning your paddling trip to Bayou La Batre? Join the Bayou La Batre-Coden Historical Foundation for its annual “Paddle Bayou La Batre” event on Saturday October 10. Click here for more information.
Text and photos by Hanlon Walsh