Sometimes it's easy to take our proximity to the waterfront for granted. We are fortunate enough to have Mobile Bay and The Gulf of Mexico right at our fingertips, with so many different rivers, bays and creeks flowing from all directions in between. After being away from the Mobile area for nearly seven years, I have tried to do as much exploring around our waterways as possible since I moved back. “Exploring”, however, is no easy task. Therefore, each paddling excursion is always celebrated with fresh seafood and a cold alcoholic beverage. These are just a handful of my favorite trips taken so far, but the bucket list keeps growing longer.
1. Take a Plunge
Just southeast of Fairhope lies the charming, sleepy town of Magnolia Springs. Begin your journey in the parking lot at Jesse’s Restaurant, where a narrow wooded pathway leads down to the bank of the Magnolia River. From small, cold-spring filled channels where no motorboats can pass through, to wide and calm stretches of the river where mailboxes line the docks and rope swings dangle from ancient oak trees, Magnolia River is a paddler’s dream. If you’re feeling brave, take a plunge into the legendary “cold hole”, the perfect way to cool off during a hot summer’s day of paddling. Afterward, follow the locals inside to Jesse’s for a round of appetizers and cocktails.
2. Creek to Creek
The ultimate 3-for-1 paddling special: Fly Creek, Rock Creek, and Mobile Bay all in the same trip. Start your trip at Fly Creek Marina and hug the shorelines of the bay, heading north until you arrive at Rock Creek, a small and shady creek only accessible by water or private land. Once you’ve explored enough, turn around and head back up the bay to Fly Creek, where you’ll see locals soaking up the peaceful creekside lifestyle however they choose. If you don’t mind some maneuvering around logs and branches, channel your inner-Columbus and continue paddling past any sign of civilization for a true wilderness experience. Once you feel accomplished with your navigational abilities, paddle out just before sunset to enjoy the view with a signature “gulf snapper throat” and a specialty cocktail from Sunset Pointe at Fly Creek Marina.
3. Head North
Tired of the I-10 eastbound beach goers clogging up our beloved tunnel? No problem, head north instead to Chickasaw Creek. Begin your journey at Williams Brooks Park, a spacious park with a boat launch and pavilion located next to the Highway 43 bridge. With very little boat traffic and several routes to choose from, this is a perfect destination for those who like to stray from the beaten path and explore different inlets and tributaries. Though we were only paddling for a few hours, it could easily be made into an all day adventure. Afterward, enjoy ice cold beers (if you have any left) from your cooler under the shady pavilion at William Brooks Park.
4. Go with the Flow
So you’re more of a point to point paddler than an out and back? No problem, we’ve got you covered. Take two cars and follow the crisp, cool current of the Fish River. Begin your journey with a leap from the rope swing at Bohemian Park before making your way downstream. Enjoy the winding, tranquil upper stretches of the river for the first half of the trip, with no motorboats anywhere in sight. The current gradually begins to stop and the river starts to widen as you journey down the river. If you want to deviate from the main course, there are several smaller intersecting creeks that make for great additional side trips. Leave your other car at Big Daddy’s Bar and Grill and reward yourself with a bowl of gumbo and a margarita on the riverfront when it’s all said and done.
5. No boat? No problem.
Tucked away from the tourist ridden, traffic filled Highway 59 is the laid-back, fishing community of Bon Secour. Large shrimp boats line the water’s edge and residents leisurely go about their business in this quaint and historic little town. Start your journey at Aquila Seafood and wander up the quiet, remote waters of the Bon Secour. If you don’t own a boat, start further up the river with Beach n’ River Canoe and Kayak Rentals, a local outfitter that offers both rentals and guided tours. Finish your day with cold beers and raw oysters on the shaded patio at the Tin Top Restaurant & Oyster Bar.
Beach 'n' River Canoe and Kayak Rentals • 18743 Keller Rd., Foley. 971-8359
Have another paddling trip you recommend? Share it with us below.
Text and photos by Hanlon Walsh