I Want To Go Kayaking

Take to the water with a new perspective from the seat of a kayak.

Photo by Kathy Hicks

Mobile is wet. Very wet. It is, in fact, the wettest city on the U.S. mainland, with an average annual rainfall of 66.1 inches. With this propensity for a regular drenching, and those environs to the north of us as well, our region abounds with rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, sloughs, bays and bayous. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is the second largest in the nation. Our estuaries are rich, lush, subtropical places teeming with all manner of wildlife and plant species. The tranquil, slow-moving waters that languish against the banks provide so much to see, but whizzing by with a four-stroke outboard behind at top speed may not be the best way to enjoy the scenery. “Slow and low” is the optimum mode to take in the amazing array of flora and fauna down here. In most of Mobile’s waterways, one will likely be treated to all types of waterfowl and shore birds as well as osprey and eagles, nested atop solitary trees in the marsh. If lucky, you might catch the glimpse of an alligator sunning itself. Some of our local rivers are home to seasonal pods of manatees that have migrated up from Crystal River in Florida. Our waters are the perfect place for a relaxing paddle where a more silent running gets you closer to nature’s offerings. A kayak is the perfect vehicle. 

The benefits of kayaks and kayaking are many. With a draft in inches not feet, shallow water is not the obstacle for a kayak as it is for other watercraft, so you’re able to venture deeper into the wild. It’s also much more stable than a canoe (“That would have been nice to know” said the ill-fated canoeists in the movie “Deliverance”). The sit-in type of kayak, as distinct from the sit-on type is, as expected, a bit more stable as your center of gravity is lower.

With kayaking, one gets a modest amount of aerobic exercise (depending on your speed and length of travel) without all that pounding on your joints. If you get a rack, you can throw them on top of your car and head on tons of trips. Affordability is a big draw, too, as single-seat kayaks range from as little as $99 – $199 for 6-foot youth kayaks for kids, to between $250 to $650 on average for the 10 – 12 foot size. Some fishing kayaks have hands-free pedal propulsion, some do not. The foot pedal-driven kind are about 15% more in price. Sea kayaks are longer, are sit-in, some even have a keel and, as the name, implies are meant for rougher Bay and Gulf waters. Two-person tandem kayaks will fetch a higher price as one would expect. From $99 kids crafts to $8,647 handcrafted wooden kayaks, there are price points for everyone.

A kayak is the more environmentally friendly choice, as well, where the only fuel you’re burning is that stack of pancakes you had for breakfast. If fishing is your game, a kayak can literally put you on the fish. The foot pedals in a fishing kayak means you’ll have your hands free to call your friends to recant the monster that just got away. 

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Now for the details of where to go on all sides of the Bay and beyond.


Dog River
Dog River is an urban watershed with a large number of tributaries that make for a great paddle. It is home to Mobile’s Dog River Scenic Blueway that features a number of kayak launch sites and a variety of river, creek, bay and bayou experiences. 

Perch Creek Landing
On McNally Park West is an improved kayaking route courtesy of the City of Mobile. Raising the Dauphin Island Parkway bridge over Perch Creek to a height where kayakers can paddle under it and along the creek has allowed paddlers to reach Dog River.

Dr. Mimi Fearn, a retired professor of geography at the University of South Alabama, is an avid kayaker and hosts paddles twice a week along Halls Mill Creek and the Harrison Preservation set aside acreage. While some people prefer mountains and others oceans, for Fearn, it’s the waters of these backwoods bayous, creeks and estuaries that “speaks to her soul” and gives her and her fellow kayakers a bit of respite from the hectic pace of modern life. Dedicated to keeping these waters pristine, she also manages a team of volunteer water monitors that test and report on water quality at various points on Dog River.

Arlington Park
Also close to Dog River on Mobile Bay is Arlington Park near the Brookley Aeroplex which has a kayak launch (albeit one available at high tide) to get out into the Bay.

Fowl River
Just over 14 miles long, located in south Mobile County is Fowl River, where the best kayaking is on West Fowl River. That tributary’s brackish waters are more tranquil and the wildlife closer at hand. The recently renovated Memories Fish Camp has a launch for easy access. Kathy Martin, who resides on the river, favors King’s Bayou for her paddles and loves the chance to move along the shoreline sighting kingfishers, herons, wood ducks, red-winged blackbirds and osprey. For her, the experience “becomes a sort of meditation.” Indeed, “quiet solitude” is commonly reported by kayakers as one of the most rewarding experiences coming from a slow paddling of our tranquil waters. Henry David Thoreau must have been on to something those many years ago.

Dauphin Island
Dauphin Island has several kayaking spots that are more “open water” kayaking experiences. Coming off the Dauphin Island Bridge onto the island, just on the right there is a launch spot which provides a nice paddle to Little Dauphin Island. A new kayaking opportunity may be in the making as a project underway to build an earthen protective breakwater barrier from the ship channel dredging just off DIP up to Cedar Point will create a languid, lagoon-like body of water out of the way of any wave action. Stay tuned.

Bayou Heron
Just west of the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge into Moss Point, Mississippi, is Bayou Heron, a nice paddle from the Bayou Heron Landing will take you out to the Mississippi Sound and back east among the small marsh islands in Bayou La Fourche Bay in the Alabama waters.


Bon Secour Creek
Crossing the mouth of Mobile Bay on our kayaking spots tour where the torpedoes were damned, we go full speed ahead turning up north to the Bon Secour Creek which boasts some nice river paddling along this historic little fishing town. Beach ‘n’ River Canoe & Kayak Rentals is a seasonal outfitter that offers both kayak rentals and guided tours. 

Weeks Bay
Heading north up to Weeks Bay we find its tributaries, the Magnolia River and Fish River, both with kayaking opportunities. Located in the town of Magnolia Springs, the Magnolia River is spring-fed with cold-water streams to navigate onto wider river waters for paddle that provides a pleasant respite from the summer’s heat. The mouth of Fish River is located at the northern tip of Weeks Bay and the kayak route offers a number of small narrow creeks that spin off the main channel such as: Turkey Branch, Green Branch, Waterhole Branch, Barrier Branch, Cowpen Creek, Still Branch and Pensacola Branch, all with varying degrees of navigability. It’s recommended that you take two vehicles, one where you start your excursion at Bohemian Park in Fairhope and the other down near your end point “pull out” choice on the river. 

Perdido River Canoe Trail
If you head east from Fish River, you’ll find this 19-mile stretch of the Perdido River in Baldwin County. This portion makes up the Alabama-Florida state line where the kayaking in the tannin-colored waters between white sand bars is splendid. Kayakers can stay overnight by making reservations on the trail’s website.

Photo by Kathy Hicks


To experience a paddle among the lotus pads and blossoms and the shore birds, head up Highway 225 in Bay Minette along the Tensaw River to launch from Blakeley State Park Kayak Launch or just further north up to Cloverleaf Landing Boat Launch to disembark.

Bartram Canoe Trails
The Upper Bartram Canoe Trail is system for kayakers and canoeists that was created by and is now managed by, the Alabama State Lands Division. It consists of six day-use trails and six overnight trails. Two of the campsites are on land and four are floating platforms for those on overnight routes need to be reserved. The Lower Bartram Canoe Trail features four raised overnight use camping shelters on the lower delta’s east side. The shelters can be accessed from both the Blakeley State Park Kayak Launch and the Five Rivers Alabama Delta Resource Center.

Richardson Island Trail
Local milliner and kayak enthusiast, Debbie Clolinger of Deb’s Designs in Mobile, and her kayaker extraordinaire husband, legendary Mobile bon vivant Ben Hill, are fonts of knowledge on kayaking in our region. They have launched from 24 different spots from a wide variety of Mobile Bay locales and have never had a bad paddle, save one weather anomaly and having to pass in front of a 15-foot alligator sunning himself. They’ve kayaked Fowl River, Dog River, and the Baldwin County side of the Delta from Busbee Landing, Hurricane Landing, Jemison Landing and Latham Landing, to name a few. Their favorite paddle is the Richardson Island Trail, leaving out of Rice Creek Landing north of Stockton along Rice Creek and then out on to Briar Lake and Tensaw Lake circling Richardson Island is, when the water is clear, a little piece of heaven. Was it in their watery sojourns where they found true love? Who knows; but they do certainly share, like many kayakers, a love and gratitude for the bountiful nature we enjoy in our wet little corner of the globe.

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