Alabama Byways Welcome to the Alabama Scenic Byways Website Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:06:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Alabama’s Coastal Connection Sun, 27 Jan 2013 15:27:44 +0000

“Alabama’s southern tip is one of those places where even first-time visitors find a connection. Here, they experience the link between the traditions of the Deep South and a more laid back island lifestyle; between the wildlife of thousands of acres of preserved lands and the good life of a beachfront vacation; between the gun ships of past naval battles and the countless recreational opportunities of the present and the dedication to con Alabama's Eastern Shore servation methods for the future.

Learn more about the Coastal Connection on their website:

Visitors make their own connections, too. Poking their toe into the sun-warmed Gulf of Mexico, they feel it. Wandering the halls of a 150-year-old brick fort and imagining the voices of soldiers who inhabited it, they understand it. Standing motionless among the trees to catch a glimpse of a colorful neo-tropical migrant bird, they recognize it. Choosing a charter captain or a seafood retailer because they’ve ‘been around these parts forever,’ they’ve made the connection.

click map for larger version

click map for larger version

Alabama’s Coastal Connection is a treasure to those who have discovered it and a unique asset to the state. The waters of Alabama’s Gulf Coast create its strongest connections. Some people are drawn here by the water. Others are held by it. While the natural, recreational and scenic values of the Gulf, bays, lagoons and bayous cannot be disputed, it is their cultural value that started it all. Making a living from the waters is a tradition that is alive and well here. Shell mounds hold the stories of early inhabitants who lived off the bountiful waters. Shrimp and charter boats are captained by those who still make their living that way. And research vessels carry those dedicated to understanding the waters and preserving the ecosystems that are so dependent upon them.

Historic Forts Gaines and Morgan stand united around the mouth of Mobile Bay. In earlier times they stood guard against enemies and housed soldiers prepared for battle. Today, the brick and wooden fortresses tell the stories of those battles and those soldiers to the many visitors who step onto their grounds. Further east in Orange Beach, more history can be found at the Indian and Sea Museum which chronicles the lives and ways of natives and early settlers. In Foley, the original character of the town built by those whose livelihoods were as much related to land as to the sea can still be seen in the preserved buildings and museums.

The Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and Gulf State Park provide more than12,000 acres of protected lands along the coast. Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of only 25 such reserves nationally and is literally where the soil meets the sea. These vast natural assets are complimented by smaller municipal parks and trails and by the sites along the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Indigenous wildlife and seasonal migratory birds are common sites as are varieties of native foliage. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge alone boasts habitats including beaches and sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, scrub forests, fresh water swamps and uplands. Volunteer opportunities and interpretive exhibits at these sites, as well as at the Estuarium on Dauphin Island, are excellent ways for visitors to make a connection and to get involved in good stewardship of our natural resources. (see the Coastal Birding Trail website for 50 sites, many along the byway, where you can find amazing wildlife, including birds!)

The natural beauty of these and other assets on Alabama’s Gulf Coast provide the setting for those who enjoy its scenic aspects, as well as its recreational ones. While enjoying a stroll along the shore at sunset or a quiet sail on the back waters suits some, others may opt for more exciting recreational opportunities. Golf and offshore fishing are popular pastimes. And here, dining is definitely recreation! Seafood is standard fare and can be prepared any way imaginable. A variety of accommodations are available, making the shore accessible to those looking for a campsite, a family-friendly beach house, a luxury hotel or anything in between.

More than six million visitors come to Alabama’s Gulf Coast each year, and they come back again and again. Some return to enjoy different activities at different times of year. – Special events offer a wide range of experiences. Music festivals, historic re-enactments, sporting events and celebrations of seafood are just a few. – Others return to the same spot, year after year, starting their own traditions here. Strengthening their connection to this paradise found.

Whether they are families on the annual vacation, couples seeking a secluded getaway, birders searching for that rare sighting, or history buffs combing the forts, they’ll find a connection here. And some will build their own. Alabama’s Coastal Connection has much to share and it beckons travelers to learn more about The Waters, Ways and Wildlife of Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

This highway, and the waterways that connect it, are significant to the state of Alabama for many reasons: National Historic Landmarks of Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines. The protected lands of the Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Gulf State Park. Beaches that are the number one tourist destination in the state. A unique coastal culture. Numerous recreational opportunities.

The Byway’s storyhas  several chapters: Connecting with Nature, Connecting with the Past, Connecting the Land and Sea, and Connecting with Each Other. Through these stories and through the preservation, improvement and promotional opportunities this designation affords, more people can learn of Alabama’s Coastal Connection and of The Waters, Ways and Wildlife of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, ensuring the region’s continued connection to the future.”

Learn more about Alabama’s Coastal Connection on their website (includes videos, calendar of events, and interactive map, photos and more)



The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway Tue, 01 Jan 2013 18:41:13 +0000

Shown above: Talladega Scenic Drive in brown (lower) and Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway in Green.

The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway passes through some of the most scenic areas of the State of Alabama.  The natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains provides a scenic backdrop for travelers on the byway as the route winds along lush vegetation, interesting geologic formations and quaint historic rural communities.  Approximately 80 miles in length, the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway is located in the northeastern part of the state.  It traverses through portions of Cleburne, Calhoun, Cherokee and DeKalb Counties, connecting Interstate 20 near Heflin with Interstate 59 at Fort Payne.

From south to north, the byway follows Alabama Highway 9 until it intersects with U.S. Highway 78 on the outskirts of Heflin.  From this intersection the byway heads west (along US-78/SR-9) through the Talladega National Forest until Alabama Highway 9 diverges northward through the community of White Plains, the Choccolocco State Forest, and follows along the Dugger Mountain Scenic Drive.  In the town of Piedmont, the byway crosses the Chief Ladiga Trail and U.S. Highway 278.  The byway continues northward along Alabama Highway 9 through the community of Ellisville, traversing a rural landscape including cotton fields, and then heads to Centre.  The byway goes through Centre, then departs Alabama Highway 9 and follows the course of U.S. Highway 411 west to the town of Leesburg.  Here, the byway picks up Alabama Highway 273 and heads in a northeasterly fashion through a rural landscape of plantations and cotton fields set within deep mountain valleys.  At the community of Blanche, the byway departs Alabama Highway 273 and courses west on Alabama Highway 35.  From here the byway ascends Lookout Mountain and passes through the Little River Canyon National Preserve.  The byway then descends Lookout Mountain and passes through the town of Fort Payne, to its northern terminus at I-59.

Attractions Near the Byway

Cheaha Wilderness Area and State Park
Contains Cheaha State Park and part of the Pinhoti Trail. Best known for its elevated terrain and overlooks with panoramic views as well as numerous outdoor recreational activities and facilities Cheaha Mountain is the highest point in the State of Alabama.

Talladega Scenic Drive
Scenic Drive that diverges from the Byway west of Heflin and runs southward, offering scenic views and the chance for travelers to view the local landscape.

Loyd Owens Canoe Trail
Follows 44 miles of the Tallapoosa River in Cleburne County through forests and farmland. The canoe trail offers five ramps so that people who want to float only a portion of the trail have easy access. The canoe trail begins near County Road 49, between the Muscadine and Plainview communities, and ends at U.S. Highway 431 near Hollis Crossroads. The canoe ramps are marked with brown signs at their entrance from nearby roads.

Cleburne County Courthouse
This domed neoclassical building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Heflin Historic District
This is a local historic district that contains a number of commercial, financial, and government buildings. Most of the buildings were built between the 1890s and the 1940s and represent a variety of architectural styles.

Pinhoti National Recreational Trail System
This trail winds through rugged pine and hardwood forests, runs along ridge tops, and passes through shady hollows and along mountain streams.

Anniston Museum of Natural History
Museum featuring Regar-Werner bird exhibit with more than 400 specimens including endangered and extinct; full-scale model of an Albertosaurus and a meteorite; Egyptian mummies; and changing exhibition gallery. Also has nature trails, and picnic facilities.

Choccolocco Community and Choccolocco Valley
Historic Valley, surrounded by mountains. Was Creek Indian village in 1832, settlers arrived in 1834, homes built in 1840, school in 1876.

Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area
Managed by the Alabama Forestry Commission, the Choccolocco Management Area contains recreational opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, and hunting as well as a nature preserve.

Frog Pond Wildlife Preserve
Wildlife preserve and observation area located on a two acre seasonal wetland.

Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge
Contains best remaining example of a mountain longleaf pine ecosystem. One of the last remaining old growth mountain longleaf pine forest in the world. Numerous trees over 200 years old.

Choccolocco State Forest
This 4,488 acre tract is part of the Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area. The forest contains the Frog Pond Wildlife Preserve and Observation Area (two-acre seasonal wetland used for nature study and research), and is one of the most scenic forests in the south.

Talladega National Forest
The Talladega National Forest is a vast area of managed forest that contains a number of recreational opportunities such as hiking and camping.


Dugger Mountain Wilderness Area
Located in the Talladega National Forest. Second highest peak in Alabama. Contains over 900 species of plants and animals including many rare or threatened.

Piedmont Commercial and Historic Districts
Piedmont was originally called Hollow Stump and then Cross Plains. The town of Piedmont was settled sometime in the 1850s. In 1868 the Selma, Rome, and Dalton Railroad connected the town to the outside world. Piedmont grew in size during the boom period of the 1890s and into the first quarter of the twentieth century. Today, the town of Piedmont contains a number of commercial buildings, churches, and schools that date from the first half of the twentieth century. Surrounding the downtown area are neighborhoods of Victorian era and early twentieth century homes.

Chief Ladiga Trail
Old railroad bed converted to 33 miles of bicycle trail. Chief Ladiga was the Creek Indian chief who signed the Cusseta Treaty giving most of the land in the area to the United States.


Cross Plains Depot and Museum / Southern Railway
Depot built in 1888. This Depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Piedmont Methodist Church
Attractive Methodist Church built in 1916.

Goshen Valley Cemetery
This cemetery, located on the west side of Alabama Highway 9, contains some interesting examples of late nineteenth and early twentieth century funerary architecture, including simple rock headstones (Figure 52). The most notable features are the Woodmen of the World markers.

Goshen Memorial
On the 27th of March 1994 a tornado destroyed the Goshen United Methodist Church during Palm Sunday services, killing twenty people. The memorial, incorporating the footprint of the building, is dedicated to the victims of this tragedy.

Terrapin Creek
A major stream in Cherokee County, Terrapin Creek contains great natural beauty. It flows particularly close to the byway at Roberts and Coloma Mountains. There is a pull-off on a county road which allows access to the creek. At this location Terrapin Creek flows over some shallow shoals and along a small rock bluff. Outfitters in the area have canoes and rafts for rent and tours are available.

Historic Centre
The county seat of Cherokee County, Centre was first settled in the 1840s. The main street, along U.S. Highway 411 and Alabama Highway 9, contains some very good examples of early to mid-twentieth century commercial architecture. Today, Centre serves as the southern gateway to Weiss Lake and its recreational opportunities.

Cherokee County Historical Museum
Houses more than 20,000 artifacts from the past 150 years. Includes pictures, letters, farming tools, house wares of local farms and industries.

Weiss Lake & Dam
Weiss Lake was created in the late 1950s by the Alabama Power Company, Weiss Dam impounds the Coosa River, forming some 450 miles of shoreline and covering some 30,000 acres. The dam and hydroelectric plant are located near Leesburg. The dam can be viewed to the west of the byway before entering the town. This vast lake offers a number of recreational opportunities and scenic views of the surrounding mountains, and is known as the “Crappie capital of the world”.

Cherokee Rock Village
A collection of large boulders located on Lookout Mountain in Cherokee County near Leesburg. Contains scenic rock formations, caves and trails.

Yellow Creek Falls
The scenery around Yellow Creek Falls is stunning with the high rock bluffs of Shinbone Ridge overlooking Yellow Creek (now part of Weiss Lake). The stone, brick, and concrete piers of a railroad bridge are all that remain of the Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia Railroad line built in the 1890s. Just up the mountain are the waterfalls themselves. There is a boat launch and other recreational opportunities available in the Yellow Creek Falls area.

Cornwall Furnace and Park
Civil war era furnace and half acre park with a 3,000 foot nature trail and picnic pavilion. The furnace was built in 1862 and supplied iron to the Noble Brothers Company of Rome, Georgia, one of the south’s largest munitions manufacturers. As such it was a military target and was damaged on two occasions. The last was by General Sherman in 1864, who was in pursuit of General John Bell Hood after the fall of Atlanta. Following the war, it was the second furnace to go back into production, and finally ceased operations in 1875.

Little River community
Where the Byway crosses Little River one can look west to Lookout Mountain and view the mouth of Little River Canyon. Located at this crossing is the Little River community with its old homes, agricultural fields, churches, and cemeteries.


Little River Canyon National Preserve This component of the National Park Service is the highlight of the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway. The Little River is one of the few river systems in the country that forms and flows atop a mountain. This 14,000 acre preserve contains the most extensive canyon and gorge systems in the eastern United States. It is also home to many rare, threatened, and endangered species of plants and animals. Recreational opportunities include hiking, sightseeing, picnicking, whitewater rafting, and rock-climbing. Sightseeing highlights include Canyon Rim Drive, Little River Falls, and Needle Rock.

Pleasant Hill Church and Cemetery
This is an outstanding example of a rural church and cemetery found throughout Appalachia. It has a front entrance, set within the tower that serves as a base for the slender steeple. A series of 9/9 double hung sash windows illuminate the simple interior. Across the highway, also set on a knoll, is the associated cemetery. This church appears to be eligible for the NRHP. The cemetery began in 1841 with the graves of two slaves. It is listed in the Alabama Tapestry of Historic Places.

Canyon Rim Parkway
22-mile scenic drive following the Little River Canyon National Preserve in northeastern Alabama.

Desoto State Park
An operating partner with the National Park Service, this state park contains outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, bird watching, fishing, boating, and the one hundred ten foot Desoto Falls. A small stone lodge and rustic cabins are also available for travelers.

Historic Fort Payne
The area around Fort Payne was settled as early as the 1730s, when the Cherokees established a village there. During the latter part of the eighteenth century and first part of the nineteenth century, a mission was established to bring Christianity to the area. Clustered around this mission were a few hundred settlers. During the Cherokee removal to Oklahoma in the 1830s, Captain John Payne established a stockade fort next to the settlement. From that point the fort and settlement area was called Fort Payne.

Alabama Fan Club and Alabama Museum
The country musical group Alabama hails from Fort Payne. Recipient of a number of awards, including two Grammies, Alabama has sold over 65 million albums and has had 42 Number One singles.

Benge Route Trail of Tears Historic Marker
Marks the route that John Benge (a Cherokee leader) took when he led over 1,000 Cherokee’s out of Fort Payne to Oklahoma. A motorcycle ride is held every year commemorating the Cherokee Indian heritage and all Indians who where forced to walk the Trail of Tears.

Original Fort in Fort Payne
Army encampment, was used as a removal site and internment camp for 900 Cherokees in 1838 when native Americans where marched out of the area.


Fort Payne Main Street Historic District
This NRHP district incorporates Gault Avenue from 2nd Street NE to 2nd Street NW.

Fort Payne Union Park and Hist. Marker
Historic Park in downtown Fort Payne. Contains markers about Fort Payne’s Indian and Civil War history.

Fort Payne Depot Museum
Built in 1889 of locally quarried sandstone and trimmed in pink granite, this depot building is an outstanding example of the then popular Richardsonian Romanesque style. Contains relics from every war since the Civil War, and thousands of Indian artifacts. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

First Presbyterian Church
Located at 300 Grand Avenue, this late nineteenth century church was built in the Victorian Gothic architectural style. It is listed in the Alabama Tapestry of Historic Places.

Big Mill Antique Landmark and Mall
Antique mall located in the 1889 mill. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Payne Opera House
Built in 1888, this building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

W.B. Davis Hosiery Mill
Built in 1889, this sprawling manufacturing complex is located at 8th Street NE and the railroad tracks. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Payne Boom Town Historic District
Fort Payne Boom Town Historic District. This NRHP district encompasses the 1890s boom town buildings of Fort Payne. It is located roughly along Gault Avenue from 4th Street NE to 6th Street NE.

Lookout Mountain Parkway
Scenic drive that spans three states as it stretches across Lookout Mountain from Gadsden, Alabama to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Additional Sites of Interest

Shady Grove Dude Ranch – Alabama’s only dude ranch. Round-up lodge, farmhouse, horseback riding, wagon rides, and square dancing.

Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort – Snow blowing machines allow Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort to have snow when the temp drops below 28.

DeKalb County Public Lake – 120-acre public lake located on Sand Mountain 1 mile north of Sylvania, Alabama.

Old Union Crossing Bridge – Located at the Shady Grove Dude Ranch near Mentone. The 90-foot long bridge spans the West Fork of Little River.

Mentone/Summer Camps – Provides outdoor summer camps for children. Camps are also available year round for the public.

Sequoyah Caverns – Unique formations, mirrored pools of water, and ancient history.


Barbour County Governors’ Trail Tue, 25 Dec 2012 15:13:54 +0000

Downtown Eufala, Alabama

Downtown Eufala, Alabama

The Barbour County Governors’ Trail was designated by legislative act in 2000 to recognize those from Barbour County who served as Alabama governors. These governors include John Gill Shorter (1861-1863), William Dorsey Jelks (1901-1907), Braxton Bragg Comer (1907-1911), Chauncey M. Sparks (1943-1947), George Corley Wallace (1963-1967, 1971-1979, and 1983-1987), and Lurleen B. Wallace (1967-1968). In addition, Jere Beasley and Charles McDowell also served short terms as acting governors.

The roadways designated as the Governors’ Trail are located within one of the most historic counties in Alabama; Barbour County (See Figure 1). From the early days of Alabama as a territory to the turbulent times of Governor George C. Wallace, Barbour County has been in the forefront of Alabama history and culture. As is mentioned above, Barbour County holds the unique distinction as home for eight of Alabama’s governors. As is discussed within the pages that follow, these governors were often not only in the Alabama spotlight, but the national spotlight as well. Governor Shorter was not only a strong secessionist and states rights advocate, but also a co-author of the confederate constitution. Governor George C. Wallace’s administration is still known by people of all ages for Governor Wallace’s stand at the entrance of the University of Alabama to uphold segregation. The other Barbour County governors played significant roles in issues such as the states education system, railroad regulation, the promotion of farm to market roads for Alabama’s farmers, and the writing of the Alabama constitution of 1901.

octagon houseIn addition to the rich heritage related to former governors, the Governors’ Trail Scenic Byway also offers many other historic, scenic, and recreational resources. A traveler on the Governors’ Trial can visit the Octagon House where Union troops were headquarter during the reconstruction following the Civil War, or visit the site of the Old Franklin Road, the roadway settlers from Georgia used to reach Barbour County at the turn of the 19th century. In addition to the many historic sites along the Trail, travelers can also take advantage of recreational opportunities in the area such as Blue Springs State Park, and Lake Eufaula. Blue Springs State Park features a spring fed swimming pool, picnic and camping grounds as well as a playground. Blue Springs State Park is truly a camper’s paradise. Lake Eufaula offers boating, fishing and many other water related activities.

The Governors’ Trail begins in Clio at the intersection of SR-10 and SR-51 and continues northeast through Louisville to downtown Clayton. The Trail then turns onto State Highway 30 and extends into Eufaula where it turns north at US Highway 431 ending at the Shorter Mansion. The total length of the Trail is approximately 36 miles.


The Black Belt Nature and Heritage Trail Sun, 25 Nov 2012 14:30:15 +0000

The Black Belt Nature and Heritage Trail: The Black Belt is named for the rich black soil that grew superior cotton during the 19th century. The collapse of the plantation economy during the Civil War left a legacy of “soul food” cooking, art fashioned from found materials, vast stretches of pristine river bottom land and, most recently, the Civil Rights Movement.

The people of this remarkable remnant of the Old South invite you to explore what you’ve heard about: Tuskegee Institute, the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma, Gee’s Bend and the famous quilters, quaint shops in Marion, mansions in Demopolis and Greensboro, and candies made by hand at Priester’s Pecans. The terrain formed by the meanderings of the Black Warrior, Tombigbee and Alabama rivers is home to numerous species of flora, birds and other wildlife. Explore the biologically diverse state parks and other natural habitats. Take your time. Spend several days here. Be transported back to an era that you thought had vanished.

Destinations Near the Byway:

Coleman Center for Arts and Culture

Description: The Coleman Center for Arts and Culture has brought the arts to the Black Belt region since the mid-1980s, holding exhibitions, conducting workshops, and sponsoring local festivals and events. You’ll find the work of both regional and nationally recognized artists here. The Center regularly offers workshops in artistic media ranging from ceramics and photography to drawing and knitting. The Center’s goal is to improve the quality of life in the Black Belt region by nurturing creativity and by revitalizing traditional arts, culture, and community. The Center sponsors Black Belt Designs, a non-profit program that empowers Black Belt residents through production of custom-designed clothing and wearable art. The Coleman Center also provides space for town forums and adjoins the city library. Directions: From I-59/20, take exit 8 and drive 2.7 miles south on AL 17 to York. Turn left on Avenue A and travel one block. From US 80, head north on AL 17 for 3.4 miles. Turn right on Avenue A and travel one block.

Access: Mon-Fri 9-4:30 (closed 12-1);
Sat. 9-12; Free
GPS Coordinates: N 32.48461, W 88.29545

Site Contact: Coleman Center for Arts and Culture 630 Avenue A, York, AL 36925

(205) 392-2005,
includes exhibits, adjoins library

Demopolis Historic District-Gaineswood National Historic Site/Bluff Hall

Description: The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America: The Deep South calls Gaineswood “one of the three or four most interesting houses in America.” Owner-architect Nathan Bryan Whitfield built the mansion over a period of eighteen years, from 1843 to 1861. The State of Alabama acquired Gaineswood in 1966, and the Alabama Historical Commission began extensive restoration. The interior is elaborate, containing many original furnishings and some of the finest plasterwork in any 19th-Century residence in the country. Knowledgeable staff lead tours of the site. While at the mansion, pick up a map of historic downtown Demopolis. In Demopolis, be sure to visit historic Bluff Hall at 405 N. Commissioners Ave. Built in 1832, it was modified in 1850 in Greek Revival style. Today it contains area displays, exhibits, and an excellent gift shop with many locally crafted items. Other historic buildings include the renovated Trinity Episcopal Church at 401 North Main Avenue. Dating from 1869, Trinity’s handsome interior is well worth seeing. Directions: From US 80 in Demopolis, head north on US 43 (Cedar St.) for 0.3 miles. Gaineswood is on the right at 805 S. Cedar.

Access: Tue-Fri 9-4; tours on the hour; Fee
GPS Coordinates: N32.50860, W 87.83518
Site Contact: (334) 289-4846

includes gift shop

Bigbee Bottom Trail and Lower Pool

Description: The largest lake in the Black Warrior-Tombigbee system, Demopolis Lake extends 48 miles upriver on the Black Warrior, 53 miles upriver on the Tombigbee, and covers 10,000 acres. The Bigbee Bottom Trail begins near the Demopolis Site Office and winds down to the parking area for the Lower Pool, traversing a variety of habitats, from pine plantation to hardwood bottomlands and bald cypress sloughs. Oaks, hickories, sweetgum, and ash are among the canopy trees. Palmettos and switch cane are common at ground level. From spring through fall, you’ll find many wildflowers blooming along the trail. Watch for the butterflies that feed on the wildflower nectar, as well as many species of dragonflies. Bring your binoculars, as birdlife abounds here, including permanent residents like Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Pileated and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. In spring, watch for returning migrants, including Prothonotary Warblers in the cypress sloughs, Acadian Flycatchers, and Northern Parulas high in the canopy, as well as Hooded Warblers and Kentucky Warblers in the understory. The Lower Pool area offers superb views of the Tombigbee River. Learn more about birding at this Corps of Engineers site here.

Directions: From US 80 in Demopolis on the west side of town, turn north at Maria St. and travel 1.1 miles. Bear left at the fork onto Lock St. continuing 0.5 miles past Foscue Creek Park. Bear right at the fork and travel 0.2 miles, bearing right at a second fork into the entrance to the Demopolis Site Office located 0.3 miles ahead. Visitors can obtain information for the Bigbee Bottom Trail and Lower Pool here, as well as for other recreational areas.

Access: Free, with some fee areas

GPS Coordinates: Demopolis Site Office- N 32.51606, W 87.87435
Site Contact: Demopolis Site Office
384 Resource Management Dr.,
Demopolis, AL 36732-1546

Phone: (334) 289-3540

includes trailer sites, laundry, playgrounds, hunting, rec facilities

Chickasaw State Park

Description: Stretch your legs at Chickasaw State Park, where you’ll find six miles of trails traversing the park’s 520 acres of pine forests and hardwoods. The nature trail is very lightly maintained and a bit of a challenge to find, but your efforts will be well rewarded. Watch for bigleaf magnolia in the understory and catch the fragrance of its huge, ivory flowers in springtime. In fall, its red, cone-shaped fruits ripen, loaded with scarlet seeds that provide food for many songbirds, including Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Red-eyed Vireos, Eastern Towhees, and Eastern Kingbirds.

The park also offers campsites, restrooms, a wading pool, grilling pavilion, playground, picnic areas, and dump station. Just across the highway lies a handicapped-accessible, state-operated hunting area. This state park is also part of the Alabama Birding Trail program.

Directions: From US 80 in Demopolis, head south on US 43 for 10.8 miles. The park is on the left, and the handicapped-accessible hunting area is across the highway.

Access: Free
GPS Coordinates: N 32.36266, W 87.77903
Site Contact: 1 (800) ALA-PARK

includes playground


GPS Coordinates: N 32.40603435, W 87.0201596

The Central Loop begins in Selma, a city steeped in Black Belt cultural heritage. As you enter Selma, you are retracing the course of some of the landmark events in our nation’s history. A city that proudly promotes its history, from long before the Civil War Battle of Selma through the turbulent Voting Rights era, and looks towards the completion of the Interpretive Center on the nation’s only dually designated National Historic Trail and All-American Road. In downtown Selma, you’ll find the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 7, 1965, this bridge gained international attention when Voting Rights activists began a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest discrimination against African-Americans. When marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were attacked by state troopers and the sheriff’s posse. Mounted officers rode into the crowd, beating, kicking and tear-gassing the demonstrators. Televised internationally, the events of “Bloody Sunday” spotlighted the depth of racial intolerance. On March 21, under federal protection, marchers again crossed the Pettus Bridge. Five days later they reached Montgomery, where a crowd of 25,000 joined them en route to the state capitol.

GPS coordinates: N 32.40649, W 87.01900

Near the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, at 1012 Water Ave., the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute tells the story of the historic Selma-to- Montgomery marches. Though the museum contains no flashy exhibits, it packs a powerful punch through photographs and memorabilia chronicling the lives of the individuals who led or participated in the marches. The museum sponsors community events, including the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee held in March of each year to celebrate the struggle to obtain the right to vote.

GPS coordinates: N 32.40616, W 87.01986

Take time to explore the many other heritage sites along Historic Water Avenue. Upon exiting the National Voting Rights Museum, look across to the Harmony Club, a Renaissance Revival structure built as a social club by Selma’s Jewish community in 1909. Next, head left or west to the Bienville Monument, on the bank overlooking the Alabama River where Water Avenue intersects with Lauderdale Street. This monument commemorates D’annville’s mapping of this area in the 1700s. The name “Ecor de Bienville” was changed three additional times, the last being in 1820 when William Rufus King (Alabama’s only US Vice President) named her “Selma,”which means high seat or throne.

GPS coordinates: N 32.40603435, W 87.0201596

Head west towards the Pettus Bridge and you will pass, at the corner, the Selma Times-Journal building which houses the oldest newspaper in Alabama, and exemplifies a typical early 1870s Italianate Victorian storefront. Across this intersection is the site of the anxiously awaited Regional Visitors Information and Interpretive Center for the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail.

Farther east on Water Ave., lies the St. James Hotel, built in 1837. It is the only existing antebellum riverfront hotel in the southeast and features authentic period furnishings in the common areas and reproductions in the guest rooms. It overlooks historic Water Avenue and the beautiful Alabama River and sits on the location of the original 1885 toll bridge. The curved landing, cornerstone and the bridge tender’s cottage are all that remain.

The Old Depot Museum, on the corner of Water Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Street, was built on the site of the Confederate Naval Foundry, which was destroyed by Federal troops during the Battle of Selma in 1865. It was built in 1891 in the Romanesque Revival style of architecture. The museum building houses exhibits covering more than two hundred years of history in the Selma and Dallas county area, including Native American artifacts. Among the museum’s most valuable collections is the Mary Morgan Keipp photographic collection, which depicts the life of sharecroppers near the end of the 19th century. The Black Heritage wing houses a number of artifacts from the Reconstruction era through the 21st century.

GPS coordinates: N 32.40838, W 87.01380

Unlike so many surviving antebellum buildings, the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum, at 109 Union Street, was never a residence. Built in 1847 as a school, it served since that time as a Confederate hospital, the Dallas County Courthouse, a military institute, public hospital, and civic building. The museum contains a variety of displays that reflect its own fascinating history, as well as that of Selma.

GPS coordinates: N 32.40503, W 87.02568

Located on Dallas Avenue / Hwy 22, Old Live Oak Cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic places, provides a permanent residence for some of Selma’s most prominent citizens. It includes a memorial circle where more than 155 Confederate soldiers are buried and the Confederate Monument honors many soldiers killed during the Civil War. Alabama’s only US Vice President and founder of Selma, William Rufus King, Alabama’s first African-American congressman, Benjamin S. Turner, US Senators and Abraham Lincoln’s sisters-in-law are shaded by magnificent 140-year-old trees draped with Spanish moss which make the cemetery lovely place for a peaceful walk.

GPS coordinates: N 32.40529, W 87.03136

Sturdivant Hall, at 713 Mabry Street, is one of the finest examples of Neo-Classical Greek Revival architecture in the country. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 6,000- square-foot mansion is stunning, and the furnishings are even more spectacular. In addition to the main building, the preserved outbuildings include smoke house, dry pantry, wine cellar, kitchen (now a gift shop), servant quarters and carriage house. The grounds are magnificent and include formal gardens, as well as a newly developed antique rose garden.

GPS coordinates: N 32.41291, W 87.02847

Founded in 1787 by African-Americans, the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, at 410 Martin Luther King, Jr. Street, became the organizational base for Voting Rights demonstrations led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and served as the starting place for the Selma to Montgomery marches of March 1965. A National Historic Landmark, the Chapel remains an active church. The Chapel and its monument to Dr. King can be viewed from outside. The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail / All American Road begins at this historic church.

GPS coordinates: N 32.41258, W 87.01551

During the 1960s, Voting Rights organizers used the First Baptist Church, at 709 Martin Luther King, Jr. Street, to gather and disseminate food, clothing, and other supplies to Voting Rights activists. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. frequently spoke here during the height of the Voting Rights movement. Erected in 1894, the building was restored following storm damage, and was rededicated in 1982. A national historic site, it is the starting point for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Street Historic Tour.

GPS coordinates: N 32.41480, W 87.01803

From the First Baptist Church, walk south to follow the Martin Luther King, Jr. Street Historic Walking Tour. In early 1965, Selma was the site of vigorous efforts to overcome the many obstacles facing African-Americans as they attempted to register to vote. Though protesters faced threats, beatings, arrests, and even murder, their perseverance helped secure passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The self-guiding walking tour passes the George Washington Carver Homes, the historic Brown Chapel AME Church, and twenty memorials that tell the story of Selma’s Voting Rights struggle.

GPS coordinates: N 32.41480, W 87.01803


Old Cahawba Archaeological Park

Description: For thousands of years, Native Americans inhabited this area at the confluence of the Cahaba River and the Alabama River. Following the defeat and expulsion of the Creek Nation in 1814, settlers from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas swarmed into the area. Old Cahawba became Alabama’s first capital in 1820. Though the capital was moved to Tuscaloosa just five years later, Old Cahawba continued to prosper as a result of the cotton boom. Following the Civil War, Cahawba declined dramatically and by the end of the 19th century, most of the buildings were in ruin. During the 1900s, nature reclaimed much of the site, and the Alabama Historical Commmission is taking steps to preserve and interpret the site.

Today, the lure of this ghost town—its moss covered trees, Native American artifacts, abandoned streets, flora, artesian wells, imposing brick ruins, and cemeteries—draws many visitors. The welcome center offers interpretive exhibits of Native American artifacts and memorabilia from the town’s settlement heyday. Follow the self-guided nature trail through Old Cahawba’s town commons, and explore the bluffs overlooking the Alabama River.

Directions: From Selma at the intersection of US 80 and AL 22, head west on AL 22 for 8.6 miles. Turn left on CR 9 and travel 3.3 miles to the stop sign. Turn left on CR 2 and travel approximately 1 mile to the visitor center.

Access: Park daily 9-5, welcome center daily 12-5; Donation appreciated

GPS Coordinates: N 32.31963, W 87.10463

Site Contact: Old Cahawba Park, 9518 Cahaba Rd., Orrville, AL 36767

(334) 872-8058,

includes exhibits, interpretive materials, and self-guided nature trail

Also part of the Alabama Birding Trails Black Belt Birding Trail:

Kenan’s Mill

Description: Built in the 1861 as a waterpowered turbine gristmill, Kenan’s Mill produced water, ground cornmeal, and grits until 1968. A concrete dam, added in 1904, creates a scenic waterfall, and a swinging bridge spans the creek. On the grounds you’ll also find a fascinating 19th century brick charcoal kiln. Owned by the Kenan family since its construction, the mill was restored in 1987 by Wallace and Elizabeth Kenan Buchanan who donated it to the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society in 1997. The Historic Society hosts special events at the site, including Kenan’s Mill Fall Festival and Bluegrass Event. Though the mill is currently open for visitation only during such events or by special arrangement, this may change in the future. Contact the Selma Dallas County Historic Preservation Society for information on visiting (you can obtain their current contact information from the Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, listed below).

Directions: Directions obtained by phone when permission to visit is obtained.

Access: Restricted, currently available only by special arrangement or during public events
GPS Coordinates: N 32.45196, W 087.03416
Site Contact: Dallas County Chamber of Commerce

1 (800) 45-SELMA or (334) 875-7241

Black Belt Research and Extension Center

Description: The Black Belt Research and Extension Center was originally established in 1929 and began operation in 1930 as one of the five original sub-stations of the main Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station at Auburn University. The 1116-acre facility has long been recognized as one of the top beef and forage research centers in the United States.

The Black Belt Research and Extension Center is the site of the first documented cases of fescue toxicity in cattle. Subsequent research has led to identification of management practices that help producers better manage fungus-infected pastures. Long-running projects in crossbreeding and genetic improvement are also recognized nationally for their contributions to the overall improvement of beef production in the United States. Note: For safety reasons, the Center asks that visitors do not interact with the cattle.

Directions: From Selma, Alabama, at the intersection of AL 14 and US 80, travel west 9.2 miles to the intersection of US 80 and CR 45. Travel north 2 miles on CR 45, to the Black Belt Research and Extension Center entrance on the left (CR 58).

Site Access: Mon-Fri, 8-4

GPS Coordinates: N 32.281674 W 87.135224
Site Contact: Black Belt Research and Extension
Center, 60 Dallas County Road, Marion
Junction, AL, (334) 872-7878

Paul M. Grist State Park

Description: This tranquil 1,080-acre park includes a 100-acre lake, where you can rent a canoe or small boat for fishing or exploring. Several miles of hiking trails wind through woodlands of oaks, sweetgum, sweetbay magnolia, yaupon, American holly, and American beech. Bring your binoculars and watch for such summer residents as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great-crested and Acadian Flycatchers, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, and Summer Tanager. At night, listen for Chuck-will’s-widow, Barred Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl. Open areas around the lake attract swallows and Eastern Kingbirds, as well as scores of butterflies and dragonflies.

The park provides both primitive campsites and sites with full hookups, as well as picnic areas, showers, playground, beach and swimming area.

Directions: From the Selma intersection of US 80, head northeast on AL 22 for 11.1 miles. Turn left onto CR 222 and travel 1.7 miles. Turn right on CR 37 and travel 1.1 miles to the entrance road on the right.

Access: Daily; Fee
GPS Coordinates: N 32.59088, W 086.99993
Site Contact: Paul M. Grist State Park,
1546 Grist Rd., Selma, AL 36701

1 (800) ALA-PARK or (334) 872-5846

includes showers, interpretive markers

Lowndesboro Historic District

Description: Lowndesboro offers a treasure trove for architecture and history buffs, with a remarkable array of domestic architecture, from simple early cottages to grand columned houses. Lowndesboro was settled before 1820 by planters from South Carolina. Originally named McGill’s Hill, residents changed its name to Lowndesboro in 1832, in honor of statesman William Lowndes.

Take time to explore Lowndesboro’s many historic buildings. Along CR 29, you will discover some beautiful churches, including the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in 1857. North of St. Paul’s lies the Lowndesboro United Methodist Church, built in the 1880s. Further along is the Lowndesboro Presbyterian Church, erected in 1850, and the Lowndesboro Baptist Church, dating from 1888. The former CME Church, built in 1830, is surmounted by the dome from the first state capitol building at Cahawba, now a ghost town on the banks of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers (site 26). Many of these historic churches are in active use, so visitors should conduct themselves accordingly.

Directions: From US 80, approximately 24 miles east of Selma head north on CR 29. The first church is approximately 1.1 miles and the others can be found by continuing further north for less than a mile.

Access: Free
GPS coordinates: N 32.27816, W 86.61120
Site Contact: Lowndesboro Heritage Association
(334) 278-3413

Amenities: small town amenities

Holy Ground Battlefield Park

Description: Once a major town of the Creek Nation, this site was sacred to the Creek people. In 1813, war with the United States ensued, and on December 23, U.S. forces and Choctaw allies under the command of General Claiborne attacked. After most of the Creeks escaped across the river, General Claiborne’s men burned the town. Three months later, General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend, thus ending the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814. Subsequently, the Creeks in this area were exiled to Oklahoma.

This site offers much, including excellent overlooks of the river, interpretive displays, and a nature trail. The hardwood bluff forest include white and swamp chestnut oak, shagbark and nutmeg hickory, black cherry, southern sugar maple, white ash, winged elm, flowering dogwood, and tuliptree (tulip poplar). The diversity provides habitat for numerous birds and mammals, from armadillos and beavers to Red-shouldered Hawks and Yellow-Billed Cuckoos. Keep an eye on the river for patrolling Bald Eagles and Ospreys. (read more about birding the Holy Ground Battlefield Park here)

Directions: From Montgomery, take I-65 south to exit 167. Turn right and head west on US 80 for approximately 24 miles to CR 23. Turn right and head north on CR 23 for 4.2 miles. Turn right onto CR 40 for 1.3 miles to the sign, then left for 1.5 miles.

Access: Free with some fee areas
GPS Coordinates: N 32.34828, W 86.68680
Site Contact: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
8493 US Hwy. 80 West, Hayneville, AL 36040, (334) 872-9554

includes interpretive materials, overlooks


Alabama’s Capital City has the distinction of being the “Cradle of the Confederacy” as well as the “Birthplace of Civil Rights.” Since 1817, Alabama has had five capitals. The territorial capital was Saint Stephens, located in southwest Alabama. This served as the temporary seat of government, hosting two sessions of the territorial legislature. In accordance with the enabling act for statehood, the first Constitutional Convention assembled in the North Alabama town of Huntsville in 1819, where the first session of the General Assembly was held in the same year. Cahawba was chosen by the territorial legislature as the temporary capital, with the 1825-26 legislature deciding on Tuscaloosa as the new capital.

As Alabama’s population grew in the state’s more eastern counties, it was decided that the capital needed to be more centrally located. Montgomery was chosen, and a building was completed on “Goat Hill” and presented to the state on December 6, 1847. This building was destroyed by fire near the beginning of the General Assembly’s second session in Montgomery on December 14, 1849. The legislature appropriated $60,000 in February 1850 to build the central section of the present building, which was erected upon the foundations of the original. Architect Barachias Holt designed the new structure.

Visitors will find the star marking the spot where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the President of the Confederate States of America in 1861, as well as many monuments on the grounds.

The 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March ended at the steps of the Capitol, with some 25,000 marchers and out-of-state supporters filling Dexter Avenue. The throng stretched to Dr. King’s former church. “Segregation is on its death bed,” King told the crowd.

Guided tours of the State Capitol are available. Open Monday – Saturday. (334) 242-3935

The First White House of the Confederacy is across the street to the south. This 1835 Italianate-style house was the home of President and Mrs. Jefferson Davis while Montgomery served as the Confederacy’s capital. Many cabinet meetings were held here. First Lady Varina Howell Davis, a Natchez belle, was admired for her hospitality and political savvy. The home displays period pieces from the era and family heirlooms.

At the Archives and History building, find artifacts dating back to the prehistoric peoples of Alabama, as well as items used by pioneer settlers, Civil War era uniforms and flags, and various other displays of important documents that shaped Alabama.

Visitors to Old Alabama Town can see how Alabamaians lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the historic structures are Lucas Tavern, Grange Hall, a doctor’s office, church, schoolhouse, and corner grocery, along with several beautiful homes from the era. 301 Columbus Street. (334) 240-4500. Admission Charged. Open Mon-Sat.

Lillie Williams moved her family to Montgomery in 1937 where she operated a succession of downtown boarding houses. While living in Montgomery, her son Hiram renamed himself “Hank” and by age 14 was singing on WSFA radio. As they say, the rest is history, and much of that history took place in Montgomery.

The Hank Williams Museum is the best place to begin a visit to Hank’s beloved hometown. The largest collection of Hank Williams clothing, records, paintings and personal items – many on loan from son Randall Hank Williams, Jr. – can be found here. More than a dozen of his famous handmade Nudie suits, as well as hats and boots, are on display. 118 Commerce Street, (334) 262-3600. Admission charged. Open daily.

After viewing items from Hank’s life and career, travel a few blocks to the Oakwood Cemetery Annex and pay respects at Hank and wife Audrey’s final resting place. This site is visited by people from all over the world.

Stop in and enjoy a hotdog and a cold drink at Hank’s favorite Montgomery eatery, Chris’ Hotdogs. Family-owned since 1917, Chris’ still serves hungry diners at 138 Dexter Avenue.

Shortly after marrying his college sweetheart in Marion, Alabama, 24-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his first sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, a block from the Alabama State Capitol where Southern secessionists had formed the Confederacy in 1861.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church is a National Historic Landmark because of its status as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. It is the only church where Martin Luther King Jr. served as senior pastor.

Enter through the ground-level doors to the basement where Rev. David Abernathy, NAACP activist E.D. Nixon, King and others vowed a bus boycott following the arrest of Mrs. Parks. King’s predecessor, Dr. Vernon Johns, had long advocated such action. 454 Dexter Avenue, a block west of the State Capitol. (334) 263-3970. Admission charged. Tours are Monday through Friday, walk-through Saturday. Check hours in advance. Groups schedule at least a week ahead of visit.

Dr. Martin and Mrs. Coretta Scott King lived in the Dexter church parsonage a few blocks southeast of the church from September 1, 1954, until late 1959 when they moved to Atlanta. Mrs. King and their baby, Yolanda, were home when a bomb damaged the front porch one night during the boycott. The minister quickly arrived and quelled angry neighbors demanding revenge.

The Interpretive Center next door offers a short video presentation prior to tours of the parsonage. The house is furnished with period furniture, some dating from the residency of the Kings. A photo of Gandhi in the study recalls the famed pacifist whose teachings were an inspiration to King. 303 S. Jackson Street south of Monroe Avenue. (334) 261-3270. Admission (discount with Dexter Avenue King Memorial ticket). Tours by appointment.


Multi-media presentations, period photography and several dioramas bring to life the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. A vintage municipal bus — used in the movie The Long Walk Home — is used to reenact the arrest of the respected Negro community leader. Visitors can have their photographs made while seated next to a life-size bronze sculpture of the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The Civil Rights Memorial designed by international artist Maya Lin is a block south of the church where Martin Luther King was pastor. It honors 40 individuals who died between 1954 and 1968 and encourages visitors to reflect on the struggle for equality.

After you read the names of the martyrs and a timeline of landmark events etched on its black granite table, walk up the entrance at mid-block to enter the new Civil Rights Memorial Center and learn stories of the martyrs.

The “Here I Stand” exhibits chronicle important events that occured downtown during the Civil Rights Movement. A short film in the 60-seat auditorium provides an overview of the movement. Visitors can sign a pledge to work for justice at the Wall of Tolerance. 400 Washington Avenue at South Hull Street. (334) 956-8200. Admission charged.


Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site: Carver Museum

Description: Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site is inextricably bound to the history of two illustrious men: Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Both born into slavery, each achieved personal successes and left legacies that were almost unimaginable for African-Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1881, Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute to educate African-Americans as teachers and to help students develop occupational skills. The Institute promoted sustainable farming practices and developed outreach educational programs for tenant farmers.

Carver, the Institute’s most celebrated professor, conducted research that reinvigorated southern agriculture. The George Washington Carver Museum celebrates Carver’s life through photographs, artifacts, and audiovisual programs.

Directions: From I-85, take exit 32 southeast onto CR 51/30 for 1.3 miles. Turn left onto CR 30/Franklin Rd. and travel 4.0 miles to Old Montgomery Rd. The Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site Headquarters is located immediately on the left. Alternatively, take I-85 exit 38 and travel south on AL 81 to Old Montgomery Rd. Turn right and go to the second stoplight. Turn right and follow signs.

Access: Call Carver Museum for tour reservations, (334) 727-3200

Donations appreciated
GPS Coordinates: N 32.42855, W 085.70938
Site Contact: Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site
1212 W. Montgomery Rd.
Tuskegee, AL 36088

(334) 727-6390

includes gift shop and guided tours

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Description: The Visitor Center interprets the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African- American airmen in the United States military. The story begins in 1939 when the U.S. government offered African-American men flight training through the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) Act. Tuskegee Institute was chosen as a training site for its commitment to aeronautical training, its engineering and technical instructors, and its climate. In July 1941, just before the U.S. entered World War II, the first cadets reported to Tuskegee Institute to begin training as pilot candidates. The term “Tuskegee Airmen” refers to all who were involved in the “Tuskegee Experience,” including 992 pilots and more than 10,000 additional personnel, including navigators, bombardiers, and maintenance and support staff. The Tuskegee Airmen had to battle not only the enemy overseas but also the racist attitudes of a largely segregated society in the United States. In 1998, President Clinton approved the public law establishing the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field.

Directions: From the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, head east approximately 0.8 miles to a “T”. Turn left and travel 0.1 miles. Turn right (near Burger King) on AL 81 and head north 2.3 miles. Turn right at the sign for Tuskegee Airmen and Moton Field. The entrance is 0.4 miles on the left. Alternatively, from I-85 take exit 38 south onto AL 81 and follow the signs.

Access: Daily 9-4:30; Free
GPS Coordinates: N 32.45668, W 085.68296
Site Contact: Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
1616 Chappie James Ave.
Tuskegee, AL 36083, (334) 724-0922

Bartram Trail: Tuskegee National Forest

Description: Named for William Bartram—famed explorer, writer, artist, and naturalist—the Bartram National Recreation Trail system is composed of segments of trails in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina that retrace sections of Bartram’s famed 2,400-mile trek through the Southeast. Here in Tuskegee National Forest, the trail stretches 8.5 miles, with several trailheads along the way.

In upland pine forests, watch for Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers. Common woodland residents include Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-bellied, Downy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Carolina Wren and Carolina Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Chipping Sparrow.

Directions: From Montgomery take I-85 east to exit 42. Turn right and travel south on AL 186 approximately 1.2 miles. Turn onto FS 900 and the first trailhead is to the right less than 0.1 miles. Continue south on AL 186 for 0.5 miles to FS 949. Turn left and travel approximately 0.2 miles to the Forest Service headquarters and the second trailhead. For the third trailhead on US 29, return to AL 186 and continue south to the intersection with US 29; turn left and travel 0.8 miles to the trailhead on the left.

Access: Visitor center Mon-Fri 7:30-4; Free
GPS Coordinates: FS 900 trailhead: N 32.47786, W 85.61847
FS 949 trailhead: N 32.47960, W 85.61064;
US 29 trailhead: N 32.47826, W 85.56371
Site Contact: US Forest Service
125 Nat’l Forest Rd. 949,
Tuskegee, AL 36083
(334) 727-2652,

Learn more about Alabama’s Black  Belt Region from the Alabama’s Front Porches website.


Black Warrior River Scenic Byway Fri, 26 Oct 2012 19:47:24 +0000

“In 1819, when Alabama entered the Union, its leaders designed a great seal that featured the state’s waterways.  In adopting this symbol they affirmed their belief that the future of Alabama lay with its rivers.  It did, and it still does.”

                                                                             Harvey Jackson III, Rivers of History  

Historic Trestle over the Black Warrior River

Historic Trestle over the Black Warrior River

This urban route encircles approximately 12 miles along the Black Warrior River.  Three bridges along the route offer breathtaking views of the river and its riverbanks.  The route spotlights the boundless natural scenic beauty of the Black Warrior River and exhibits historic ruins, structures and markers including the site of the Alabama State Capitol from 1826 until 1847.   Bicycle and pedestrian trails, parks, picnic facilities, fishing piers, boat landings, historic markers, and restaurants as well as sites for new development align the route.  Bordering the route are the historic downtown areas of Tuscaloosa and Northport and facilities of academic and athletic renown including the University of Alabama and Stillman College.  Enlightening sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places are in abundance nearby and along the route.

The Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre with seating capacity of over 7,400 serves as a gathering place for many events and is conveniently located along the byway.  Just a short drive away, the Moundville Archaeological Park is within 15 miles; Lake Lurleen State Park is within 10 miles; the Sipsey River Swamp, one of Alabama’s Natural Wonders and one of the state’s largest wetlands, is within 10 miles as well as renowned museums and an array of cultural opportunities.

Rich in history, Tuscaloosa was discovered in 1540 by troops of the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto.  The area was originally home to Native Americans.  The name Tuscaloosa is derived from Chief Tuskaloosa which, literally translated, means “Black Warrior.”  Long before white people settled, there was an Indian village near the present site of Tuscaloosa.  The first white settlers came to the area around 1816 and Tuscaloosa and Northport were settled around the Black Warrior River.  Tuscaloosa was incorporated in 1819 and Northport was incorporated in 1871.  A ferry was established soon after the first settlers arrived and the first bridge was built in 1835 to connect Tuscaloosa to the north and west of the river.  Large shoals made it impossible to navigate to the east.  First the ferry and then the bridge made Tuscaloosa the head of navigation for downstream travel to Mobile.

Today, the Black Warrior remains a very important river to the area and it is an essential link in Alabama’s inland waterway system.  The Black Warrior Basin drains the largest coalfield in Alabama and the Black Warrior River became the primary artery for its export.  For this reason, permanent modification of the Black Warrior River Channel was envisioned and in 1886, the U.S. Army and their Board of Engineers began discussing a system of five locks and dams on a fifteen mile segment.  The construction began in 1888 in Tuscaloosa.  The Black Warrior was the first river in the state to receive such navigational improvements.  New locks and dams that ensure year-round navigation for barge and pleasure boat traffic have replaced the original ones and frequent dredging is required to maintain the navigational depth of nine feet.

Unquestionably, the Black Warrior River has been central to the history and economy of the area and it is central to future development.  Community leaders are working diligently to showcase this inexhaustible natural asset.  The Black Warrior River Scenic Byway includes twelve miles of existing roadway which boarders the evolving Tuscaloosa Riverwalk and the Northport Riverwalk.  Master Plans for Riverfront development have been adopted by the City of Tuscaloosa and the City of Northport.  Riverfront development activity or plans include a 7,500 seat amphitheatre,  convention center and hotels, a River Market that will be home to the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, a water trail, marinas and boat docks, restaurants, retail, parks, pedestrian and bicycle trails, green spaces, picnic areas, pavilions, scenic overlooks, mixed use developments, office parks, residential developments, and office complexes and museums.

In addition to the historic downtown areas of Tuscaloosa and Northport, the route includes the historic Queen City Pool and Bathhouse complex which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The bathhouse was preserved and renovated and is home to the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum.   To date, three miles of the thirteen mile Tuscaloosa Riverwalk pedestrian and bicycle trail have been constructed or is underway and the City of Northport has completed two miles of Riverwalk pedestrian and bicycle trails.

Gateways to the Black Warrior River Scenic Byway include Interstate 59/20 at Exits 71 and 73, U.S. Highway 82 East and West, U.S. Highway 43, and U.S. Highway 69.


Leeds Stagecoach Route Tue, 25 Sep 2012 15:28:12 +0000

Leeds Attraction Alabama Scenic Byway At LeedsAlabama’s Stagecoach Route Through Leeds began as an Indian trail traversing a vast watershed. As a trail, it served as a staging ground for three emerging Alabama cultures. Early Christian Cherokees along with European circuit riders used it to plant Methodist churches. The Christian Indian culture arrived from North Carolina before 1812. Andrew Jackson’s scouts (1812-13) widened the trail as they sought roadways for supply wagons. When Europeans, largely veterans of the Creek Indian War, entered the valley in Leeds (1820), the widened trail became a stagecoach route that lay in its original bed when the first black settlers arrived in the late 1880’s. Studies by John Garst place the legendary John Henry in Leeds at the Oak Tunnel of the C&W Railroad in the 1880’s, and descendants of original Black-American settlers concur with Garst’s conclusion–the Leeds, Alabama, claim that Henry was a real person and that he performed his famous contest with the steam drill in Leeds.

Local folklore holds these claims as fact. Subsequent to these early events, the Stagecoach Route in Leeds has changed little and still bears the landmarks of these early cultures. The Leeds Historical Society marked the stagecoach route through Leeds in 1998. St. Clair County continued the marking in 2000 when it traced the “Ashville to Montevallo” road to the Etowah County line. More than twenty-two markers in Leeds document this history, alone. Additionally, Leeds Historical Society has documented the authenticity of old homes, businesses, churches and cemeteries appearing on the stagecoach route. National, state, or local recognition has been sought and received for thirty sites, and each property bears an appropriate marker. The Historical Society opens Rowan House Stagecoach Stop to the public by appointment. Further, 119 from I-65 through Leeds has been named for three Leeds residents who received Medal of Honor recognition. The name, Erwin, Lawley & McLaughlin Medal of Honor Highway, was designated by the Alabama State Legislature. Signs on the bridges of 119/411 in Leeds mark the Little Cahaba River. Because this river is uniquely beautiful and also entwined with early Alabama history, the Leeds Historical Society received this recognition from the Alabama Department of Transportation.The scenic byway, including the entry through Shelby County, travels north for approximately eighteen miles through a valley of unique archival treasures and historic sites that exist in a setting of natural beauty that has been largely untouched by developers. Among these treasures are American Indian archives, horse farms, and historic homes, businesses, churches and cemeteries. Much of the property on each side of the road has been owned and maintained by the same families for generations.

Today, nature enthusiasts can enjoy Leeds’ scenic setting. From Lake Purdy to Leeds/Moody 411, bicycling, canoeing, horseback riding, nature photography, and fishing abound at copious sites of opportunity for recreation. Canoe launches, and boat landings are available near lake Purdy. Canoes, flatboats, and small houseboats can be rented. Local horse farms allow horseback riding for those who make prior arrangements. Bank-side fishing is free along the way to Leeds. Leeds parks offer picnic sites on the Little Cahaba River where monuments, flags, and interpretive exhibits tell some of the local stories. More exhibits are planned; Bass House at the edge of the park is a middle-class antebellum home that is to become a local history museum.

Leeds was first incorporated in 1887. The vintage downtown district (turn-of-the-twentieth-century) is decorated with hanging baskets trailing their flowers in the breeze from May through November. Flowers in downtown street planters display the hues of each season. Two small gazebos and benches lend a relaxed quality to the old town.

Tourists can stop for an old-town lunch at the Wild Berry Tea Room or world class cuisine at Augie’s, in a building where Elvis Presley once dined. Shoppers can browse for unique gifts at Monkey’s Uncle or visit several of the European antique shops and old world outlets — to mention only a few of the one-of-a-kind shops in old-town Leeds. The cement plant in old-town Leeds operates one of the last office buildings designed by the highly acclaimed industrial architects of the 1930s. Businesses are buying old factories and converting them into unique shopping sites or, in the case of ATROX Charities, entertainment.


Lookout Mountain Parkway Sat, 25 Aug 2012 12:39:47 +0000

Little River Canyon

Little River Canyon during Fall Color.

Northeast Alabama’s Lookout Mountain Parkway Scenic Byway, named by Reader’s Digest as one of America’s Scenic Drives, serves as a gateway to your imagination. Envision a land where real people bring the past alive, with historic town squares, pioneer villages, confederate ironworks, antique shops and Native American folklore and artifacts. Imagine a land of real places burgeoning with untouched natural beauty, with gorges, rivers, lakes, wildlife and scenic waterfalls. Picture a land ripe with recreational and cultural opportunities, from boating, fishing, skiing and hiking along miles of pristine trails to museums, opera houses and art galleries. All these dreams and more are here today and await visitors along Alabama’s Lookout Mountain Parkway Scenic Byway. Discover why it feels so right!

Beautiful places in rustic environments
This rustic corridor, filled with natural beauty, is home to farms and woodlands. Visitors should be sure to investigate Little River Canyon National Preserve. This canyon is one of the deepest gorges east of the Mississippi River and is often described as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” The geology and water resources in the region provide opportunities for educational programs at sites such as Cherokee Rock Village, Canyon Rim Parkway and DeSoto State Park. The corridor is also home to numerous caves and subterranean wonders, including those at Sequoyah Caverns, where visitors can take tours and try their hand at arts and crafts.

Recreational opportunities galore
The natural beauty of these sites in Northeast Alabama provides the setting for those who enjoy scenic wonders as well as adventure. Outdoor lovers can envision their own dream trip through the Lookout Mountain Byway and its many communities. Horseback riding, just one of the numerous outdoor activities, awaits those visitors to the 4,000 acre Shady Grove Dude Ranch, a unique establishment operational in the state of Alabama. Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy trails at multiple parks along the corridor. Fishing lovers have found a haven at Weiss Lake, often referred to as the “Crappie Capital of the World” due to its record quantity of 2-plus pound crappies, and numerous other game fish species. And snow skiers can take pleasure in the packed powder at Cloudmont Snow Skiing Resort, the southernmost skiing trail in the United States.

Cultural Sites to enjoy
The history of the Lookout Mountain Byway harkens back to Native American culture. Many different tribes once lived in the area currently traversed by the Byway, including the Cherokee, Coushatta, and Muskogee tribes. Numerous artifacts of these, and more, peoples’ past await visitors at the Fort Payne Depot Museum. Relics and legends of their civilizations still abound in the region. History buffs visiting the area will also be treated to northeast Alabama’s Civil War history. Sites like the historic Winston Place Bed and Breakfast and the Cornwall Furnace Park are just a few locations that still hint at the region’s rich history for imaginative visitors.

Festivals and events
Tourism has developed around yard sales and antique markets, due in part to the area’s rich history. These events allow for the passage of local folklore and history to visitors through direct interaction with natives of the region. Numerous local festivals dot the Byway, including the Collinsville Trade Day, Noccalula Falls Park Holiday Wonderland, and the World’s Longest Yard Sale, which has been featured on HGTV, in Southern Living, Country Living, USA Today, Newsweek and on The Tonight Show. These events offer visitors a unique perspective on a fading rustic American lifestyle along with the opportunity for great shopping!

Gateway communities amongst the hills
The cities and towns of Northeast Alabama serve as gateways to the scenic Byway. Local cities such as Gadsden, Fort Payne, Leesburg, Collinsville and Mentone (to name only a few) open the minds of visitors to quaint urban localities amongst the pastoral settings of the Lookout Mountain Parkway. These cities are home to museums, antiques stores and unique restaurants, as well as places to re-fuel the family car and rest on a long journey.

Rock ‘n’ Roll!
Country music lovers flock to Fort Payne to pay homage to one of the best-selling musical groups of all time, ALABAMA. The city is home to the official ALABAMA Band Fan Club and Museum which boasts personal items, awards phonographs and more. A short drive away, fans can visit ALABAMA band member Jeff Cook’s Sound Studios to complete their country music experience.

Whether they are families on an annual vacation, couples seeking a secluded getaway, nature lovers on the lookout for breathtaking scenery, or history buffs combing the museums and monuments for relics of a time long passed, if you can imagine it, you can discover it in this destination filled with Real People, Real Places!


The Natchez Trace Parkway Thu, 26 Jul 2012 12:11:51 +0000

Natchez Trace

The Alabama section of the Natchez Trace.

For over 8,000 years, this timeworn path has felt the tread of travelers. Buffalo and other wildlife were first to wind their way through the wilderness. Later, American Indians, traders, trappers and missionaries joined their fellow creatures on the rough track. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, boatmen floated merchandise downriver to New Orleans where they sold their flatboats and their goods and returned home on foot or horseback, using the well-worn Natchez Trace. Back then the Trace went through rough territory dominated by many hazards, such as bandits, American Indians and wild animals. All these hazards earned the route the ominous nickname, “Devil’s Backbone.” Cautious travelers of the old Trace made sure to acquire safety in numbers by accompanying postal workers on their regular routes. Because of their influence on traveling the Trace, postal workers were later chosen as the official symbol of the Parkway.

Today’s visitors will not need this historic safety measure to enjoy the Trace’s rich wildlife and scenery. Crimson clover, butterweed, Japanese honeysuckle and ground ivy are just a few of about 100 species of wildflowers to be found along the Parkway at different times of the year. There are also numerous hiking trails, exhibits, picnic sites, campgrounds, and water recreation areas. On either side of the Parkway lie communities with wonderful places to stay, excellent places to dine and plenty to see and do.

Hiking on the Parkway presents both challenges and rewards. With over 60 miles of National Scenic Trail and 28 different hiking and self-guiding trails, there is something for every kind of traveler to experience. Be sure to bring your camera along; beautiful scenery will greet you no matter what time of the year you choose to visit!


Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail Tue, 26 Jun 2012 12:03:22 +0000

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama


From beginning to end, the Selma to Montgomery March Byway is filled with civil rights history. Home to one of the most significant events in the American struggle for equality, this 54-mile stretch of highway marks the journey that led to equal voting rights for American citizens, regardless of race.

Although the march officially began in March of 1965, on January 2, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the town of Selma, AL to oppose extreme voting restrictions imposed on colored citizens of the area. Despite repeated efforts by local blacks, registration attempts had been consistently denied access to all but two percent of the African-American population. Would-be voters often faced closed doors due to phony “rules,” such as a limit on the number of applicants, or facilities that closed suddenly and without explanation.

Protestors congregated in Selma, where they hoped the notorious brutality of local law enforcement would draw the attention of President Lyndon B. Johnson and earn new voting rights legislation.

Despite mass arrests, the campaign continued without violence until February 18. On that day, officers trying to break up an evening march shot and killed Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was defending his mother from a trooper’s nightstick.

Following Jackson’s death, 600 civil rights marchers set out on March 7, 1965 to petition the state capitol in Montgomery. After just six blocks, state and local lawmen met them with teargas and billy clubs, driving them back to Selma’s Brown Chapel Church. The event became known as “Bloody Sunday,” and incited outrage throughout the nation.

John Lewis, who has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since his election in 1986, led the march and suffered a severe beating to the head. He later told reporters, “I don’t see how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam — I don’t see how he can send troops to the Congo — I don’t see how he can send troops to Africa and can’t send troops to Selma.”

The second march began on March 9, this time led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Although President Johnson had warned King not to march until he could issue a court order to protect the marchers, King called on religious leaders across the country to help in his cause. That afternoon, he led a crowd of over 2,000 people from the town of Selma. Rather than continue on to Montgomery, however, King stopped the march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the previous attack, and asked his followers to kneel and pray.

Even though the second march never reached Montgomery, King’s act of restraint did gain him support from President Johnson, who urged Americans to stand up against the acts of brutality committed against the people of Selma and promised to introduce a voting rights bill to Congress. With the words “We shall overcome,” Johnson expressed his desire to eliminate the plagues of bigotry and injustice.

The final, federally sanctioned march departed from Selma on March 21, 1965 with the protection of hundreds of federal agents and Alabama National Guardsmen. Demonstrators marched between 7 and 17 miles per day, camping by night in fields owned by supporters and being entertained by celebrities such as Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne. On the final day the number of marchers rose from 300 to 25,000 as the assembled crowd finally approached the steps of the Montgomery Capitol, where King delivered a stirring speech, proclaiming, “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.”

Although at least two people were killed in response to King’s remarks, on August 6, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, calling the right to vote “the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated three years later on April 4, 1968. Followers across the nation continue to honor his legacy annually on that historic day.

Today, the towns of Selma and Montgomery remain as symbols of the exciting and inspiring history behind the civil rights movement. Visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma and peruse themed rooms, which highlight different aspects of the struggle for equality. Appreciate the silent feeling of dignity surrounding Brown Chapel, the headquarters of the Voting Rights Movement. In Montgomery, walk up the steps of the Capitol where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic speech or ponder lives forever changed as you wander past the Civil Rights Memorial or add your name to the Wall of Tolerance in the Civil Rights Memorial Center on Washington Avenue.

Although the fight for change and equality continues today, the legacy and ideals represented through the sacrifice of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement stand as a beacon to those who have followed, giving hope for an even brighter future.

As the Selma to Montgomery March Byway winds its way from the streets of Selma, Alabama, through the gentle rolling hills of Lowndes County, and into the state’s capital city of Montgomery, you will find yourself transfixed in history. Also designated as a National Historic Trail, this section of U.S. Highway has known many facets of history in its years of existence. However, it wasn’t until Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., started leading voting rights demonstrations in Selma early in 1965, culminating with the historic Selma to Montgomery March, that the route became internationally known.

The first Selma march began on March 7, 1965, and came to an abrupt halt at the Edmund Pettus Bridge when scores of local police officers and Alabama state troopers attacked a band of 500 marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. Many marchers were left bloodied and severely injured. On March 9, 1965, Dr. King led a ceremonial march to Edmund Pettus Bridge and held a short prayer session there. After the first failed attempt, three weeks earlier, Dr. King marshaled forces that made their way 54 miles, on March 21, 1965, from the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Montgomery, paving the way towards one of the most important pieces of social legislation of the 20th century: equal voting rights for all American citizens.

You can relive the Selma to Montgomery March in its entirety. Visit the First Baptist Church and Brown Chapel — the churches that housed much of the civil rights movement effort in Dallas County. See the jail where civil rights activists were imprisoned for their protests. Cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge where marchers faced physical opposition. Finally, at the end of the march in Montgomery, walk on the steps of the capitol, where King delivered his “How Long, Not Long” speech to a crowd of nearly 30,000 people. The reminiscent journey is sure to be a stirring one, especially because the actual march took place only a few decades ago.

For an overview of the struggle for equal voting rights, visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma. The museum is filled with first-hand accounts and testimonials of the march. These marches were moments in time that helped bring access to the ballot box to many African Americans in Southern states.

For a tangible experience of the past, head to Selma today. To gain an appreciation for what people have done to ensure liberty and justice, visit the Selma to Montgomery March Byway.


Talladega Scenic Drive Sat, 26 May 2012 12:08:46 +0000

Shown above: Talladega Scenic Drive in brown (lower) and Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway in Green.

Driving up the Talladega Scenic Byway to the highest point in Alabama: Cheaha State Park.

Driving up the Talladega Scenic Byway to the highest point in Alabama: Cheaha State Park.

Catch a bird’s eye view of Alabama when you drive the Talladega Scenic Drive. At its highest point, you will find yourself on Cheaha Mountain, 2,407 feet above sea level, the highest point in Alabama. You will be awe-struck by the view of the Appalachian Mountains, rock outcroppings, and small rural settlements nestled among the trees. Here, the air is crisp and clean, although during the summer months you may notice a bluish haze in the air. No need to worry – the haze is simply caused by the lush green trees releasing condensation into the warm air.

In addition to simply enjoying the scenic beauty of the Talladega National Forest, be sure to take advantage of its abundant recreational opportunities. You will find many developed areas where you can camp, picnic, fish, and hike. If you are up to an all-day adventure, spend some time in the Cheaha Wilderness or on the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail. The wilderness areas are open to hunting, fishing, and primitive camping. Peace and quiet will abound here, as motorized vehicles and bicycles are prohibited.

No trip is complete without a fine meal and a souvenir, so be sure to visit the restaurants and shops at the top of Cheaha Mountain in Cheaha State Park. And while you are at the top, keep a close eye out for wildlife such as the white-tailed deer, quail, turkey, rabbit, opossum, and even the bald eagle. The ridge line is a particularly outstanding spot to watch for migrating hawks in the fall. (Learn more about all the bird-watching opportunities in the region along the Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail.) A glimpse of one of these natural inhabitants could be one of the highlights of your trip on the Talladega Scenic Drive.

National Forest: Talladega National Forest
Length: 26.0 mi / 41.8 km
Time to Allow: One hour to drive the byway.


Tensaw Parkway Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:46:57 +0000

Five Rivers Resource Center

Five Rivers Resource Center

Baldwin County, Alabama, founded in 1809, maintains a heritage steeped in the tradition of numerous cultures, inspired by the earliest Native American settlers and expanded through the diverse customs conveyed by European conquerors.  The Spanish, French, and British all left their marks on this rich land, ultimately creating a culture uniquely characteristic of the frontier fusion of the Native American way of life and the advancement of European technology.  The allure of the region, then as now, is its unique biodiversity, rich farmland, and the ease of transportation provided by abundant waterways.  Nowhere is this more evident than in North Baldwin County along what is now the State Highway 225/59 corridor that runs north and south along the eastern perimeter of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta.  Driving along the proposed Tensaw Parkway (State Highway 225/59 corridor) a visitor will quickly understand the immense diversity of attractions that both lovers of nature and history can so earnestly embrace.  The corridor’s numerous boat launches and waterways provide almost unparalleled access to the natural beauty of the river delta.  Equally, the historic significance of Blakeley State Park and Fort Mims State Memorial Park demonstrate the rich heritage of the county from its colonial origins to the devastation of the nation’s Civil War.  The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail and the historic markers that dot the Parkway add to the richness of any traveler’s journey by providing an educational tour, both natural and historic.

Click the map for a larger version.

Click the map for a larger version.

The natural resources of the river delta have long attracted settlers with its abundance of fresh and saltwater marine life, timber, game animals, and the ease of travel offered by the areas navigatible waterways.  The delta covers over 400 square miles that include rivers and bottom land, swamps and marshes, as well as timberland.  According to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Wetland Conservation Project report, the delta filters the discharge of a watershed comprised of fifteen interior rivers that drain what may be the most geologically and biologically diverse areas in our country.  The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees the delta conservation project, maintains that the system which feeds Mobile Bay is recognized as the third largest river system in the United States based on average discharge.  As a result, the bio diversity is unrivaled, with over 500 documented species of plants and wildlife that ranges from migrating songbirds to the elusive Florida black bear.  This bounty of wildlife can be witnessed from North to South along the Tensaw Parkway.  With fourteen boat landings accessible from just off the corridor, the natural beauty of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta can become a part of anyone’s wilderness retreat.  Several one-day and overnight canoe trips can be taken such as the Globe Creek Trail, a 6.8 mile water route through creeks, lakes and sloughs. Additional information for these remarkable adventures can be obtained from Outdoor Alabama at their website (  Furthermore, camping is available along the canoe trails for the routes designated as overnight.

While fishermen may find their way onto the delta at the myriad boat launches, visitors wishing to spend a day on the water exploring the vast delta ecosystem can take advantage of the two hour river tour onboard the Delta Explorer which is scheduled through and disembarks from Blakeley State Park.  This fascinating passage is available for school field trips, private charters, and individuals as well.  Coupled with the available camping at Blakeley State Park, the great outdoors is accessible from one of the state’s most diverse parks.  In addition to the delta tour, the park offers primitive camping at 31 secluded sites, small group camping, and locations for picnicking.  Bird watchers will enjoy the parks birding kiosk which contains illustrations and descriptions of some of the birds that may be seen in the park.

Birding enthusiasts can also take advantage of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, portions of which follow the Alabama State Highway 225/59 corridor.  Considerable bird sanctuaries can be found in the bottom lands that dot the eastern periphery of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta which, in turn, can be accessed from Highway 225/59.  Directions from the Tensaw Parkway can be found on the Alabama Coastal Birding Trails homepage (  According to the site the main attraction is the abundance of breeding songbirds, although large waders and kites can be seen in the area.  Convenient trail signs mark the routes just off the Parkway for ease of use.

Beyond the natural beauty associated with the Tensaw Parkway, visitors can transport themselves back in time to a period in which Baldwin County was a synthesis of Native American and European cultures; a time when Baldwin County was emblematic of  raw, untamed splendor.  Most revealing of this combination is Historic Blakeley State Park, Baldwin County Bicentennial Park, Historic Fort Mims State Memorial Park and the William Weatherford (Red Eagle) Park and Gravesite.  Each location is representative of the struggle to tame the Alabama wilderness and of the competition between peoples to possess the bounty of the land.

Historic Blakeley State Park’s diversity can be measured in the communities that have called the area home.  Around 4,000 years ago the site was a thriving prehistoric Indian village.  It later became the location of a French colonial settlement and the home of the Apalachee Indians before their move westward.  In 1814 Josiah Blakeley, a Connecticut entrepreneur, chartered the town and began an expansion effort that, at one time, rivaled that of Mobile.  Blakeley also served as the county’s first seat of government before yellow fever and land speculation destroyed the growing community.  The last major battle of the Civil War was fought at the site on the same day that Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union army in Virginia.  Today’s location includes miles of breastworks, remains of earthen forts, old rifle pits, redoubts and battery positions that mark the April 9, 1865 struggle.

Just south of historic Stockton, Alabama and only two miles north of I-65 on State Highway 225, Baldwin County’s Bicentennial Park offers recreational opportunities and a historical perspective of the county’s beautiful wetland.  The 367 acre park affords visitors a firsthand view of the river delta’s natural beauty along the walking trail, while the proposed historical interpretations will allow visitors a hands-on experience steeped in the regions farming and timber heritage.  Exhibits featuring a 19th century working farm and a Native American village will transcend time as visitors learn what life was like for the first inhabitants of Baldwin County.

Located seven miles west of the Tensaw community on County Road 80 off State Highway 59 is the Historic Fort Mims State Memorial Park, site of the 1813 massacre of settlers by Red Stick Creeks.  Estimates by some historians of 500 settler deaths make Fort Mims the most brutal attack in American history.  The fighting that took place at Fort Mims resulted from the tension that had grown among the white and red settlers of the Southeast.  As Europeans and Americans continued to establish themselves in the region, Native Americans began to see their lives impacted on a grand scale.  Acts of violence on both sides intensified culminating with the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, and later, the Massacre at Fort Mims.  At Burnt Corn Colonel James Caller along with 180 territorial militiamen and volunteers attacked some 80 Creek warriors who were returning from Pensacola with arms and ammunition.  The fighting at Burnt Corn Creek is believed to have inspired the Creek Red Sticks to attack the white settlers at Fort Mims in retaliation.

Today’s Fort Mims is a peaceful wooded lot operated as a five acre state park which contains a pavilion, and a walking path that follows the footprint of the fort walls with information placards.  The most recent addition to the site is the reconstruction of the west wall of the fort which serves as the center piece of a yearly battle reenactment.  Each year during a weekend long remembrance historians, reenactors, and the local curious gather to revisit that fateful day in 1813 when the future of an entire region changed as a result of this influential battle.  In addition to the yearly gathering visitors easily reach the park on County Road 80 just off Highway 59 at any time of year and enjoy the solitude as they reflect on the lives lost and changed forever nearly 200 years earlier.

Located just a few minutes north of Fort Mims is the final resting place of Creek leader William Weatherford (Red Eagle) who led the assault on Fort Mims.  The small park features the grave site of Weatherford and his mother Sehoy III, Princess of the Wind Clan.  In 1991 the Baldwin County Commission dedicated the park as the William Weatherford Memorial Park.

Adding to the charm of the Parkway, the Red Hill Spring located north of Stockton is both a natural wonder and a historic stop.  This artesian well has provided travelers a cool drink of water since 1922.  The spring is accessible immediately off State Highway 59.

The Tensaw Parkway offers a wide range of visual treats whether they are the natural splendor of the river system or the many historical sites that dot the periphery of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta.  The same attractions allow a physical interaction that immerses the visitor in the biodiversity of the river delta and places them in the same pathways tread by early Native Americans, European settlers, and Civil War soldiers.  Nevertheless, the question remains; how would a Scenic Byway be beneficial to an area so rich in natural and historic resources?  The answer and keyword is sustainability.  The Tensaw Parkway would ensure increased exposure to those appreciative of the innate beauty of the region and to those who have yet to hear of the remarkable region.  Increased exposure would come through state and national Scenic Byway marketing programs; potential grant funding for preservation, improvements and marketing; and increased visitor spending.  In short, the Tensaw Parkway would expose the area to a larger audience, yet preserve the delta’s assets as they exist now.