Since at least 3,000 BC, the Mobile Tensaw Delta and Mobile Bay teemed with indigenous people moving up and down the waterways and taking overland trails to places far inland where they traded items and ideas. Atop this bluff overlooking both the delta and the bay, in what has become the community of Spanish Fort, lie the remains of repeated occupation left behind by these people.
The Fuller site consists of a shell midden formed by the remnants of countless gatherings and meals. Rangia shells piled across the site highlight the importance of the brackish water clams that helped to feed all the people living and working in the area.
Beginning in the Middle Archaic period, some 5,000 years ago, mobile groups of people who hunted and gathered their food took advantage of this strategic location and occupied it regularly. In addition to being close to abundance sources of food, fresh water, and other essential resources in the delta and bay, this site’s relatively high elevation protected it from floods and storm surges. Nearby outcrops of iron-rich sandstone also offered material suitable for making stone tools, which is rare along the Golf Coast. About AD 150, the site was occupied again during the Middle Woodland period and yet again during the Mississippian Stage after about AD 1100, attesting to this site’s attractiveness as a place for indigenous people to camp and live over the millennia.
The strategic value of this site was evident hundreds of years later, when in the Spring of 1865, Union African American troops built a series of artillery batteries in this area to take advantage of the strategic firing position that the high bluff afforded. One of those earthworks disturbed the shell midden significantly, and the remnants of these fortifications are still visible.
This site is very important to numerous Southeastern indigenous tribes who assert an ancestral connection with those who built and occupied Alabama’s ancient mounds. The earthwork landscapes and the objects and information recovered from them reveal a rich cultural tradition that still thrives today among these tribes. Our indigenous mound sites represent a heritage for all Alabamians to cherish, and it is important that we protect and preserve them for future generations.
Gulf State Park boasts over 3.5 miles of beautiful white sand beaches available in both our main park area in Gulf Shores at the Beach Pavilion and from our access points in Orange Beach, Alabama. Our family-friendly beaches are a perfect place to enjoy some much needed time of fun and relaxation. Whether you are into surf fishing or just laying out and reading a book, you will find our beaches to be a fantastic place to do this and more.
Seven trails among six distinct ecosystems make up more than 25 miles of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail complex through the cities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, and Gulf State Park. Explore the timeless beauty of the Butterfly Garden, the mystical Freshwater Marshes and the Coastal Hardwood Swamps. Catch a glimpse of a Bobcat on the Twin Bridges or a White Tailed Deer on Gulf Oak Ridge. View an Alligator basking in the sun and be sure to bring your camera to capture the adventure! With terrain suitable for walking, running, and biking, you are sure to enjoy the stunning natural scenery only found on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge was established by Congress in 1980 for the protection of neotropical migratory songbird habitat and threatened and endangered species. Bon Secour represents an important stopover and staging habitat for neotropical migratory songbirds during the fall and spring migration along the Alabama coastline. Migratory birds utilize this area for resting and building fat reserves critical to successful migration.
The refuge also provides crucial habitat for the endangered Alabama beach mouse that inhabits the beach dune and scrub/shrub habitats found along the Fort Morgan Peninsula. Beach mice have experienced a substantial reduction in available habitat, primarily due to coastal development. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge protects the last remaining undisturbed beach mouse habitat found in Alabama, consisting of several key plant communities that form a mosaic of micro-habitats.
Loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles nest on Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge beaches. Conservation strategies to protect these turtles under the Endangered Species Act include on-site nest monitoring and protection, as well as fostering a public ethic through educational programs.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is aimed at protecting and preserving these unique habitats and associated wildlife for generations to come. The refuge also serves as a living laboratory for students and scientists, and provides wildlife oriented public recreation.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge – Jeff Friend Trail
Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve provides the birder with a variety of ways to experience the salt marsh and the estuary- a boardwalk through the marsh leads to an observation platform viewing Weeks Bay. To the east of the center is a paved trail (paralleling the south side of US 98) that leads to the new Arthur C. “Skipper” Tonsmeire III Weeks Bay Resource Center. Next to the resource center is a public boat launch. At any season, watch or listen for Brown Pelican, Clapper Rail, Sora (winter), Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, and Marsh Wren. At dusk, this is also a regular place to find Great Horned Owl. Hours are Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For guided tours call 251-928-9792.
Weeks Bay Foundation
11401 US Highway 98
Fairhope, AL 36532
Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a paradise not only for birders, but for visitors with many different outdoor interests. The Coastal Birding Trail features six birding loops in Baldwin and Mobile counties totaling over 200 miles. Each loop covers different ecological regions representative of the northern Gulf Coast and enables birders to experience different assemblages of bird species within each region.