Fort Morgan Historic Site

Since 1834 Fort Morgan has stood as the guardian of Mobile Bay. The military site and National Historic Landmark is located 22 miles west of Gulf Shores.

Construction began in 1819, but due to its isolated location, the fort was not completed until 1834. Skilled masons, many of which were enslaved African Americans, built the fortification which contains more than 46 million cubic yards of bricks.

After the War of 1812, the federal government began building what was known as third system brick coastal defense forts. Construction began on Fort Morgan in 1819, but due to its isolated location, it was not completed until 1834. Skilled masons, many of whom were enslaved African Americans, built the fortification which contains more than 46 million cubic yards of bricks.

Fort Morgan is a classic migrant trap, and a birding paradise when adverse weather during spring migration may cause spectacular “fallouts” of colorful migrants. Many vagrant species find their way to this favorite birding spot, which can equal Dauphin Island in excitement. In fall, hundreds of migrating hawks can be seen moving west over the Fort. Winter produces many waterbirds and sparrows. Summer is the slowest season, but can be good for terns. There are restrooms at the ferry landing and at the museum, plus a snack bar at the ferry landing. Bird checklists are available at the museum.

5 Rivers Delta Resource Center

5 Rivers Delta Resource Center’s name recognizes the five rivers of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which include the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley Rivers (from west to east) that flow into Mobile Bay. The Center itself sits on the banks of one of the canals of this vast delta. These drainages encompass over 250,000 acres of meandering waterways, floodplain forests and extensive wetlands. The center features an exhibit hall, theater, gift shop, Delta boat tours, canoe and kayak rentals, hiking trails, and picnic areas.

5 Rivers sits on the banks of one of the canals that traverse the Mobile-Tensaw delta. The decks of the Delta Hall and the perimeter trail around the facility provide excellent vantage points to observe birds of the surrounding marsh and waterways. In spring and summer look for Brown Pelican, Osprey, King Rail, Marsh Wren and several species of herons and egrets. Occasionally, Least Bittern and Purple Gallinule may be encountered along the margins of the emergent marsh. Painted Bunting may also be possible in the thickets near the buildings. Check here for migrants in spring and fall.

Gulf State Park Sand and Shell Mounds

Gulf State Park holds some of the most endangered archaeological deposits in the State of Alabama.  Even though these sites are located within the protected area of the park, rising sea levels and damage caused by severe coastal storms will one day likely erase what remains of these fragile reminders of the people who were here before us.  Even today, understanding the complex system of interconnected waterways, residential sites, and mounds is made that much more difficult by the centuries of storms and historic changes to the landscape.  

The park has both sand and shell mounds that were built during the Middle Woodland period (circa AD 150) and Mississippian Stage (AD 1000 to 1500).  Sand mounds are common along the Gulf Coast and served as both cultural markers for the living and memorials to the dead.  The shell mounds located at the park are typically elongated midden (refuse pile) deposits bordering the water’s edge or circular mounds with intentional design. While some mounds include a mix of different shellfish types, a few show preference for only one type of shell, such as the Rangia cuneata, a brackish water clam common in the marshes of the Gulf Coast.  The selection of this single type is unusual given the availability of other shellfish that exist in the same areas and suggests that those who built the mounds were selecting them for a special reason. They may have been selecting them based on ease of harvest, season of availability, cultural taboos against eating other types, or maybe something as simple as taste. 

When we think of these people who hunt and gather their food, we often think of a simple lifestyle that included hunting, fishing, collecting seasonally available fruits and nuts, and limited agriculture.  In reality, these people were engineering large communal buildings, digging canals, building mounds, trading over long distances, and practicing complex cultural activities that included intricate artwork and a highly structured social hierarchy with religious, political, and social leaders, warriors, and venerated elders.  Imagine trying to convince one hundred of your friends to go build a mound, one basket load of sand at a time for days on end, or dig a long canal that would allow your town to have direct access to protected bays and inlets without having to venture out into the rough open waters of the Gulf.  The people who built these things lived in a complex world of interacting cultures, languages, and beliefs much like we do today. 

Gulf State Park is one of the few places where remnants of these past lifeways are preserved.   

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.