Recently we decided to participate in the Alabama Coastal BirdFest, and while perusing the calendar of events, we noticed a kayak / canoe birding paddle. We previously talked about taking a Delta Safari excursion at 5 Rivers & Blakely State Park to see how different the Mobile Delta area is from the salt marshes we typically paddle. What better opportunity to learn than on a guided group trip in Hurricane Bayou?
We arrived at the 5 Rivers Resource Center at 6:30 am to sign in and receive our road maps and instructions. The group caravanned up Highway 225 to Bay Minette and Perkins Hurricane Landing. The landing, nestled on calm bayou waters about a quarter mile east of the Tensaw River, is a small fish-camp with a concrete boat launch and a $3.00 launch fee. The ramp provided easy access into and out of the water.
As we unloaded our kayaks, a deep rumble echoed across the waterways. Initially I thought, “Wow, we must be close to the river because that barge is loud!” It wasn’t a barge – it was a train! In fact, the train rumbled down the same track that crossed the sight of the 1993 Amtrak crash that claimed 47 lives. We eventually paddled out to the river and viewed the bridge where the crash occurred.
The folks in our group were quite excited to be paddling, and many were first-time kayakers. And let me tell you, they paddled like Carl Lewis runs. It was game on, and they left us in their wakes. Fine. We enjoy taking our time, checking out little nooks and crannies, trying to get the perfect photo while identifying all sorts of plants. The crisp, Fall air was delightful, and the the sun warmed us while illuminating a tinge of Fall color (a tinge is all we get in south Alabama). The bald cypress trees in the bayou were well worth the price of the launch. These ancient trees towered over the water with their knees extending around like children gathered around a storyteller.The water was beautifully clear. We did see a few birds – Great Blue Heron, a Belted Kingfisher, multiple cardinals, and a few wood ducks. Many other varieties were chirping in the trees, and we saw others, but since we aren’t bird experts, we opted to simply enjoy the medley of beauty surrounding us.
The highlight of our trip occurred at the far end of the bayou. I paddled under a tree branch, and my paddle brushed a fisherman’s limb line (an unattended, baited fish line tied to a tree and left dangling in the water). I noticed a very large, white bellied fish about 2 feet below the surface. Being a fisherman myself, I could not resist the urge to look at the fish, especially since it appeared to be so large. The fish was quite lethargic and had no fight left, apparently being hooked for some time. I was shocked when I lifted the fish out of the water and realized it was a spoonbill catfish, also known as a paddlefish. We took a couple of pictures of the paddlefish & released it back to the water, watching him slowly swim away. I regret not remembering to use my Flip camera to record the event.
For more information about the Paddlefish see http://www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/fish/paddlefish/
Because of concern about low number of paddlefish, Alabama currently does not allow anglers or commercial fishermen to harvest paddlefish. Paddlefish may be increasing in numbers, so Alabama fisheries biologists plan to study population trends for this unique and primitive fish. Although more anglers are reporting accidentally catching paddlefish in the Alabama River, fewer anglers are reporting paddlefish catches in the Tennessee River of north Alabama.
Our round-trip, 4.5 mile paddle took about 3 hours.
Each time I paddle a new area here in coastal Alabama, I am delighted to find multiple factors that drive me right back to that place. I take friends to experience them as well. I have paddled many locations several times now, and I continue to be amazed at the diversity of flora and fauna observed. One visit is simply not enough.
Often we are in areas that are just a stone’s throw away from civilization. The inhabitants there have no idea of what beauty lies just beyond their boundaries. Because people are so consumed by the hustle and bustle of their daily lives, they never take the time to give in to the curiosity of what lies down that little country road. I encourage you to wonder where those roads go and explore them. Push the boundaries of your world. You never know, an inspiringly beautiful site may be just behind that curtain of trees or just over that hill and just out of sight. In answer to the age-old question, “Dad, are we there yet?” “Yes, son, we are.”
Experience your own adventure! Visit us on the web at http://www.alabamakayakadventures.com
Click here to view our Hurricane Bayou video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTky4z81NWY
Photos provided By Captain Laurel Fleming