Dauphin Island, Alabama

July 9, 2011
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Dauphin Island

West End Beach Access

West End Beach Access is located at the west end of Dauphin Island. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit this part of the beach

The reason, for the first time I’ve seen, this beach area decided not only to charge for parking (that’s normal) but also charge a per person entry fee to their beach area in addition to parking.

The fee wasn’t incredibly unreasonable. $2.00 for parking and then $3.00 per person ($8 for my wife and I), but for me a per person fee for beach access is asking a bit much.

Instead, we drove back towards the middle of the island and parked near the pier. Parking there is free, and the beach was very nice (photo above).

Shell Indian Mound

IMG_0261Heading back to the east end of the island, a small park on the left side of Bienville Road (the road running parallel to the beach) provides a nice, almost jungle like, walking path. According to the signs, Native Americans in the area used the mound areas to dispose of bone, charcoal and oyster shells.

 

 

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The mounds area is small, but walking paths intertwine a very dense wooded area plentiful with large oaks, magnolias, and other thick growth.

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Audubon Bird Sanctuary

An even better set of hiking trails is just East of the Indian Mounds on Bienville Road.

Lake Trail: 550 feet

Lake

The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is a preserve with several hiking trails and beach access. Starting in the parking area, the first trail I advise is towards Gaillard Lake.

The Lake Trail provides a boardwalk and several informational signs with information about the migratory birds and pine forests ecosystem. At the end of the trail, a nice pier with views of the lake, possible alligators, and definitely several turtles.

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Continue to the right of the lake for two additional, closer views of the lake, as well as beach access.

Beach Access Trail:

After passing the lake, a second boardwalk area takes hikers over the sand dunes and to beach with splendid views of the Gulf of Mexico.

DO NOT CROSS THE DUNES except on the boardwalk. Crossing the dunes can harm the natural formations.

Returning back from the beach, the trail continues towards the Tupelo Swamp.

Tupelo Swamp Trail: Approximately 3500 ft.

This trail is the longest in the sanctuary, but will loop back to the parking area.

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IMG_0313This trail brings hikers along the edge of the dunes (including some very hot sand), and eventually around to an observation platform for the swamp.

With the drought affecting the area, the swamp was almost entirely dry. I’d skip this section of the trail until the drought is over if your only goal is to see the swamp. But if you enjoy a good hike through the forest, with some great views of the dunes, it’s a good hike.

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Estuarium at Dauphin Sea Lab

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After hiking through the woods, a great place to cool off is the Estuarium at Dauphin Sea Lab. This estuarium does an excellent job of simultaneously educating the public of the Mobile bay river delta and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and providing an excellent view of the fish, reptiles, invertebrates and amphibians that inhabit the area.

This place is very well put together and a great place to visit.

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Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines

The final stop on Dauphin Island is just past the Estuarium (in fact you can walk there from the parking area), Fort Gaines is part of the coastal defense system. Built over a period between 1814 and 1850, the fort, along with Fort Morgan, provides defenses at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

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This fort is nearly entirely brick fortified. Admission is $6. Once inside, visitors can can tour the inside bakery, battery, artillery and bastions. Hiking along the top off the fort walls, visitors can see excellent views of Mobile Bay and the Sand Island lighthouse.

Directions:

From Mobile:

1. Dauphin Island is located South of Mobile.

2. Following Highway 193 over the two bridges.

3. Bienville Road runs along the length of the island East (left) and West (right).

 

From Gulf Shores:

1. Following Highway 180, visitors can take the Mobile Bay Ferry at Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island for a fee..

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One Response to Dauphin Island, Alabama

  1. Ben on July 30, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Stunning pics… thanks.

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