April 22, 2024


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Fantastic Things To Do At Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge


Alongside the Alabama Gulf Coast, firmly carved out of the row on row of high increase condominiums, brightly coloured elevated seaside residences, and mother-and-pop souvenir stores where rows of sunglasses, beach-themed t-shirts, and assorted other trinkets contact out to visitors, there is a inexperienced room that guards the past remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat along the Alabama Gulf Coast. 

Within just its borders, hundreds of species of wildlife and native vegetation obtain refuge from the at any time-escalating advancement of the land around it. It is called the Bon Secour Nationwide Wildlife Refuge (BSNWR), and it’s an incredible oasis for flora and fauna in what is arguably the quickest increasing space in the point out, Gulf Shores. 

I initial frequented the refuge when I moved to the region just over 40 a long time ago. Since then, it has come to be my beloved location to working experience the natural side of the region, a aspect that would have surely vanished experienced it not been for the foresight of Congress, which stepped in to secure it in 1980. 

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Danny E Hooks / Shutterstock.com

Bon Secour has given that grow to be my individual refuge, a put to get absent, shed oneself in the stillness of the maritime forest, to expend time watching and listening to the surf on the very last stretch of undisturbed, uncrowded seashore on the Alabama coast. 

It’s a area to perspective wildlife, look at the seasonal improve of hen species as they make their way into the spot, kayak and fish a saltwater lagoon, hike via maritime wetlands and forests, and watch as the dreary winter landscape bursts into lively coloration with the arrival of wildflowers in spring.

I hope you will choose the time to pay a visit to Bon Secour when viewing Gulf Shores or Orange Seashore. It will speedily come to be your refuge, much too. 

What’s In A Name? 

Bon Secour. Sounds French, suitable? It is. It is an proper identify if ever there was one. 

The identify pays homage to the early French settlers that arrived in the area close to 1702, but additional importantly, translated, it usually means “safe harbor.” And which is what it is — a harmless harbor for hundreds of species of birds, endangered wildlife, and enchanting wildflowers. 

Located on Alabama’s barrier island that delineates the Gulf of Mexico from Mobile Bay, the refuge was established by Congress in 1980 for the defense of wildlife habitat for migratory birds, nesting sea turtles, and the endangered Alabama beach front mouse. 

These days, the refuge includes five units totaling about 7,000 acres of transitional maritime wetlands, forest, and beach locations. 4 of the units are found on the island with the fourth on a separate island recognized as Little Dauphin Island. 

A plover scurries in the surf in Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
A plover scurries in the surf (Photo Credit: Joe Cuhaj)

Bon Secour: A Fowl Watcher’s Paradise 

The Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge is a chook watcher’s paradise with over 360 species of birds possibly completely calling the refuge residence or making use of it as a migratory quit. 

The refuge is component of the Alabama Birding Path, a collection of stops across the state wherever birders can spy on a vast assortment of species. In this article at the refuge, birds you may possibly see contain osprey, terns, blue heron, warblers, and yellow-billed cuckoos. 

The refuge has been deemed a vital migratory end for American Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstone, Yellowlegs, and Willets. It is also a critical habitat for Snowy Piping Plovers. This very small small gray to sandy brown with white upper body hen will be observed busily darting about the surf on the beach front from fall by spring. The plover has been shown as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Support.

An American alligator hiding in the brush in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
An American alligator hiding in the brush (Photo Credit score: Joe Cuhaj)

An Oasis For Wildlife 

Apart from birds, the refuge is the household of several exceptional and endangered species of wildlife, a single of all those being the Alabama beach mouse. 

The seashore mouse tends to make its property in the tall main dunes, secondary dunes, and scrub dunes that border the Gulf. Mountaineering to these beach locations, you will be well knowledgeable that you are in seashore mouse territory as signals alert you to stay on the path so that you really do not disturb their habitat. 

The seaside is also the nesting ground for various endangered sea turtles together with the loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley, who uncover their way to this location every year to lay their eggs in the sand in spring. The eggs eventually hatch in late summer time with hundreds of hatchlings scurrying to the Gulf.

Turtle nests are marked off with plastic fencing by park rangers and volunteers to preserve the general public a protected distance away so that the nests will not be disturbed. You can be a volunteer to enable keep an eye on the nests. Go to Share the Seaside to get all of the particulars. 

And as is the scenario all across south Alabama, Bon Secour has a population of American alligators. You may see a person on your travels lurking beneath the waters in the wetlands or the freshwater Gator Lake. They may well even cross your route on one particular of the refuge’s trails. If you do come across a gator, give them a great deal of length. They appear slow but can get to speeds of up to 30 miles an hour on land for a small distance.

Hikers head over the dunes on the Pine Beach Trail at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
Hikers head around the dunes on the Pine Beach Trail (Photo Credit: Joe Cuhaj)

The refuge is veined with 6 miles of hiking path that meander by a transitional atmosphere beginning in a maritime forest to the north, manufactured up of mixed pines and oaks, that steadily slopes down to a maritime wetland brimming with swamps, a freshwater lake, and lovely wildflowers in season right before reaching the tall coastal sand dunes and 1 of the most gorgeous and secluded seashores on the Alabama Gulf Coastline. 

The four trails in the refuge are situated in what is referred to as the Purdue Device, which is positioned 6 miles east of the intersection of Alabama Highway 59 and 180 in Gulf Shores. 

The initial trail is the Jeff Friend Trail, an uncomplicated going for walks 1-mile loop hike through a nice wetland largely along an ADA obtainable boardwalk. The emphasize of the hike is the remarkable views of Very little Lagoon. 

The Gator Lake Trail is a intriguing 2-mile reasonable out-and-back hike along a fantastic white sand footpath. The path requires you as a result of coastal flora like deer moss, scrub oak and pine, wild rosemary, and noticed palmetto and finishes at the banks of its namesake lake that demonstrates the darkish blue Alabama sky. 

The Centennial Trail is a 4-mile reasonable out-and-again hike by a stunning wetland, in particular in the spring when wildflowers line the path and the trail’s boardwalks guide you more than wetlands topped with blooming lily pads. The trail is wedged in between the Jeff Friend Path and the Pine Seaside Trail so to get to it, you will have to stroll both about a mile down the Pine Beach front Path which increases the hike to 6 miles or a fifty percent-mile on the Jeff Buddy Path. The latter raises the hike to a 5-mile trek. 

The final trail is the most well-known in the refuge: the Pine Beach front Path. The path is a 3.2-mile out-and-back again that provides you a fantastic look at the Gulf Coast’s transitional environment from a maritime forest earlier the saltwater Very little Lagoon and freshwater Gator Lake, then crossing the sand dunes to the most gorgeous and secluded seashore on the Alabama Gulf Coast. The path is straightforward walking right up until you access the dunes, where the high-quality beach front sand makes it a average hike.

Wildlife viewing platform at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
Joe Cuhaj

About a mile into the hike you will arrive to a massive two-tale wildlife viewing system that overlooks the lagoon and lake, the excellent put to get a break and enjoy birds and wildlife. 

Checking out Bon Secour Nationwide Wildlife Refuge By Kayak Or Paddle Board 

A wonderful kayak trip awaits you when you start your boat at the Jeff Close friend Kayak Start. The launch is situated on the banks of Tiny Lagoon and delivers effortless accessibility to the 8-mile wide saltwater lagoon.

If you don’t have a kayak or SUP, you can hire a single at one of the close by outdoor shops. And either way you examine the lagoon, you’re in for a wonderful working day exploring the a lot of bayous and inlets. 

Wetting A Line 

And then there is fishing. If you’re an angler, you are going to come across astounding surf fishing on the beach. Vehicles are not permitted in the refuge, so you will have to carry your equipment down the Pine Beach Trail. You can also test your hand at saltwater fishing from the banking companies of Minimal Lagoon or from a kayak.

Professional Suggestion: Do not forget to get that Alabama saltwater fishing license prior to dropping the hook.

Bon Secour Professional Tips 

The refuge is open day by day from sunrise to sunset. The visitor heart on Alabama Highway 180 is open up Tuesday as a result of Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The Jeff Pal and Pine Seashore Trailheads are on Alabama Freeway 180 when the Gator Lake Trailhead is off the highway on Mobile Street. Switch left at the Pine Seashore Trailhead to get there. 

The Jeff Close friend Trailhead has an computerized gate that locks after sunset. The other trailheads are not gated.

Stop by the Bon Secour website for the newest routine of ranger-led packages that are held through the yr. They are very insightful and will insert greatly to your have expertise at the refuge.


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