Mobile-Tensaw Delta is Prime Location to View Wildlife and Experience Bartram Canoe Trail

The Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the second largest river delta in the U.S., is a prime location to see an abundance of wildlife and the recently expanded Bartram Canoe Trail. Fifty miles were added to the Trail last year, making it more than 200 miles long. Designated routes wind through the Delta along a series of interconnected waterways.

“Ecotourism generates more than $4 billion in economic impact to the State of Alabama,” says Jim Griggs, director of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ State Lands Division.  “The Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Bartram Canoe Trail is a great destination for nature lovers, photographers, kayakers and canoeists.”

The Delta, second only to the Mississippi River Delta in size, is an environmental showplace that is 30 miles long and 12 miles wide just north of Mobile Bay. It covers more than 200,000 acres of swamps, river bottomlands and marshes.  Congress named it a National Natural Landmark in 1974. Fewer than 600 sites have received that honor.

In April, the Alabama Department of Conservation’s Forever Wild Land Trust program purchased the Bayou Jessamine Tract. This tract contains 184 acres, which houses the largest bald cypress tree in the state, standing at 131 feet tall. The tract borders the Bayou Jessamine, which is a principle route on the Bartram Canoe Trail and also leads to Jug Lake and the Bottle Creek Indian Mounds.

What to See in the Delta

According to the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, the Delta is considered the best remaining delta ecosystem of its kind in the country. It is so ecologically diverse it supports: 

How to See It

Many companies offer different excursions in the Delta. A couple are:

Bartram Canoe Trail

The Delta’s 200-mile-long Bartram Canoe Trail is one of the longest in the United States.  It offers canoeists and kayakers thirteen different routes to choose from, including three routes with floating campsites.  Visit the Bartram Canoe Trail online for details and reservation information.

“Traveling the Bartram Canoe Trail is the easiest way to see some of the most incredible wildlife in the country,” says Alabama Department of Conservation State Land’s Division Spokesman Greg Lein.

The Bartram Canoe Trail is named for explorer and naturalist William Bartram, who chronicled his travels in the late 1700s, and inspired the writings of Henry David Thoreau and18th-century environment of Alabama, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. Bartram published an account of his adventures in 1791. Bartram's Travels became a classic and has been described by one scholar as the most astounding verbal artifact of the early republic. To learn more about the naturalist William Bartram, his travels and his association with Alabama, visit the Bartram Canoe Trail and then “William Bartram.”

The Mississippian Indian Mounds at Bottle Creek

The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is also the place to see the Mississippian Indian Mounds at Bottle Creek. More than 700 years ago, 18 earthen mounds served as platforms for temples and houses for the Mississippian Period Indian Culture. The Indian mounds were listed with the National Register of Historic Places on December 2, 1974.

You can see the Indian Mounds by taking the Indian Mound Island Trail that begins at Rice Creek Landing, located on the Forever Wild Land Trust’s Delta Tract, 2.9 miles north of the Highway 225/59 split in Stockton, Ala., on Baldwin County Road. 21. The trail proceeds out of Rice Creek, around the south end of Richardson Island across Tensaw Lake, through Bayou Jessamine and into Bottle Creek to a sandbar landing where a foot trail leads to the Indian Mound. The return leg follows the same route.

Hunting and Fishing

The Delta is a sports lover’s dream, offering both fresh and saltwater fishing as well as hunting:

A Wildlife Management Area permit is required in addition to regular hunting and fishing licenses. Permits are available from the Spanish Fort office of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

About the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

The Mobile-Tensaw Delta functions as a huge sponge that filters impurities.  Water draining into the Delta deposits rich soils that have created marshes, cypress-tupelo swampland and bottomland hardwoods − all of which are rich with plant and animal life. The Delta drains 70 percent of the state’s water, resulting in a 200,000-acre wetland – Alabama’s largest. There are 105,000 contiguous acres in the Delta that are either federal or state property and which are open to the public.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes the statewide stewardship and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them. The department also advises the state government on management of freshwater fish, wildlife, marine resources, waterway safety, state lands, state parks and other natural resources. This includes the administration, management and maintenance of 22 state parks, 23 public fishing lakes, three freshwater fish hatcheries, 34 wildlife management areas, two waterfowl refuges, three nature centers, two wildlife sanctuaries, a mariculture center with 35 ponds and 645,000 acres of trust lands. Other departmental functions include maintenance of a State Land Resource Information Center and administration of the Forever Wild land-acquisition program.

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