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Opinion | Your Delta vacation

Wiley Blankenship

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With spring break, Easter break and then summer break on the horizon, you may already be thinking about where you’ll spend your time off. Let’s say that you’ve heard a lot about the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and that you’ve decided to take your next vacation there. Maybe you’ll be bringing your spouse and children with you.

Maybe you’ll be bringing your spouse and children with you.

Problem is, you don’t quite know where to start making your plans.

Shonda Borden would suggest that you begin at the beginning — literally. She is the manager of Five Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort, situated at the lower end of the delta. (The center is known as the “Gateway to the Delta.”) Borden and her staff, under the umbrella of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, oversee an array of camping sites and shelters, canoeing and hiking trails, hundreds of species of wildlife, Indian mounds, tour boats, exhibition halls, meeting spaces and more.

First off, you’ll want to find a convenient place to stay. The Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce list numerous hotels and campgrounds in Spanish Fort, Mobile, Daphne and other nearby communities.

Check out their websites at www.eschamber.com and www.northbaldwinchamber.com, respectively. Also call up www.mobile.org, which is Mobile’s official site for visitor information. You also can do an Internet search for privately rented houses and cottages in the delta.

Once you’ve arrived, Borden suggests taking a guided boat tour to learn about this diverse network of rivers, bayous, wetlands and hiking trails. Call Five Rivers (251-625-9814) for information on the companies and individuals who lead delta tours via large-group boats, airboats, kayaks and canoes. Tour boats are also based at Historic Blakeley State Park (251-626-0798).

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Then, Borden says, try exploring the delta yourself by kayak or canoe — either by renting one at Five Rivers or bringing your own. Five Rivers offers free launching; for other boat launches in the delta, consult the Alabama Delta Alliance’s interactive map (https://alabamadelta.com/map) for information about facilities throughout the delta.

A trip to the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta wouldn’t be complete — or at least wouldn’t be as much fun — without camping under the stars, Borden says.

“Whether you use one of our shelters, camping platforms or land-based sites, there’s nothing like camping in the delta,” she says. “You can fall asleep to the sound of bullfrogs and wake up to the sound of a solitary warbler.”

Not everybody likes camping under the stars, however, and for those who don’t, there’s Meaher State Park, located across from Five Rivers on U.S. Highway 90. A 1,300-acre wonderland nestled in the woods on the shore of Mobile Bay, the park features 61 RV camping spots plus four cabins and 10 tent sites. (Call 251-626-5529 to make a reservation.)

Meaher is also loaded with hiking trails, fishing spots, picnicking facilities and a fabulous boardwalk that lets visitors get an authentic feel for the delta.

“This is a great area for bird watching,” Meaher Park superintendent Anna Bryant points out. “You can often see osprey, bald eagles, laughing gulls, mourning doves, killdeer, American robins, mockingbirds and others.”

If you’re beginning to sense that there’s even more to do in the delta, you’re right — and the Alabama Delta Alliance’s map offers many suggestions, including hunting, fishing, hiking and just plain relaxing.

“That’s the beauty of the delta,” Borden says. “You can get out in it and experience a real sense of peace. And that’s priceless these days.”

Wiley Blankenship is executive director of Coastal Area Partnership. The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is home to more than 600 species of fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Its 260,000 acres include swamps, marshes and wetlands as well as a maze of tributary creeks, rivers, streams and bayous. It is America’s second-largest delta. Visit alabamadelta.com for more information.

 

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