|Gulf Shores - Orange Beach is a well known resort area with many fine restaurants and accommodations|
as well as a variety of attractions and recreational opportunities.
The Gulf Shores - Orange Beach Loop begins at the bridge over Perdido Pass, east of AL 59 on AL 182 [8.8].
1. Perdido Pass/Alabama Point - East
[GPS] N30.27689 W-87.55114
(Formerly Florida Point when the state border was located at Perdido Pass.) This site is part of Gulf State Park (251-948- 7275) and consists of beach and sea oat habitat where there are opportunities for bird observation, fishing, and viewing both Perdido Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. There are no posted hours for this park but overnight camping is not permitted. There are restroom facilities at the site. Snowy Plover, a species of conservation concern, nests in the area, and is most often found in depressions in the sand away from the water and near the first line of dunes. Alabama Point also provides critical habitat for the federally endangered Perdido Key beach mouse. A wide variety of shorebirds are common in summer, as are wading birds. In winter, many Common Loons feed in the pass during changing tides. An occasional vagrant Red-throated or Pacific Loon may show up in their midst. A spotting scope is usually needed for the distant waterfowl. After viewing the pass take the loop under the bridge and return to AL 182.
|2. Perdido Pass/Alabama Point - West
[GPS] N30.27725 W-87.55606
Cross over the bridge traveling west and turn left (south) [0.6] into the parking lot for this portion of the Alabama Point facility. There is a sea wall along this side of the pass with benches. Portable restroom facilities are available. As with the east side, no overnight camping is allowed but there are likely to be some fisherman here at any hour of the day or night. This location provides another perspective on the same areas viewed from the east side. Rock jetties extend a considerable distance out into the Gulf on this side and can be accessed by walking west along the beach. This is a somewhat perilous venture since the rocks tend to be wet and slippery. The trip out does provide for a better chance to observe the winter seabirds that may be in the area, such as scoters, loons and phalarope.
|Laughing Gulls on Orange Beach||3. Boggy Point|
[GPS] N30.28420 W-87.55461
Continue west on AL 182 to AL 161 [2.0], turn right (north) and continue to Marina Road on the right [0.8], turn right (east) and proceed to the end of the peninsula [1.5] terminating at the Boggy Point Boat Launch, an Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources facility. There is a small beach here and an excellent view of Robinson Island, a roosting site for herons and egrets, to the east. This location gives an alternate view of Perdido Pass.
|Great Blue Heron|
Return to AL 161 and proceed across the intersection to the Catman Road parking lot to access the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system.
|4. Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails|
[GPS] N30.28028 W-87.58223
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system was developed cooperatively by the City of Orange Beach and Gulf State Park (Alabama State Parks Division) to provide non-consumptive recreational opportunities through one of the last remaining intact maritime forests along coastal Alabama. In addition to being a preserve for many of the area’s native wildlife, this remnant natural area serves as a lifeline for millions of migratory birds each spring and fall by providing essential food and shelter resources, thereby making the birding potential excellent on any given visit. Over 11 miles of paved trails provide access from six entry points to a diversity of coastal habitats representative of the maritime forest including sandy oak hammocks, pine flatwoods, relict dune swales, seepage swamps and a pitcher plant bog. Interpretive signs placed along each trail identify many of the natural features of the maritime forest.
|Catman Road Trailhead: From Boggy Point (ACBT 3), return to the AL 161 intersection and proceed across to the Catman Road Trailhead parking lot. This entry point is one of six that encircle the Backcountry Trial complex (see map). The entire trail system is open to hiking and cycling usage during daylight hours and features a screened picnic pavilion, butterfly garden, public restrooms and numerous benches to better accommodate your visit. No camping is permitted. For additional information about the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails, visit the website at www.backcountrytrail.com or call 251-981-1180. |
|5. Gulf State Park Pavilion
[GPS] N30.25472 W-87.64431
From the Catman Road Trailhead parking lot (ACBT 4), turn right on AL 161 and continue south to the AL 182 intersection [0.8]. At the light, turn right (west) and proceed 3.6 miles to the Gulf State Park Pavilion and Beach on the left (south). There is a nominal parking fee. This is a large, covered picnic pavilion with tables and benches, restrooms and water fountains. The pavilion closes at sunset. This is another great place to look for seabirds, particularly in winter. Northern Gannet is common off shore during migration. Any flock of loons should be carefully studied for Red-throated and Pacific. Walk the beaches for plovers and peeps.
|Snowy Plover||6. Gulf State Park Nature Center/Education Center
[GPS] N30.26335 W-87.64224
From the pavilion parking lot, continue west on AL 182 to CR 2 [0.6], turn right (north) and proceed 0.5 miles to Campground Road, turn right (east) and continue to the campground check station. Pay a nominal entrance fee and proceed east another 0.5 miles to the Nature Center/Education Center turn-off. The Nature Center exhibits plants and animals that are native to the Gulf Coast region. It is open and staffed Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but is closed during regularly scheduled off-site programs. Bird checklists are available and the naturalist on duty can give you the latest information on birds in the park. For additional information about guided tours and interpretive programs, call 251-948-7275 ext 124.
Return to CR 2, turn right and head north. Along the way, you have the option to stop at the Gulf Oak Ridge Trailhead (the western entry point to the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails) [1.1] or proceed on to Marsh Bridge (ACBT 6A).
6A. Marsh Bridge
[GPS] N30.25611 W-87.67858
Continue north from Campground Road following CR 2 to the intersection with AL 135 [2.4] and bear to the left (south) at the intersection. The park headquarters will be uphill on your right. Continue south on AL 135 one mile to Marsh Bridge; the stream is the effluent from Shelby Lakes and Little Lagoon. Cross the bridge and there is parking on the left. Check for Osprey, bitterns, rails and winter sparrows. In December-January check for Great Horned Owls in Osprey nests.
7. Shelby Lake Picnic Grounds
[GPS] N30.25312 W-87.66513
Continue on AL 135 to the entrance of the picnic grounds [0.9] where there is a nominal admission charge. Within the picnic grounds, there are bathhouses and restrooms. The area closes and the gate is locked at sunset. Check the main lake for waterfowl and gulls in winter; an occasional rarity has appeared in the past. Gray Kingbird is possible here during the summer months and large numbers of transient Black Terns are often observed flying along the lake’s edge in late summer. Be sure to check the small lagoon southeast of the easternmost parking lot.
|8. Gulf State Park fishing Pier
[GPS] N30.24996 W-87.66819
Exit the picnic area to the left (south) and enter the right lane of AL 135. Proceed to AL 182 and drive straight across at the traffic light and into the fishing pier entrance. Park in the parking lot, trying to avoid the places reserved for anglers. There is a small admission for sightseeing, including birding. The end of the pier is an excellent viewing point for seabirds, especially in winter. Previous Christmas Bird Counts have yielded Red Phalarope and all three scoters at this site. Northern Gannet is common offshore during the winter months.
|Northern Gannet||9.Little Lagoon Pass|
[GPS] N30.24180 W-87.73671
Leaving the fishing pier, turn left (west) on AL 182 and drive through the main beachfront intersection at AL 59 and continue to the bridge over Little Lagoon Pass [4.2]. There is a parking lot on the right (north) with restrooms. Little Lagoon is now essentially surrounded by development, but birds can be seen from this little park provided by the City of Gulf Shores. From here you may scan a sandbar (north) and part of Little Lagoon. A fair number of gulls, terns, Brown Pelican and, occasionally, American White Pelican and shorebirds are generally found here. Chances to see rarities increase during migration. Reddish Egret occurs here regularly. Birding is usually best around low tide.
|10. Wade Ward Nature Park
[GPS] N30.25222 W-87.68882
Return east on AL 182 to AL 59, turn left (north) and continue two blocks. On the right (east) is the Wade Ward Nature Park, owned and operated by the City of Gulf Shores. The park offers scenic boardwalks overlooking canals and coastal salt marshes. A unique rarity in the midst of such a vibrant resort city, it is a relatively new birding site. It offers ideal habitat for bitterns and rails. Public parking is available just south, one block east of AL 59 between East Second and East First Avenue.
|Great Egret||This is the end of the Gulf Shores – Orange Beach Loop. You may continue northward on AL 59 to the intersection with AL 180 and the beginning of the Fort Morgan Loop or to the AL 59/US 98 intersection in Foley and the beginning of the South Baldwin County Loop.
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