By David Rainer
Al.Dept. of Natural Resources
Now that spring is officially here, it’s time to dust off the canoes and kayaks and take advantage of another opportunity to explore Alabama’s great outdoors.
The latest addition to the Alabama State Lands Division Canoe Trail is the 19-mile Perdido River Canoe Trail, which is divided into two segments with three access points along the Perdido River in Baldwin County.
Typical of a coastal river, the Perdido, which borders Alabama and Florida, is tinted with dark tannin-stained water, like that found in nearby Styx River. The Styx River runs into the Perdido River near Seminole, Ala.
The canoe trail portion of this winding river provides numerous sandbars with white sands that are perfect for river travelers. The many sandbars provide paddlers with frequent opportunities to take a swimming break or lunch break.
The Alabama State Lands Division has provided three access points along the river with two launches and one boat ramp suitable for small boats only. Canoeists and kayakers can stay overnight along the river at one of the six camping shelters that can be reserved or by pitching a tent on one of the sandbars located in front of the shelters. Camping is not allowed on sandbars located between designated shelter locations.
Doug Deaton, State Lands Manager, and Jeremiah Kolb, State Lands Natural Resources Planner, said the Perdido River Canoe Trail was funded through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) grant sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Deaton said the Perdido River Canoe Trail was a natural fit for expanding the State Lands’ Canoe Trail system, which includes the Bartram Canoe Trail that traverses the upper and lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The Perdido trail runs along the 18,446-acre Perdido River Wildlife Management Area in Baldwin County.
“When looking for ways to expand our canoe trail, we thought the Perdido River presented unique opportunities because we already manage state-owned and Forever Wild Land Trust riverfront property there,” Deaton said. “The CIAP program provided the catalyst to start the whole project by submitting a grant application for funding. We were excited to ultimately receive CIAP funding and seized the opportunity to add to the recreational options for the people of Alabama.”
Although the Perdido and Bartram trails are not connected, Kolb said it’s easy to access both trails in a short amount of time.
“And there’s a long history of people using the Perdido River and Styx River,” Kolb said. “Anybody who enjoys canoeing and kayaking will get a lot of use out of the trail.”
The trail amenities include a total of six shelters that will accommodate up to eight campers each in four locations found along the trail. From north to south, these are the Nelson Ditch Shelters, the Peaden Lake Shelter, the Loggerhead Creek Shelters and the Swamp Field Shelter. Individual shelters, which are elevated, can be reserved for one night only, but campers can reserve additional shelters for $25 per night as they travel down the trail. Reservations are from noon to noon, and campers need to keep a copy of the shelter reservation during the trip. No open fires are allowed within 20 feet of the shelters. Cooking stoves are allowed on the shelter porches. Pets are not allowed in the shelters. No alcohol is allowed.
“The shelters are screened in, so there will be protection from insects at night,” Deaton said. “Reservations are required to use the shelters. We don’t allow camping on the beaches unless it’s a beach adjacent to a shelter location. All campers need to keep an eye on the weather. If there’s a chance of a significant rain storm coming in, the river can rise rapidly. Campers need to check the river stage. We provide a link on our webpage to check the water level at Barrineau Park Bridge. If the river stage is 13 feet or higher, it’s out of its banks, so you need to stay away.”
The three access points for launching kayaks and canoes are Gravel Landing, Staple Fork Landing and Blue Lake Landing.
“Blue Lake is mainly for take-out, but we improved the launch enough that you could put a small boat in and motor up the river and fish,” Deaton said. “When we say small, we’re talking about a jon boat with a 25-horsepower motor max. What you’re most likely to catch is largemouth bass, bream, and catfish.”
In addition to the unique habitat of what are called blackwater rivers, the Perdido River Trail users will see a wide variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys, white-tailed deer and occasionally an Eastern wild turkey. Several eagle and osprey nests are visible during the trek. Of course, loads of other wildlife may be spotted along the way, including gopher tortoises and a wide variety of songbirds and reptiles.
“It’s a very easy paddle,” Kolb said. “You can also tube down the river. But be aware that the river is spring-fed and is cold year-round.”
Trail users are urged to make a checklist before embarking on a trip. Included items should be a map of the area, paddles, life preservers, dry bag with a change of clothes, flashlight, drinks and food, sunglasses, sunscreen, cell phone secured in a waterproof container, car keys, lighter or firestarter stick, toilet tissue, portable toilet, GPS and camping gear.
Kolb and Deaton warn that there may be the possibility of having to portage the canoes and kayaks during the trip because of logjams.
“And users need to be aware that those logjams don’t stay in the same place,” Deaton said. “They’re constantly moving. It’s not hard to get around them, but you will have to take your canoe or kayak out of the water.
“Another thing we need to emphasize to the day users and the overnight campers is there are no bathroom facilities along the trail. It is required that users bring their own portable toilet. You’ve got to take it out with you. That goes for any garbage, too. We want our users to ‘Leave No Trace’ that they’ve been there.”
Visit alabamacanoetrails.com to find additional information on the Perdido River Canoe Trail and the Bartram Canoe Trail as well as a link to make shelter reservations.
Pictured: The Perdido River Canoe Trail in Baldwin County provides numerous amenities to those who travel by kayak or canoe, including screened-in shelters and several launches. Camping is also allowed on sandbars