Fowl River Pedal Trip Summary
April 24, 2005. Sunday. 10:00 am - 4:30 pm. Sunny, 50-65 degrees, cold front winds from the northwest 10-20 mph. Because of strong northerly winds, I decided to again stay in protected waters. Based on the timing of high tide, I chose to go down to the narrows to enjoy minimal current. Launch: Memories Fish Camp ($3 Fee). Route: Down Fowl River, past Bellingrath Gardens, through the Narrows, and back. Distance: 18.8 miles round trip. Average Speed: 3.2 mph. Time: About 6 hours pedaling with two breaks. Below is a photo journal of this trip. (Click on image for larger view.)
(1) Above left photo, Memories Fishing Camp, located on the upstream side of Fowl River, is unique among local launch sites. The locals are serious about their fishing, food, country music, and spirits. Geese can be found nearby looking for handouts. Not much parking though, so carpool if you have the option. (2) The upstream side has some nice protected areas to explore, like in the above photo on the right. Also, about the first mile downstream is designated as “Idle Speed” meaning boats must go slow.
(3) In the above left photo, nailed to the top of an upside down telephone pole is an Osprey Eagle platform. Platforms like this are plentiful along Fowl River and most are occupied. The Osprey Eagle can be seen in the top of the tallest tree on the left. (4) After rounding the bend on the river, the Osprey Eagle let me get closer for a better picture (cropped).
(5) The downside of kayaking Fowl River is boat traffic. The worst offenders are these pontoon boats rented from Fowl River Marina that leave a substantial wake. They are occasionally operated by dimwits who do not know the rules of the waterways. So, kayakers that sit low in the water, you may have to wear a spray skirt. Boat wakes do not bother me though, in the high and dry Hobie Outback. Kayaking in Fowl River is one of my favorite trips. (6) Above right photo, the dock is still under construction after being destroyed by Hurricane Ivan last year. The Southern Belle is a tour boat that operates out of Bellingrath Gardens. Although a big boat, it hardly leaves a wake. Every time I pass by Bellingrath, I wonder when they will remove that ugly eye-sore of a diseased tree that is held together by vines.
(7) A good stopping place to take a break is just south of Bellingrath Gardens. In the above left photo, you can see a swing rope and an old chair. The beach is hard sand and there are some tree roots that are perfect to sit on. (8) Just south of Bellingrath, the river splits. Go east to get to Mobile Bay or go south to get to Fowl River Bay. Back in the 70s, the Corps of Engineers connected the West Fowl River with the East Fowl River by cutting over a mile long channel between the two rivers, now known as "The Narrows," shown in the above right photo. I like this as a destination because there is a variety of birds to see. The fallen trees are due to boat wakes undermining root systems and hurricane force winds.
(9-10) In the two above photos, both taken in The Narrows, you can see a Tri-colored Heron. Rather than fly away, it seemed interested in the Outback and lingered for a close look. Beyond The Narrows is Fowl River West which crosses Highway 188 about 1.5 miles past Zirlott’s Shipyard. Zirlott’s was my turn around point on this trip.
Parting Shots: You never know what is around the next corner when you are exploring in a kayak. (11) In the above left photo, it is not often you see water spewing out of a small island clump. That was cool! (12) Before you draw conclusions about the above right photo, let me confirm the great dane was a HUGE dog and probably weighted as much as its owner. The great dane was watching the other dog in the water, not sniffing the man’s butt. The man bent over was picking up fist sized rocks and tossing them in the water. The dog in the water on the left (Kirk), was swimming to the bottom to retrieve the rocks. I’ve never seen a dog so at home in the water. Kayaking is spelled: F U N.