The Estuarium at Dauphin Island is a very small but very interesting aquarium that is devoted to the waters of the Mobile Bay area. Estuaries are the parts of bodies of water where salt and freshwater meet. Because of the unique habitat, they are often very much different than that of the nearby ocean and river. Here at the Estuarium, you can see and learn about many of the fish and other marine life that call the Mobile Bay home. It only takes an hour at most to go through, and the cost is very reasonable (adults - $6, college students and kids 18 and under - $3). The Dauphin Island Sea Lab, of which the estuarium is part, is a teaching and research institution affiliated with several universities in Alabama.
The picture here is of one of the interesting fish species that can be seen at the estuarium. It is a flounder, but as you can see it is flat like a stingray. I don't know if all flounder are flat, but I had certainly never seen a fish like this.
Just outside the estuarium there is a small walkway that goes through the sand dunes and has a covered hut with benches. Along the path and inside the hut there are signs that tell all about sand dunes, their ecological importance, and the plants, animals, and birds that live in or around them. I do not know how many people are out there who would actually walk around and read all of these things, but I being a biologist love to learn about this stuff. Maybe some of you would find it as interesting as I do. Check out their website for more info.
Did we want to see another fort?
You could go across the Sally Port without paying, but to see inside the fort itself, you had to enter through the gift shop and pay - it was much more controlled than at Fort Morgan. We looked at the entrance fee - it was only $5. (I later found a coupon which would have given us $1 off the price but Bob said they probably could really use the money.) So we went in.
The attendant gave us an excellent pamphlet which showed the history of the fort, a description of the "Damn the torpedoes - Full speed ahead" battle and a self guided tour with numbered locations and explanations.
We went up the gun ramp and walked around the top of the fort walls. The fort was modified several times and during World War I was extensively modified to fit the disappearing guns. There was still one original bastion which has been preserved in original condition.
We visited the Bakery and the Latrine (a ten seater flushed twice a day by the tide) the Bastion Magazine (photo 3) and then went to the Blacksmith Shop (photo 4). Here there was a actual blacksmith making things our of iron and explaining the process as he went along. The things he produced were for sale.
We continued around the courtyard and visited the little museum (it had additional photos of the lighthouses), and the kitchen (photo 5) and quarters for the men. In the courtyard was the anchor from the U.S.S. Hartford which was Admiral Farragut's flagship (photo 2)
Only a few weeks ago Bienville Boulevard on Dauphin Island's west side came to an abrupt end among dunes, debris and a barren expanse of beach rarely visited by anyone other than the locals. But, beginning June 21 that somewhat forgotten tract of real estate will be open to the public when the Island introduces the new West End Beach park.
At 400-feet deep and stretching from the gulf side to the bay, the WEB, as it's known locally, was designed as a family-friendly, themed alternative to the long time public "playground" near the Red School and pier.
More like a tropical resort than A typical gulf coast beach, the park features two-hundred palm trees lining the entrance and strategically placed throughout the property. The Tiki Village of authentic structures imported from Bali houses vendors serving up food and drinks, souvenirs, water sport and fishing gear, beach umbrellas, and more.
A 32-foot long portable stainless comfort station provides clean restrooms and changing areas for beach-goers, with shower-off facilities nearby. The WEB's canvas-topped shade structures are outfitted with misting systems to offer a cool escape from the summer sun.
While swimmers enjoy the Gulf sand and surf, anglers can fish the bay side of the West End Beach among acres of natural vegetation and wildlife.
Given its family-oriented nature, the WEB will be staffed with lifeguards and security to help ensure a pleasant experience for guests.
According to project designer Liberty Duke of ERIS, Inc., the more than $1.7-million West End Beach is an important step toward the revitalization of Dauphin Island's tourism industry. "It's a low impact, revenue generating project for the town," she said. "You get your revenue and when the season is over the residents get their island back."
There is a $20.00 charge per vehicle to enter the West End Beach, but walk-ins are free.
For more information on West End Beach, call the Town of Dauphin Island at 251-861-5525.
The George F. Crozier Estuarium is a public estuarium specializing in the display of, and providing education on, marine animals in the estuarine environment of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. Facilities include a museum, and estuarium, and a living marsh boardwalk. Hours are 9 AM to 6 PM Monday through Saturday and 12 PM to 6 PM on Sunday. Entrance fees are $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for kids 5 to 18. The estuarium is part of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab the primary educational facility in the state studying marine life.
Civil war-era fort on Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay, abandoned now and run as an historical park. There is a nice, although small, museum inside which houses civil war relics and information on the fort itself. Your $6 admission (adult) will get you admission to the fort, museum, and a self-guided tour booklet. I really enjoyed my visit - the booklet does a very good job of describing the buildings and what they were used for. The upper bastions are dangerous, so do not let children run up there. Gorgeous vistas of Mobile Bay.
My husband and I came to Dauphin Island for the Spring Migration, and apparently Dauphin Island is one of the best places for this purpose. The entire island has been designated a bird sanctuary, and in the three days we were there, my husband saw several dozen birds, many of which were "life birds" for him. You can pick up a map at the local businesses or the visitors center which directs you to the numbered birding areas on the Island - my husband had the most success at the Shell Mount and Airport locations, but he was able to see birds all over. He enjoyed himself so much, we are discussing going back again next year!
Fort Gaines was established on Dauphin Island, Alabama in 1821 and is best known for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War. This is where Admiral David Farragut uttered the famous words "damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead" from his flagship the USS Hartford. The anchor from that ship is one of the items on display here. The fort also has the original cannons used in the battle, five pre-Civil War brick buildings in the interior courtyard, operational blacksmith shop and kitchens, tunnel systems to the fortified corner bastions, and similar features. There is a nice museum detailing the history of the period, as well as the French colonial presence beginning in the late 1600s. It offers nice views of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay. This site is one of the best preserved Civil War era masonry forts and has been nominated for listing as a National Historic Landmark.
The fort received significant damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and more damage in later storms but appeared to be in good shape when I visited in March 2010.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids 6 to 12.
For more information/photos see my Fort Gaines Page.
Right by Fort Gaines is a park area called East Point. East Point has plenty of parking, picnic areas by the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, and a short boardwalk trail with interpretive signs. The Estuarium is also located here.
Shell Mound Park is a prehistoric Indian site located on the northern shore of Dauphin Island. Archeologists found prehistoric shell middens consisting of discarded oyster shells here. The site is also a significant bird watching location. The park is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Excellent location for birding; there are a few benches where you can sit and watch. Also, just outside the park area are homes with "bottle brush" plants - there was a lot of activity in those bushes. If you go to look there, please be considerate of the homeowners - don't make a lot of noise, and don't leave behind trash. I hate to even have to bring it up, but...
On the western edge of town is a nice park with a beach, picnic areas, a playground and other facilities.