For thousands of years, the natural resources of the Mobile/Tensaw River Delta have attracted visitors (some who eventually settled here) with its abundance of fresh and saltwater marine life, timber, game animals, and the ease of travel offered by …
For thousands of years, the natural resources of the Mobile/Tensaw River Delta have attracted visitors (some who eventually settled here) with its abundance of fresh and saltwater marine life, timber, game animals, and the ease of travel offered by the area's navigable waterways.
The delta covers more than 400 square miles and includes rivers, bottom land, swamps, marshes and upland timber.
According to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Wetland Conservation Project report, the delta filters the discharge of a watershed comprised of 15 interior rivers that drain what may be one of the most geologically and biologically diverse areas in our country.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees the delta conservation project, maintains that the system which feeds Mobile is recognized as the third largest river system in the United States based on average discharge.
As a result, the biodiversity is unrivaled, with more than 500 documented species of plants and wildlife that range from migrating songbirds to the elusive Florida black bear.
The far reaches of the river delta have served as the home and livelihood for numerous cultures that made their way into the region.
Indians from the Mississippian culture made extensive use of the river delta system and left behind evidence of their use with a complex of 18 earthen mounds that served as platforms for temples and houses. The French, Spanish and English have all traveled through the region in hopes of finding riches and a place to make their stand in the New World.
Many remained long after their countries relinquished control of the area creating a remarkably diverse culture in the Deep South. They all held in common the love and respect of the river delta for what it provided them. The natural beauty upon which they relied for their very survival remains as the keystone of the Mobile/Tensaw River Delta.
And there is no better means by which to take in this natural beauty than by taking a canoe trip along the Bartram Canoe Trail. The trail, named in honor of 18th century naturalist William Bartram, stretches some 200 miles through the delta and is one of the longest canoe trails in the United States. It offers canoeists and kayakers 13 different routes from which to choose, including three with floating campsites.
William Bartram, according to the Bartram Trail Conference, a group that sponsors biannual trips along the route traveled by Bartram in the 18th century, was America’s first native born naturalist/artist.
In the 1770’s, Bartram traveled throughout the American southeast recording in prose and drawings the wonders of this region's natural environment.
Bartram’s resultant work “Travels” was published in 1791 and described the beauty of eight states, including North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee.
While in Alabama, Bartram spent much of his time in Baldwin County studying the wildlife that flourished in the pristine water of the river delta. He maintained a base of operations at British Major Robert Farmar’s Stockton plantation and from there, canoed into the delta to gather samples and record the plant life.
While here Bartram recorded the diversity of the river eco-system which remains virtually unchanged, and in many instances unspoiled by the modern world.
The trail offers a variety of day and extended trips that feature both deep and shallow water inlets. For extended stays, there are even floating platforms available for camping.
From the quiet of a canoe, the modern traveler can almost imagine what William Bartram was seeing and recording in 1775 as he paddled out of Rice Creek or any of the other dozen points along the trail.
The Bartram Canoe Trail allows the naturalist and historian to appreciate in similar fashion the splendor of the river delta and all that it has and will offer to those who appreciate it.