by Judy and Don Self
With spring migration winding down and the breeding season in full swing, May is a great time to bird southwest Alabama’s floodplain forests. Two of our favorites are Old Lock 1 Park and Bashi Creek Public Use Area. Both are maintained by the US Corps of Engineers. Management Rd, Demopolis, AL 36732; phone: 334-289-3540 and both provide excellent access to the backwaters of the Tombigbee River.
Directions to Old Lock 1 Park: From intersection of US Highway 43 and Alabama Highway 69 at Jackson, go north on Alabama 69 for 8.4 miles (mile marker 9.1), then left (west) on Old Lock 1 Road for 3.5 miles to the park entrance; park in the parking area by the pavilion and restrooms.
Description: The park facilities are located in an old pecan orchard with hardwood swamp on its south side. Most of the park’s acreage is however contained within the core of an old meander north of the old lock and dam structures. Mature cottonwoods cover much of the meander core while willows and some small cypress occur at the water’s edge. Birding is excellent year round and spring and fall can bring a wide variety of migrants. White-eyed, Red-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, and Orchard Orioles nest in the area around the facilities. While Yellow-billed Cuckoos, American Redstarts, Prothonotary Warblers, and Northern Parulas seem to prefer the river margin. Winter brings Bald Eagles, House Wrens, and Orange-crowned Warblers. Ospreys and Caspian Terns frequently fish the waters below the dam during migration.
The birding experience is enhanced by canoeing/kayaking the area behind the old dam, but check the water level before launching. During periods of low water, powerboat and even canoe and kayak access to this area may not be possible from the boat ramp; however, canoes and kayaks may be launched from the stairway on the east (upstream) side of the old lock structure. Alligators are common, and can reach impressive size, in the old meander and you’re sure to see several as you paddle along the shoreline. The main channel of the Tombigbee can be accessed year round from the boat ramp and the park could act as a put-in for a short, 1.2 mile paddle downriver to St. Stephens State Historical Park.
The old meander core is open to hunting during hunting seasons.
Site Access: Free; park hours are 6:00 am until 10:00 pm.
GPS Coordinates: N 31° 34.363′ / W 88° 01.913′
Amenities: Restrooms, Handicap access, Potable water, Parking, Camping, Canoeing, Boat access, Picnic Area
Bashi Creek Public Use Area:
Directions to Bashi Creek Public Use Area: From intersection of Old Lock 1 Road and Alabama Highway 69, turn left (north) and go 34.1 miles to Morvin, then left at mile marker 43.2 on Clarke County Road 20 (Campbell Landing Road) and go 5.1 miles to the park entrance. Continue 0.4 miles on the paved road to the parking area by the public boat ramp. The unpaved road to the right just inside the entrance leads to the restroom.
Description: Also known as “Campbell Landing,” Bashi Creek Public Use Area provides the birder with access to the floodplain forests along Bashi Creek. Canoeing/kayaking east up Bashi Creek in the spring and summer lets a birder immerse themselves in excellent riparian habitat; sycamore, oak and cypress forest line both sides of the creek for several miles upstream from its confluence with the Tombigbee. Watch the banks for Spotted Sandpipers and the hardwoods for Eastern Kingbirds, Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Orchard Orioles. The understory contains, Northern Parulas, Prothonotary Warblers, American Redstarts, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Indigo Buntings. All of the herons and egrets may be seen along the river bank. Swallow-tailed Kites, Mississippi Kites, and Red-shouldered Hawks are among the raptors frequently observed during the summer months. Alligators are common up the creek in quiet backwaters.
In winter, the short-grass areas around the parking area and boat ramp are a good spot for sparrows and pipits.
And, just one geologic note: this is the type locality for the Bashi Marl Member of the Hatchetigbee Formation. The Bashi Marl is±55 million years old and is a 6 to 25 foot thick fossiliferous marine calcareous sandstone that weathers to form large spheroidal boulders that can be seen in the south bank of Bashi Creek
Site Access: Free.
GPS Coordinates: N 31° 57.628′ / W 88° 0.3951′
Amenities: Restroom, Parking, Canoeing, Boat access