North Alabama, Northwest Loop | Lawrence | Best Seasons: Fall | Spring | Summer
Bankhead National Forest (Site # 14, Northwest Loop) encompasses 180,000 acres of public land crisscrossed with hundreds of miles of deep canyons, providing an adventurous environment for hours or days of exploration. Habitats in the national forest range from old fields to mature pine and hardwood forests. The area is renowned for its breeding Cerulean Warblers, which can be found in several of the heavily wooded canyon bottoms. Check among the pines for resident Pine Warblers and Brown-headed Nuthatches and explore the trails at night for Chuck-will’s-widows and Barred Owls. Bankhead National Forest has so many impressive waterfalls, clear streams, and deep verdant forests to explore that you will surely return time and again. The nature of the Bankhead National Forest, a continuous expanse of forested habitat, is why the American Bird Conservancy designated the Bankhead National Forest as an Important Bird Area.
GPS: N 34.3452, W 87.3393
U.S. Forest Service
District Ranger, Bankhead National Forest
PO Box 278
Double Springs, AL 35553
Be sure to enjoy the full forest loop trail while visiting the forest.
Birding within the Bankhead National Forest:
Begin your visit at the Central Firetower Kiosk Site for the North Alabama Birding Trail on Bankhead.
Directions to the Central Firetower Kiosk Site: From the intersection of AL Hwy 24 and AL Hwy 33 in Moulton, head south on Hwy 33 for 11.4 miles into the Bankhead. The kiosk is located near the firetower at mile marker 15.
Site 1 – Walston Ridge Road
The road along Walston Ridge provides some of the best birding on the Bankhead National Forest due to a variety of forest habitats found here. Along this road you will see the evidence of prescribed fire that is utilized to maintain the open character of the upland forest. The forests here are upland oak-pine woodlands. As you proceed down the road you will also find wildlife openings, young pine forest and riparian coves and creeks. You might see a blue-winged warbler, prairie warbler or a yellow breasted chat. The road ends just above Collier creek…walk down into this cove forest to listen for a Louisiana Waterthrush or an Acadian Flycatcher.
Directions to Walson Ridge Road: From the Central Firetower, go south on AL Hwy 33. Bear left on County Road 63. Turn left onto Forest Service Road 245. Turn right onto Forest Service Road 253 (Walston Ridge).
Site 2 – Brushy Lake Recreation Area
Brushy Lake provides overnight camping and day use facilities along the wooded shores of a lake. Be on the lookout for an osprey, swallows, wood duck or kingfisher at the pier. Follow the trail downstream to get a glimpse of the cove forest with its bluffs and rushing stream where you may hear a worm eating warbler. Explore upstream and you will find a switchcane thicket along the creek and you may hear a Swainson’s Warbler.
Directions to Brushy Lake: From the Central Firetower, go north on AL Hwt 33. Turn right onto Forest Service Road 246/Co Rd 70. Turn left on Forest Service Road 245. Turn right into Brushy Lake Day Use Area.
Site 3 – Northwest Road
Travel along the Northwest Road provides a beautiful drive any time of the year. The road winds around sheer rock bluffs and along limestone rock outcrops through a forest cover of cedar woodlands and mature hardwood forests. The karst, limestone topography of this area influences the forest vegetation in many ways. In this area you could hear scarlet tanager or see a black throated green warbler or even a Kentucky Warbler.
Directions to Northwest Road: From the Central Firetower, go south on AL Hwy 33. Turn right onto Forest Service Road 208/NW Road at mile marker 14.
Site 4 – Sipsey Wilderness Trailhead
This trail follows the Sipsey Fork, a designated Wild and Scenic River corridor. The trail goes through an extensive mature hardwood forest within the Sipsey Wilderness. This area is famous in Alabama for its nesting Cerulean Warblers. This is a stronghold for the species within the state and possibly one of the best places to see these dazzling jewels.
Directions to Sipsey Trailhead: From the Central Firetower Kiosk, go 2.5 miles south on AL Hwy 33. Turn right onto Co Rd 60/Cranal Road and follow it for 3.9 miles to the Sipsey Wilderness Trailhead, located at the Sipsey River Picnic Area.
From the intersection of AL Highway 24 and AL Highway 33 in Moulton, head south on Highway 33 for 11.4 miles into Bankhead National Forest. The orientation kiosk is located by the firetower.
Wheeler Dam – South Landing
Completed in 1936, Wheeler Dam (Site #2, Northwest Loop) was the first Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) hydroelectric dam on the Tennessee River. This dam impounds the 67,100-acre Wheeler Lake, creating an enormous habitat for waterfowl, wading birds …