Black Belt | Choctaw | Best Seasons: Fall | Spring | Winter
Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge is composed of over 4,000 acres of rivers, sloughs, bottomland hardwood forest and a small amount of tall-grass cropland. The refuge is divided into three parts by the two creeks, the Okatuppa and Turkey, that flow through it.
Assuming the typical visitor arrives by land, access is for the most part from the north via Wildlife Drive, a packed clay lane that proceeds southward through a general sample of the habitats found on the refuge. Before entering the refuge, you may wish to visit Lenoir Landing, immediately northwest of the entrance. This small park has a restroom, picnic tables, Spanish moss—bedecked hardwoods and a nice view of one of the small inlets just off the river.
Return to the refuge entrance and take the clay road. First, note the dense mature hardwood forest on both sides of the road. The woods lining the road at this part are privately owned land, so remember to bird from your vehicle. Look for Eastern Wood-Pewees, Orchard Orioles, Summer Tanagers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. You will find Eastern Towhees, Wood Thrushes, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers and several woodpeckers along this road. When the woods to the left open up, note the Cypress swamp.
In some springs there is a heronry active in the trees beyond the informational kiosk. This is one of the best parts of the refuge to see wintering waterfowl, and in late summer and fall, Wood Storks often roost in these trees. The first left turn leads to a small pier and boat launch. This site gives the best views up and down the river. Look for soaring Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites. From late March through August you can spot Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and a variety of swallows from this vantage point. There are often herons and egrets along the river banks.
The various sloughs, swamps and bayous host Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites, Red-shouldered Hawks, Common Moorhens, Wood Ducks, and Purple Gallinules. Look for Least Bitterns in the cattails and marsh grasses bordering the water. A few Pied-billed Grebes and Hooded Mergansers may linger to breed here.
Back to the main road and turn left. More dense woods to the left, and soon an open field on the right. Wild Turkeys and Bobwhites have been seen in and near the field. Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks and Eastern Kingbirds, along with numerous Yelow-breasted Chats are found in the trees and scrub bordering the field. Winter brings numerous grassland sparrows (notably Savannah, but look for Grasshopper, LeConte’s, Henslow’s and others) to join the numerous Song and Swamp (and look for Lincoln’s) Sparrows found near the water elsewhere in the refuge. The road veers right. There are American Redstarts, Prothonotary Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Louisiana Waterthrushes and a smattering of Swainson’s Warblers. Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated Warblers and Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos are virtually inescapable throughout the refuge, as are Red-headed Woodpeckers and Great-crested Flycatchers. Be vigilant in hunting for Painted Buntings in the wet hammocks.
Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge is a phenomenal birding resource–one of Alabama’s finest birding sites—filled with great numbers of interesting species. Keep in mind that this is a remote location. The Refuge is almost an hour’s drive from the nearest significant town, Grove Hill. Once on site, you will need to spend a half-day to cover the refuge sufficiently. Fill the remainder of the day with visits to Bladon Springs State Park and the Service Park at Coffeeville Lock and Dam.
The refuge is accessed by only one marked road—Wildlife Drive at the extreme north end of the refuge, at Womack Hill. Remember that the refuge is low-lying and may flood in times of heavy or frequent rains. At such times, the road through the refuge may be impassable. Call the office at 251-246-3583 for any questions.
The primary purpose of the refuge is to provide Wood Duck brood habitat and serve as a protected wintering area for waterfowl. Up to 200 broods of Wood Ducks are produced annually in the refuge’s artificial nest boxes and wintering waterfowl numbers can exceed 10,000.
GPS N 31.839431 W -88.166585
Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 150
Gilbertown, AL 36908
Accessibility of this site is primarily relative to the excellent birding offered from the very lightly traveled roadways. (These roads may have higher than expected traffic on weekends, especially during boating season.)
From the intersection of US-43 and US-84 in Grove Hill (Clarke County–food, fuel, & lodging available), proceed west on US-84 for 29 miles. Turn right on CR-21/Shady Grove Road and drive for 4.3 miles. Turn right onto CR-14/Barrytown Road and continue for 4.0 miles to Womack Hill. Turn right onto Womack Hill Road and look for the entrance to Choctaw NWR on the right in 1.7 miles.
Amenities Available: Picnic Tables, Restrooms
Bladon Springs State Park
Bladon Springs State Park’s well maintained 357 acres are accessed by a single main road, which leads to picnic pavilions, 10 camper hookups, and 4 mineral springs. The central portion of the park is forested in open mature pines and a few hardwoods …
Coffeeville Lake (Service Campground Park)
Coffeeville Lake (Service Park) in Choctaw County deserves a brief visit by anyone planning a visit to Choctaw NWR and/or Bladon Springs State Park. The lakeside woodlands hold impressive numbers of bottomland songbirds, particularly in migration. Ea …