West Blocton Coke Park is situated among the ruins of 460 beehive coke ovens that were in operation over a hundred years ago. Now covered with flowering vines and grasses, the ovens sit tranquilly, giving shelter and food to wildlife.
A 175-foot-long boardwalk with a 20 foot elevation places the observer in the trees with the birds-an unusual opportunity to commune with myriad Red-eyed Vireos, Great Crested Flycatchers and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and a chance to look into the ovens from the top. Additional highlights include a walking path through a native wildflower garden and a small stream that runs parallel to the primary north-south road through the Park. It is sufficiently compact that the site can be surveyed in a couple of hours. The gently rolling terrain and the well-designed and executed roads and paths allow for excellent sightlines in most sections of the Park.
And don’t fail to bird the creek that parallels the entrance road. You should find Catbirds and Eastern Phoebes here all year long, and in spring and early summer this is one of the best spots around to get close to Swainson’s Warblers and Acadian Flycatchers. There are also Louisiana Waterthrushes here, and a few Yellow-throated and Northern Parula Warblers breed in the trees above the stream. Winter brings Song and Swamp sparrows, and you may get lucky and spot a Winter Wren or a Lincoln’s Sparrow.
The majority of the birds are of the expected suburban woodlot variety, with the addition of Summer Tanagers and Orchard Orioles. The open areas attract Eastern Bluebirds and Eastern Kingbirds.
GPS: 33.115466 -87.107076
West Blocton Coke Ovens Park
County Road 24
West Blocton, AL 35184
Amenities: Parking, trails, picnic area
Hours: 7 A.M.-7 P.M.
From I-59/20 halfway between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, take exit 97 and merge onto AL 5 south. Food and fuel are available south of the exit. Continue on AL 5 for approximately 10 miles, turning left (east) onto Bibb 24. The entrance to the Coke Ovens Park is approximately 3 miles ahead on the left. The Park is a mere 3 miles from the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, and little more than 15 minutes from the Bibb County Glades Preserve and the new Living River complex (near Marvel in Bibb County).
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