Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge’s Blackwell Swamp’s flooded woodland and marsh (Site # 26, Central Loop) can be explored by car, on foot, or by canoe. This extensive area hosts a variety of wetland species including Great Blue and Green herons and Great Egrets. The striking Prothonotary Warblers can be plentiful in the spring when the males are actively singing from every feasible vantage point, in hopes of courting a mate. With numerous dead trees in the area, look for Red-headed and Pileated woodpeckers as they flash their red, white, and black colors in this sea of green.
In early winter mornings, one can hear Great Horned Owls. The swamp can be full of American Coots, rafts of Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks , Gadwall and other dabblers. A short walk up and down the road can produce White-throated Sparrows, Hermit Thrush, Slate-colored Juncos and other winter visitors.
Directions: The intersection of County Line Road and I-565 west of Huntsville, lies between I-565 exits 5 and 7. Note: There is no interstate exit at the intersection, as here US Highway 72 parallels I-565. County Line Road may be accessed from I-565 exit 7 by traveling west on Highway 72, or from I-565 Exit 5 by traveling east on Highway 72 for a short distance. From the intersection, go south on County Line Road for 5.9 miles. Turn left (east) on Jolly B. Road. To access the west side of Blackwell Swamp, continue on Jolly B. Road 0.6 mile to the Wheeler NWR sign and continue on the refuge access road for another 0.8 mile to a small canoe landing. To access the east side of the swamp, turn left (east) on another refuge access road off Jolly B. Road a few hundred yards before the Wheeler NWR sign. This road will carry you to the north and east sides of the swamp. An eastern viewing and canoe access point is 1.7 miles down this road.
GPS: N 34.5770, W 86.7822
Amenities: Parking, Canoeing
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603