Dauphin Island: Birder’s and Vacation Paradise
You’ll see them leaning into the gale, wind whipping their hair, their rubberized hoodie, the reporters on CNN and The Weather Channel who make waiting for a hurricane seem like exciting stuff.
“Here it comes!” they will shout, as a super tall surge-enlarged wave crashes over the highway, and they can barely keep on their feet.
They always seem to be on Dauphin Island.
Dauphin Island seems to have a bull’s eye on it. It is the target of many of the hurricanes that roar into the Gulf of Mexico, and it took a beating in the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill, effects of which are still resonating throughout the Gulf. (of Mexico)
The weather is cooling. It doesn’t seem like much, temperatures in the high 80′s or even hitting 90°F, but low humidity and lower night temperatures make it seem bearable, even delightful. Friday night, AdventureMan suggested we take a short road trip, get up early and get to Dauphin Island while we could still get the morning light.
We actually didn’t hit the road until 0800, but hey, it’s Saturday. Traffic on I-10 is light, and we breeze through Mobile and exit to the Dauphin Island parkway.
Once you get on the parkway, it is a beautiful drive. I could hear the beat and echos of the True Blood theme song, you pass lowlands, and wrecked houses, almost every car on the road is a pick-up truck and you feel like you have drifted a hundred years or so into the past. You take several bridges, one over the Fowl River, before you get to the big huge long bridge that connects the mainland with Dauphin Island.
(Foul River from Wikipedia:
Fowl River is a 14.4-mile-long (23.2 km) brackish river in Mobile County, Alabama. It originates near the Mobile suburb of Theodore and then splits into the East Fowl River and the West Fowl River. The East Fowl River discharges into Mobile Bay south of Belle Fontaine. The West Fowl River discharges into the Mississippi Sound east of Coden. It was named by the original French colonists as the Riviere aux Poules, which can be translated into English as Fowl River.)
(I just had to put that in because I needed to know where the name Fowl River came from, as opposed to say Foul River. I always thought Poules were female chickens, but Chicken River doesn’t sound very fearsome, and after all, a chicken is a fowl.)
When we got to the big long bridge going from mainland Alabama to Dauphin Island, AdventureMan said “Now there is a bridge your Mother would love.” He is right. My Mom loved the bridges in Pensacola, and she would really love this bridge:
As you get close to Dauphin Island, there is a beautiful estuary area, with wading birds of all kinds, herons half-hidden by tall grasses; it is a lush paradise.
We zipped out to the vacation rental areas to see . . . well, you know, what we could see. I hate to think of myself as a Lookie Lou, but I wanted to see what the island looked like. It looks a lot like Santa Rosa Island, where Pensacola Beach is, except less developed, and cozier. Almost every house on the west end of the island is on stilts, so the water surges can just wash right under them and cause less damage. Some of these houses are family houses. We saw a lot of houses on Dauphin Island where it looks like people live year round, and many more where it looks like the whole family comes out for weekends.
I saw one house I loved, a huge house, actually maybe two or three houses, with a huge screened in sleeping porch in the center. I could imagine all the families gathering and all the cousins getting to sleep on bunks on the sleeping porch, telling each other ghost stories and then hearing sounds as their excitement kept them from going to sleep. Finally, lulled by the sounds of their parents conversations and laughter, they drift off . . . .
The roads were barely cleared, tons and tons of sand heaped along the sides where it has been scraped to make the roads minimally passable. It’s only been a couple weeks. Other than the heaped sand, we didn’t see any major damage from Isaac.
The only downside . . . and it is a major downside in my mind . . . is the constant blot on the horizon of the offshore drilling rigs.
Let’s see, you have this beautiful paradise-like island, full of bird life and wild life and undersea life, and you line the shallow nearby waters with drilling rigs? Rigs for which the safety standards are not enforced? Dauphin Island was hit hard by the BP Oil Spill, and stands frail and vulnerable against repeated attacks by nature and by man-made catastrophes.
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