On February 26, 2018, we drove from Gunter Hill US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Campground to Foscue Creek Park COE, Demopolis, Alabama. It was an ideal distance, just under 100 miles and only took two hours 15 minutes. It was ideal, State Highway 80 in rural Alabama.
Friends had highly recommended it since it has full hook ups and is only $13/night with our America the Beautiful pass. (NOTE: the price went up $1 on March 1 and they expect another price increase soon.) Bill took a look at the map and decided it would help get us in a better position to drive up to Red Bay, Alabama. See our map in our last post here to see our route.
Since it looked like it was in a very rural area, we called ahead of our arrival. It’s always great to find the telephone number to the Camp Hosts right on the Recreation.gov website. Sometimes it goes to the offices of the COE managing the actually Lock(s) and Dam(s). I needed the best address for the GPS. One of the Camp Hosts answered the phone and was very helpful. She told us our GPS might try to take us through a neighborhood, so to stay on Highway 80 until we saw Maria Street. And the brown National Park sign was clearly at the right place to direct us.
Since I had the Camp Host on the phone, Bill had me ask if our site # 17 was a treed lot that might interfere with our DirectTV satellite. She said it was but since they were nearly booked, it would be hard to find another site. We weren’t able to book our friends favorite site, #50, so we booked what we thought would work for us, a drive-through. Sure wish the website showed Google Earth pictures of the actual sites….
We arrived and Bill unhooked the car. The Camp Host had a list prepared of vacant sites for us to check out. We drove around and found one that looked much better. BUT she warned us, we could only stay on it for the three days we initially booked as it was reserved the day we were scheduled to leave. We said no problem, we really needed to leave on March 1. Ha, the best laid plans. Wouldn’t you know it, a severe storm was brewing on March 1, so we had to move to another site to stay another day!
I’m getting ahead of our stay. Initially, we were a bit disappointed. We always prefer to stay where we can get in a five-mile walk, or better yet, a five-mile hike from our front door. The website said there was a nature trail, so we hoped it would give us the workout we needed. We were a bit concerned as it’s a pretty small park so the nature trail wasn’t even a mile. But it was a nature trail and was lovely!
We tried to be positive – being glad we only booked three days here (so far). We only heard two barges, hoping to see some floating down the river, but we were too far. There was a railroad nearby so we did hear it at 4 pm and 4 am (approximately) each day. There is always something around campgrounds but it seems like railroads are the most common.
The next day, we decided to check out the locks and dam. Are we ever glad we did! We found an amazing hiking trail that doubles as a birding trail as well! And now, we were so happy we discovered this gem, so we know it is a place for us to return.
It’s a fabulous nature trail and trail head! There were numerous routes we could have taken. We hope to do it all one day.
After the War of 1812, settlers streamed into the wilds of Alabama, a mass migration unsurpassed until the California Gold Rush of 1849. Though most of the migrant were small farmers of modest means, the Black Belt’s Fertile soils attracted top dollar. Weather settlers in this region amassed large plantains and cotton fields soon replaced the Black Belt’s Tallgrass prairie….”
The trail map in the top right corner of this information board didn’t show distances. We got lost on a hike once and after 9 miles as the sun set, we were rescued by a good Samaritan! We love adventure so as we chuckled about that memory, we just went in and hoped find our way out before dark. (We did!)
Pictured above, from my Map My Walk app, you can see our start and stop in the red dot from our campsite. It was a mile to the trailhead. We veered to the right and enjoyed one of the nicest nature trails we’ve ever been on! It eventually took us to the lock and dam area. Then we looped back around and ended up seeing the Spillway Day Use Park Camp Host – who also is the wood-carver (as well as the other Camp Host)! We stopped and talked to him for a while, not only raving about his carvings, but how great the trail was. The Ranger stopped by so we talked to him for a while as well. We then decided we better head back on the road (it was a red clay/dirt) – the straight line. Again, I am getting ahead of myself. Pictures telling the rest of the story are below.
The start of the trail. Doesn’t it look amazing? While my knees have been doing great this year, they love real earth trails. We’ve had to walk on a lot of roads, like at Gunter Hill.
No one really could tell us the name of the waters we were seeing. We just thought it was the Foscue Creek. So doing a little research, we discovered we were on Demopolis Lake. A bit about it from this website:
…the confluence of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee River, Demopolis Lake is the largest lake in the Black Warrior-Tombigbee system. The lake extends 48 miles upriver on the Black Warrior and 53 miles up the Tombigbee and covers 10,000 acres. Two modern campgrounds and many day use facilities, as well as primitive camping areas, are available on Demopolis Lake. There is also a large, full service marina at Demopolis.”
After we talked to a few of the fishermen, we wandered down the river. Then we stumbled upon the Spillway Day Use Park and the Camp Hosts. Both are also wood carvers!
The ranger just happened by. He was key to making the trail so fabulous. So of course, we have a picture of us with Ed Davison!
As we were leaving, Ed told me to be sure and look out for Big Foot! His latest creation:
We learned more about the trail. If we walked every bit of it, it was about 7 miles. If we walked there from our campsite and back, it would have been nine miles. We were up for it, but just ran out of time! We do always like to leave something on the table for a return visit. So next time!
We had to move our motor home on March 1 due to a severe storm that would cover all of the northwestern part of Alabama. We really didn’t mind and we liked seeing some new things, like these two amazing fishermen:
These two men love to fish. They found a way to do some extreme fishing so as to be pleasing both to their wives and their Pastor. Years ago, their church began serving mothers on Mother’s Day, with a fish fry. These men saw a good thing…they asked how many women attend. They were told about 30. They offered to provide the fish the next year – and it became a hit and now over 100 women attend. So to provide enough fish, they have to do a lot of fishing!!! This was their second time here this year. I wish we took the picture about 30 minutes sooner, the “clothesline” was packed full! They use a “trap line.”
This was the first “new” park for us this winter. Every place we’ve stayed this winter we were in last winter (except Topsail Hill Preserve – we were there in 2015). We are so glad we broke out of the mold and are glad we have the flexibility to avoid traveling in stormy weather!
…stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge? Job 37:14-16