Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Location: Fairhope, Alabama

Webpage: NOAA Reserve

General Description: Weeks Bay Estuarine is a network of 28 areas representing different biogeographic regions of the United States that are protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education and coastal stewardship.  It consists of 6,000 acres of land and waterways along the mouth of Fish River into Weeks Bay and along Mobile Bay.  There is a free interpretive Visitor Center and numerous hiking trails including boardwalks out to the bay and around a pitcher plant bog.

trailsmap

Impressions:

1) The Visitor Center is quite small with just a few exhibits of the ecosystems protected by the reserve.  The volunteers are very friendly and helpful, even giving advice to fishermen that brought in a fish that did not recognize.

visitorcenter

2) There is a nature trail along a raised boardwalk through the swamps to an overlook of Weeks Bay. It is a well maintained boardwalk with representatives of the trees and shrubs found along the trail well identified with signs on the boardwalk and attached to the plants.

3) There is also a nice boardwalk located a couple of miles from the Visitor Center that circles a pitcher plant bog before heading through a longleaf pine stand to an overlook on the Fish River.  January is not the time to view pitcher plants as they die back for the winter, although their remains were easy to spot once we knew what to look for.

pitcherplants

4) There are numerous other trails located on the reserve, many of which can be wet and swampy.  However, as long as you choose the trails through the upland oak/pine forest you can have a nice hike on a warm winter day.

uplandoaks