Barely five minutes from the town of Demopolis, and even less distant from busy US 43 lies one of the great “sleeper sites” in the state: the Backbone recreational area. The spot is incredibly beautiful in spring and summer – Cypress trees framed by the blue skies standing sentinel in the mirror-like still waters of the swamp, wildflowers and marsh grasses adorning the banks. The site itself is a picture postcard for the natural beauty of swamps and wetlands, but then there are the birds… In spring and early summer, Prothonotary Warblers are loud and conspicuous, their; “Sweet-sweet-sweet” seemingly issuing from every branch. Similarly, Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated Warblers are quite numerous; American Redstarts are also present. Common Yellowthroats are semi-permanent inhabitants of the shrubs and grasses in the understory, and Anhingas can be easily spotted here, as well. Look closely for Purple Gallinules, Common Moorhens, and Least Bitterns, all most common in migration (and the Moorhens in mild winters, when additional waterfowl – Coots, Pied-billed Grebes, and a variety of marsh ducks – may be present.) And look carefully; this area holds potential for Painted Buntings. Suffice it to say, this tiny spot attracts a full roster of migratory and breeding songbirds. Very, very impressive, especially for a site so small. From late spring through fall, an abundance of wading birds frequent the region. Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, White Ibises and other such long-legged waders join the Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Green Herons that are found here all year. Watch for Wood Storks, especially “kettling” in the skies above, and keep an eye out for Swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites at any time from March through August, but particularly in summer. Winter brings numerous Swamp and Song sparrows, along with the aforementioned waterfowl; Lincoln’s Sparrows and Marsh Wrens may be seen here occasionally, while Belted Kingfishers become far more numerous. The area has a fair number of raptors. Barred Owls are common here, as are Red-shouldered and Cooper’s hawks. Red-tailed and Broad-winged (spring through fall) hawks hunt the nearby woods, along with Great Horned and Eastern Screech-owls. Directions: From the intersection of US 43 and US 80 in Demopolis (food, fuel, lodging available) in Marengo County, proceed north 3.5 miles on US 43, and turn right (east) on CR 18 (Power Plant Road). Continue for 2.5 miles on CR 18 and turn right at the signage for Backbone Boat Ramp. There is paved parking and a very short walk to the boat ramp and cypress swamp.
Old Lock #7 complex, West Damsite Park
There are two sections to this recreation area. To the south is a more park-like development with a camping area and a few picnic tables. The northern section is a parking lot overlooking the river and a boat ramp. A general mix of woodland songbirds are found here, most notably many Prothonotary Warblers, Northern Parulas (both sections), and Louisiana Waterthrushes (southern portion). Consider combining this stop with the nearby Eutaw Airport for field and pinewoods birds.More Info
This Corps of Engineers-maintained site is similar to most others along the Black Warrior system: boat ramp, picnic area, deep water, well maintained facilities. Expect the usual complement of riparian woodland songbirds, a few waders, and a few waterfowl in winter. Spend some time birding the pine woods and scrub along the entrance road for Chats, Prairie Warblers, White-eyed Vireos, Bobwhites, Field Sparrows, even a few Bachman’s Sparrows.More Info
Runaway Branch Park
Runaway Branch Park has two segments – called RP I and RP II – that bound the same body of water from the east and west. Expect the water to draw spring and fall migrants and riparian-type breeding birds. Look for both kites and Wood Storks in summer, and waterfowl in winter.More Info