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 indescribably 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.
From the intersection of US 43 and US 80 in Demopolis (food, fuel, lodging available) in Sumter 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.