Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Alabama

We visited Gulf Shores and Orange Beach on the Alabama Gulf Coast this weekend. I needed some photos for my new site. The weather was a lot better there than it was here. So, off we went.

The State of Alabama is constantly replenishing the beaches with sand. When we first began spending a lot of time on the Alabama Coast in the early 1990's, sand dunes covered with sea oats were plentiful. Hurricanes and tropical storms coming in, one right after the other, has pretty much wiped them from the beach. Dredging and spreading has put thousands of tons of sand on the beach, but the dunes are slow to build. They usually get leveled before they are strong enough to hold up against even weak tropical storms. Fences like these are strung out across the beach to hold the sand in place long enough for vegetation to build the dunes from the bottom, up.

Hurricane forecasters are predicting a strong hurricane season this year. If that's the case, and they come ashore anywhere near Gulf Shores, what little dunes have been built will be swept out to sea yet again.

Until we began building out the beaches it was impossible to lose them. They just moved from one place to the other. Now we've plunked down billion dollar developments on the sand and decided nature should stay still.

Because our trip would be short, I didn't take my rods this time. Winter isn't the best time for surf fishing, but if you sit long enough something will hit - in January, usually whiting.

While I was taking pictures, Kathy was picking up shells.

Yes, believe it or not, people actually surf in Alabama. Here's a surfing family.

This one's caught a wave, albeit one that won't be confused with the smallest waves in Waikiki. The Alabama surf can get rough though, a lot rougher than most people think. While some coastal residents have moved inland to higher ground before a hurricane's landfall, others are hitting the beach with their surfboards.

The Perdido Pass Bridge is a favorite place to fish in winter.

The dolphin cruises guarantee that you will see a dolphin. That's an easy guarantee. Dolphins are always in the back bays. This one is in Terry Cove.

No problem finding a brown pelican either. Hard to believe that these birds were almost extinct at the early part of the last century. All big coastal birds were almost wiped out to put feathers in the hats of stylish women.

Mardi Gras trees have been catching on at the coast. Businesses and restaurants just take down the Christmas lights and out up Mardi Gras colored ornaments. I imagine there are some homeowners who do the same.

This is advertised as being the biggest Ferris Wheel in the southeast. It is at the Wharf, a new development in Orange Beach on the Intracoastal Canal at the toll bridge. We took a ride on it before the development was officially open. You can see all the way to the beach from the top.

The Wharf has been open a little over two years. Since Orange Beach doesn't have a city center, this was supposed to be it. There is shopping, movies, restaurants, entertainment, a marina, condos on the canal and even a amphitheater. Its taking off slow, largely due to the real estate crash. The poor (putting it mildly) economy isn't going to help it either.