Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge: A safe haven for wildlife Gulf Fritillary on the Dunes The Bon Secour NWR contains 7,000 acres of wildlife habitat for migratory birds, nesting sea turtles and the endangered Alabama beach mouse. The refuge was established by Congress in 1980 to preserve the coastal dune ecosystem, to protect threatened and endangered species, to provide compatible recreational opportunities, and to serve as a living laboratory for students and scientists. The name Bon Secour comes from the French meaning "safe harbor," very appropriate considering the sanctuary for native flora and fauna that the refuge provides. The refuge serves the additional benefit of comprising one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land on the Alabama coast. Its dunes are a reminder of the Gulf Coast, as it once existed. As a consequence, the refuge has been named as one of the 10 natural wonders of Alabama. The refuge is small, compared to most national wildlife refuges, and is comprised of five separate units in Baldwin and Mobile counties, Alabama. The full-time staff consists of three, but the refuge has numerous committed volunteers throughout the year. The refuge hosts more than 100,000 visitors annually. The Refuge is home to the endangered Alabama beach mouse, which is associated with the sand dunes and sea oats. Refuge beaches serve as nesting sites for loggerhead, and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles. Habitats include beaches and sand dunes, scrub forest, fresh and saltwater marshes, fresh water swamps, and uplands. More than 370 species of birds have been identified on the refuge during migratory seasons. The largest are usually ospreys and several species of herons. At the other extreme, seven species of hummingbirds have been identified. Mammals such as red fox, coyotes, and armadillos are also present.
This was a great hike and provided a very different experience than a forest or woods trail. But the last quarter mile or so was very sandy which made for a fairly strenuous hike that led to a secluded beach. There were 2 side trails off this trail. Gator lake trail was a strenuous mile long and very sandy. But the Centennial trail was easier and extremely enjoyable. All the trails are out and back and total 11 miles round trip
Was enchanted by this very different (when you think of hikes/trails you think of forest and mountains automatically) walk. It was sublime. So much diversity in scenery and vegetation with a wonderful isolated beach finish. Two days later I did the Centennial trail that is just off of Pine Beach Trail for 6 miles (when you also do Jeff Friend). Outstanding trails.
There are four trails in this refuge. I've hiked Pine Beach and Gator Lake. March is a great time to go especially if you enjoy photography without the annoyance of crowds invading your shot. Trails are short and easy with some stunning scenery along the way.