Gulf State Park
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf State Park is an outdoor paradise on the Gulf of Mexico in Baldwin County Alabama. Though the most popular areas of the park are in Gulf Shores, the park actually stretches into Orange Beach.
The entire park covers 6,500 acres. The crown jewel of Gulf State Park is the 2 1/2 miles of
sugar white sand beaches.
But what makes the park truly unique is
which is thought to be the closest freshwater lake to saltwater in the world. Certainly there are few places in the world where a fisherman can pull a fish out of the ocean and walk across the street and catch largemouth bass and bluegills.
Lake Shelby at 750 acres is the largest of three lakes within Gulf Shores State Park. The three lakes are connected by canals.
The enormously popular Gulf State Park Pier was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. The new pier at 1,512 feet long is about twice the length of the old one and 50% wider. The old pier was refashioned into artificial fishing reefs to attract more fish species to the new pier.
250 feet east of the old one, the new pier has recaptured the honor of being the most popular fishing spot on the Alabama Gulf Coast. It attracts 250,000 fisherman and sightseers each year, drawing as many as 5,000 on the busiest days.
For those wondering what can be caught from the pier, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, sheepshead, redfish,
whiting, bluefish, pompano, cobia, and bonito are just a few of the fish that might grab a hook. Occasionally what you can see is more unusual that anything you can catch. Not far before
those fortunate enough to be on the pier at the time saw a whale. Manatees have also been sighted close to the pier.
A new beach pavilion has recently opened near the pier. This pavilion, with restrooms and a large number of shaded picnic tables, is a nice addition to Gulf State Park. There is a charge to park your car, but no charge to use the facilities.
Gulf Shores State Park is a haven for those who like to bring their motor homes and camper to the beach. At peak seasons the 496 camp sites are all occupied. Campers at the park camp without "roughing it." The park has very nice bathhouses.
For those without campers, 20 cabins are on the grounds. Four cabins are in the forests and the rest are on the lake. One of the nicest amenities of the cabins are the piers. Fishing is great at Lake Shelby, especially from early spring until late fall. Reserve early: 251-948-7275.
Hikers and bicyclists have numerous trails to use within the park. We often access one trail from Orange Beach. This trail (Catman Trail, part of the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail System) connects Gulf State Park with Highway 161 in Orange Beach. From Gulf Shores State Park you could walk this trail all the way to Orange Beach, cross Highway 161 and walk to the Cotton Bayou beach area. Then you could walk the beach back to Gulf State Park. On this walk you will see what few others ever do - a coastal forest in its natural state, complete with sand dunes, creeks, and wetlands. Add the beach to the trip and you've got a unique hike.
The park on Lake Shelby has a swimming area and picnic tables. There is a small fee (per person) to use this area, and you need a permit to fish. Inside this park is a concession stand that sells snacks, supplies, and fishing bait.
You can fish the other areas of the park without a permit like this fisherman who is waiting for a big catfish.
Do make sure you have a license though. It's very easy to get checked here.
The park is part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Within the park there are six sites dedicated to bird watching. Birding draws thousands of people to the Alabama Gulf Coast. It is possible to see literally hundreds of bird species on one vacation. Casual wildlife observers enjoy watching the big birds like great blue herons, ospreys and brown pelicans.
Gulf State Park is a place where it is possible at any given time to see any of the coastal wildlife that inhabits the Alabama Gulf Coast on land and in freshwater and saltwater.
For the golfer, Gulf State Park has an 18-hole course with a pro shop and snack bar.
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