April 19, 2019

Historic Blakeley State Park

Date: Saturday 16 April 2016

Location: Historic Blakeley State Park, Spanish Fort, Alabama

Trails: most of them

Members: Bart, Danny, Gary, Larry, Mimi



On a beautiful April morning Larry and I met Gary, Bart and Danny at campsite 6 in the Tent camping section of Blakeley State Park in the Mobile Tensaw Delta. Danny, who had previously been a park ranger there for many years back in the 80’s, led us off on our hike.

Blakeley had once been established by Josiah Blakeley in 1814 and is one of the oldest towns in the State of Alabama. It reached its zenith in the 1820’s when its population hovered around 4,000, larger than its competitor city of Mobile across the bay. It was a bustling seaport town. The first courthouse of present day Baldwin County was settled beautifully down by the Tensaw River. By the 1830’s the town’s physical status began to ebb. Yellow fever epidemics and rampant land speculation turned the population movement towards Mobile.

Then the Civil War years transformed the place into Fort Blakely (spelled this way during those years) housing an army camp of upwards to 4,000 soldiers.

After 1865 Blakeley was no more. The land stood idle until Historic Blakeley State Park was created in 1981. In 1995 Blakeley was added to the Civil War Discovery Trail.

River View

We began our hike walking atop the old fortifications where Danny pointed out the clearly indented places in the ramparts where the big cannons had once sat. The old oaks were indeed massive and the Spanish moss swung from the branches as we walked along. There were boardwalks throughout the park in low places which aided in keeping our feet dry. Danny pointed out one area where we were standing up on a hill that directly below had once been a large lake where beavers had dams!

We strolled along, crisscrossing trails, following our guide. He pointed out the Jury Tree where criminals were tried and then the old foundations of the courthouse nearby, which were preserved by a iron cage circling the foundation stones. Just down from there was the Hanging Tree. The jury's verdict in those days apparently skipped the now current twenty-plus years of appeals.

Across the street from the courthouse ruins, the Mary Grice Pavilion took center stage today. The large circular area with benches surrounding the space was most attractive and well constructed. We rested our feet here and enjoyed some refreshments while Danny told us how the church steeple covering our heads had been spared by hurricane Frederick, although the rest of the church was lost to the storm while being moved to this location.

Hiding


Just a short stroll from the Pavilion we came to another longer 1/4 mile of raised boardwalk which brought us to the waters of the Mobile Tensaw River. There were beautiful Hymenocallis lilies and blue iris blooming, rivaling the view of the dark waters on this cloudy warm afternoon. The Bald Cypress were thriving in and out of the water and contrasted well with the green palmetto leaves and black tannin water of the inland ponds across the boardwalk. Beauty on either side made it hard to focus!

On the way back we came to the “Hiding Tree” and then the Cockleshell Boardwalk. Next we took a path guided by Danny that showed us the wattle and sod entrenchments that the soldiers used.

We ended up at two monuments, one to the memory of the Confederate soldiers, and surprising to me, the Missouri Brigade who served at the Battle of Blakeley April 9, 1865!

Although the park needs some improvements as far as the infrastructure goes, it is still well worth the trip to walk with the ghosts of Blakeley and enjoy the peaceful beauty of Alabama’s delta.


Submitted 28 Apr 2016

Text & Photos: Mimi