We began our outdoor adventure of the Perdido system on the dunes, marshes, seagrasses of Perdido Key. Last month we toured the wetlands of lower Perdido, and this month we are visiting the transition zone of the upper Perdido.
Here we are defining the upper Perdido as the 48 square miles of land between Perdido Bay on the west, Highway 98 to the south, highway 173 (Blue Angel) on the east and Highway 90 to the north. This is a transition area from low wetland areas to higher, drier uplands. The outdoor adventurer will notice these transition zones as they explore upper Perdido and the changes with the plants and animals as they occur.
Uplands – Hardwoods
The land itself dictates where wetlands and uplands form. Over time we have encountered cold periods we call “ice ages” where there was little water in the area and the shoreline of the Gulf extended many miles further south than it does now. When this period ended the “ice melt” would flow towards the Gulf forming large rivers that gouge the landscape in some places, deposit sediments in others, and form cliffs, bluffs, and sand hills in yet others. These high dry locations do not support the same types of plants that the lower Perdido wetlands do. The high ground around swamps are typically dominated by deciduous hardwood trees. These hardwood systems have wet and dry areas. The wet areas are typically inhabited by cabbage palm, swamp bay, and cedar; the drier areas are dominated by the oaks. Today many of these areas are a mix of pine, oak, and hickory that were not originally there. These are signs of land that was probably cleared and then allowed to grow back with the exclusion of fire. This is not how they originally looked and there are restoration projects going on in many parts of the area.
Today you will find a great variety of trees such as oaks, maples, sweetgum, and holly. Most of the animals in these systems live in the trees. With over 45 species of birds this is a great place for birding. Crows, owls, jays, wrens, and many more species can be found here – you may come across turkey tracks. Squirrels, armadillos, and raccoons are common but you could come across the tracks of fox, bobcat, or black bear.
Where to view nature in upper Perdido
On the southern end of upper Perdido – along highway 98 – is a public boat ramp at Herron Bayou. Launching here you can head south into the freshwater marsh or north into the salt marsh areas and eventually Perdido Bay. There are plenty of birds, fish, and even turtles to see as you paddle here.
Bayou Marcus Reclamation Center
The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority has placed a nice boardwalk along this wetland for people to view the plants and animals. It is a great place to spend a few hours and bring your binoculars. The treatment facility off of Blue Angel Parkway (Hwy 173) near Muldoon Road discharges into a wetland area before it reaches Perdido Bay. This enhances the treatment process and helps reduce high bacteria counts in the bay.
The Betty and Crawford Rainwater Perdido Nature Preserve
This 7.5 mile Nature Conservancy Preserve has 1 and 2-mile hiking trails that cross hardwood and upland pine systems along the lower portions of the Perdido River – a great place to view these transitions! The parking area for the trailhead is located at 5955 Hurst Hammock Road.
The Wilson B. Robertson Boat and Canoe Launch
Located on the lower portion of the Perdido River, the Wilson Robertson Launch provides access for paddlers to the Perdido River. Here you can paddle upstream or downstream and experience these hardwood systems from the water. The Wilson Robertson Boat Launch is located on Highway 90.
Next month we head up the Perdido River.