Alabama – Fort Morgan, Dolphin Cruise and Flora-Bama

I really like most places I visit, but some just grab me with a special kind of interest.  From the moment I walked through the entrance way of Fort Morgan and saw the first set of rooms, I was wowed.  This place is really atmospheric and the kind of historic attraction that is fun to explore.  The fort is well preserved and there are so many rooms, passageways and tunnels to see I actually got a little lost wandering around.   Unlike some places I have visited, there were no displays or signboards in most of the rooms,  which I appreciated.  I realized later that I didn’t ever refer to the guide but was simply captivated by the building itself and imagining the soldiers living and working here.

One of the things that is so neat about Fort Morgan is the brick work and there is so much of it here!  The number of bricks supposedly used to build it is over 30,000,000.  Over 200 enslaved people including men, women and children made these bricks by hand and built the fort beginning in 1819.  It took a total of 15 years to complete building.  In 1833, the Fort was named for General Daniel Morgan, a Revolutionary War hero.  It commands a great location on the corner of Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast.

The Fort’s greatest claim to fame was during the Civil War when it was used as a defense against Union forces.  In 1864,  Admiral Farragut’s Union fleet passed the fort and entered Mobile Bay.  In the ensuing battle, the Fort’s guns damaged some Union ships but failed to sink them.  Only one Union ship was lost when it struck a torpedo and sank.  (Nowadays we call these mines).  Farragut then gave an order which became a famous phrase, “Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!  The Union fleet forced its way in and Fort Morgan was cut off and bombarded to the point where the Confederate forces were forced to surrender.

The military history here actually stretches over 100 years, with the last involvement during World War II as there were concerns about U-boat activity in the Gulf that resulted in the sinking of 56 ships.   It is now run by the State of Alabama as a historical park.  Below is a picture of the main grounds inside the fort.

Mark didn’t hang around inside the fort as long as I did as it was another cold and very windy day on the bay.  He later sent an amusing text and picture about how he was in the restroom warming his chilled hands on the hot air from the hand dryer.  He does not get cold very easily and hardly ever wears a coat or layers.  Perhaps you can tell in the picture below that he has five layers on.

We came on a day when the ranger talk was about the Civil War battle here.  It was a cold and very windy day and our group sat in one of the dank rooms of the Fort and listened to the lecture.  The young speaker had an encyclopedic mind and remembered numerous names, dates, histories of the people and events that led to the Mobile Bay conflict.   Whew, it was a little much for me to take in, but most of us stayed through the whole lecture.

I like this picture of our guide in period dress uniform that I took while he was showing me where an artillery piece hit one of the walls in a room.

I love boat tours and thought it would be fun to try a dolphin cruise on the Orange Beach waterways.  The captain and assistant were so nice and the ride was pleasant and relaxing.  We saw a lot of dolphins which was great.  I have always thought it is difficult to get a decent picture of a dolphin and this trip was no different.  They move too fast!  There are between 30 and 50 known dolphins in the bay and our guides explained that many of them have been identified and even named using as identification their unique dorsal fins.  The guides also passed out some pictures of the dolphins showing what to look for.

Much of our trip was on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Before we began our traveling, I was not aware of this water route since I had traveled so little in the southern and eastern parts of the U.S.  This is a 3,000 mile inland waterway along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts.  The waterway consists of rivers, inlets, bays and artificial canals and provides a route for shipping.  We have been seeing the Intracoastal Waterway since Louisiana.  On this trip we came across this large barge which we followed for awhile.

One of the more interesting things I learned on this trip was that artificial reefs are built and placed in the Gulf to provide habitat for marine life since the area lacks natural reefs.  The artificial reefs make it possible to have a healthy fishing industry here.  Below is a picture of reefs that our boat captain showed us on the trip.  Besides these man made reefs, other material is used for habitat such as barges, tanks and bridge rubble.

The boat tour normally goes into an area of swamps and creeks, but the water level was too low for the boat to make it without getting stuck.  What was surprising is that this boat can travel in a depth of only 18 inches, but it was still too low!  So we only went into part of the Bayou to look for wildlife such as alligators, birds and turtles.

Flora-Bama Lounge is a coastal landmark which straddles the borders of Alabama and Florida, hence the combined name.   This is one of the more unique places we have visited on our travels.  More than just one thing – it is a lounge, a store, a music venue, an oyster bar and a beach front eating establishment.  This is the kind of place you wander around and just soak up the atmosphere.  There are a variety of rooms to sit both inside and out.  Nobody cares if you wander around, everyone does their own thing, including writing their names on every available surface.  I have never seen so many autographs in one location; people had written on the shelves in the store, on the steps and walls of the buildings, on the tables, almost any where there was a hard surface.  Can you see our names included below?

The Flora-Bama hosts a number of special events throughout the year including the polar dip in January and the Mullet (type of fish) toss and beach party in April.  I read that there is music here every day of the year.  Mark and I heard some country and western songs we hadn’t heard in some years and found ourselves searching You Tube for the songs for our drive home.   (Look up the London Homesick Blues).  Kenny Chesney once played here for thousands of people.  Even more noteworthy is our friend and former co-worker John claims to have worked here in his younger years.  Although, we couldn’t find his name any where!

In the next blog I talk about our six month anniversary on the road!

2 thoughts on “Alabama – Fort Morgan, Dolphin Cruise and Flora-Bama”

  1. Love that fort. Crazy to imagine the battles that went on there, crazy to hear they had sea mines during Civil War. So much great history.

    1. Thanks for your comment Matt! Yes, learning about all the history on this trip has really been great. It has been nice finding unexpectedly interesting places like Fort Morgan.

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