Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trail System

Dauphin Island has been named one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations! The Sanctuary consists of 164 acres of maritime forest, marshes, and dunes, including a lake, a swamp and a beach. It is located at the Eastern end of Dauphin Island, a 14 mile-long barrier island situated off the Alabama Gulf Coast. The Sanctuary is of vital importance because it is the largest segment of protected forest on the Island and the first landfall for neo-tropical migrant birds after their long flight across the Gulf from Central and South America each spring. Here these birds, often exhausted and weakened from severe weather during the long flight, find their first food and shelter. It is also their final stop before their return flight each fall. The Bird Sanctuary has allowed Dauphin Island to be recognized by the American Bird Conservancy as being "Globally Importance" for bird migrations.

photo: View of the boardwalks Type: Backcountry, Nature Trail
Length: 3.00 miles
Loop Trail? Yes
Allowed Uses: Camping
Dogs - On leash
Heritage and History
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Wildlife Observation
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

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Location: The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is located on Dauphin Island, Alabama, near Historic Fort Gaines.
States: Alabama
Counties: Mobile
Latitude: 30.2511   Longitude: -88.08742

Coming from the North or West:
1. From the I-65/1-10 exchange head west towards Pascagoula 2.1 Miles
5. At Exit 17B, take AL-193/Rangeline Rd. south to Laurendine Rd 8.3 Miles
6. Turn left on Laurendine Rd. to Dauphin Island Parkway (AL-193) 0.8
7. Turn right on AL-193 to Dauphin Island. 17.9 Miles
Distance:29.8 miles Approximate Travel Time:45 min.

Coming from the East:
Note: It is faster, time wise to go to Mobile and then down, but the ferry is a lot of fun and Fort Morgan is a great site to bird watch while you wait on the ferry.
Also call the Ferry at (251) 540-7787 or in FL call (850) 434-7345 to make sure it is running and on schedule!

Starting From:
Loxley, AL Fort Morgan, AL 47.4 miles 107 mins
1. Take Exit 44 south to Loxley
2. Start out going Southeast on US-90 towards UNION AVE. 5.2 Miles
3. Stay straight to go onto SR-59. 21.4 Miles
4. Turn RIGHT onto SR-180 W. 20.8 Miles
5. At the gate to Fort Morgan, to the right is the entrance to the ferry landing


On August 5, 1864, the Confederate troops holding Fort Gaines rained down cannon fire on Union Admiral David Farragut's fleet those starting the Battle of Mobile Bay. This Battle is most known for Admiral Farragut coining the phrase “Damn the Torpedoes – Full Speed Ahead!” Most people know the Battle of Mobile Bay as a battle on the sea but it was also a battle on the shoreline of Dauphin Island, Alabama. Historian's have records of the Fort's battle field stretching all the way to what is now known as the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Once the Fort fell out of commission in 1926 the United States sold Fort Gaines to the City of Mobile. The City then gave the property to the Alabama Department of Conservation, which deeded it to the Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board. During the development phase of the Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board, Dr. Wilson Gaillard, an avid birder and conservationist, recognized the need to create an Island refuge to protect the natural ecosystem as well as provide safety and resources for the incredible numbers of migrating birds and butterflies on their twice annual passages. This 164-acres preserve includes the widest possible range of habitats from a fresh water lake, Gulf beaches, a swamp, a pine forest, dune system and hardwood clearings. In 1967, the Park and Beach Board enhanced the status of the Sanctuary by entering into a formal agreement with the National Audubon Society, so that it was officially included as part of the national system of Audubon wildlife sanctuaries.

As the years passed, there was a growing awareness of Dauphin Island's unique location and resources related to the spring and fall bird migrations. Wild Bird Magazine selected Dauphin Island as one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations! An incredible 347 species have been reported on the island. Spring migration is the first landfall for many Neotropical birds that make the 600-mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula. Under adverse weather conditions, large flocks of exhausted birds of many species may seek shelter on the Island in a truly spectacular "fall-out." The Island has also been sited as one of the ten most globally important sites for bird migrations.

The future of this incredible site has never been brighter. It is one of the featured attractions of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail and a separate project provides an extensive nature interpretive sign system along the paths. Recently, the Bird Sanctuary caught fire and burned just over 60 acres of the Maritime Forest. With the fire freshly on our mind, the Park and Beach Board is in the process of engaging our partners to update the management plan which will include a Fire Mitigation Plan, action plan to control invasive species, and expand the outreach, education, and eco-tourism components to the Sanctuary. We also plan to expand the trail system to allow for enhance birding trails.

The Bird Sanctuary has a number of trails but visitors enjoy the 1000-foot handicap access boardwalk from the parking lot to "Gaillard Lake" in which a finger pier has been constructed along with the beautiful lake where all types of waterfowl can be spotted. The trail system has been enlarged and a raised walkway through the Tupelo swamp has been created. The extensive trail system includes boardwalks giving controlled access to the Gulf shoreline and both a swamp and dune observation platform. We have placed interpretive signage all along the 3 miles of looped trails. We have also recently installed two large nesting platforms in the dune area as part of Alabama's Osprey Nesting Trail. Once on the beach, visitors can walk to historic Fort Gaines, where visitors can tour one of America's Most Endangered Historical Sites of 2011. The trails found in the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary are a family oriented pathway that provides a safe non-motorized way to explore the Island's best treasures, all while exercising, relaxing and enjoying the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Additional Details

Width: 72 inches.
Primary Surface: Soil
Secondary Surface: Boardwalk
Grass or Vegetation

Average Grade: 2%
Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: 20
Year Designated: 2012

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Document: Green heron, trailside. Photo by Patricia Pierce
Document: Green heron, trailside (2). Photo by Patricia Pier
Website: Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries
Website: Dauphin Island Park & Beach Board
Website: The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail
Website: Alabama’s Coastal Connection

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Matthew Capps
Executive Director
Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board
109 Bienville Blvd.
Dauphin Island , AL 36528



View of the boardwalks

View of the boardwalks

Additional views of wildlife and boardwalks found

Additional views of wildlife and boardwalks found


A view of the Gulf of Mexico and one of our Osprey

A view of the Gulf of Mexico and one of our Osprey

Vistors using one of our interpretive signage.

Vistors using one of our interpretive signage.


Additional views of our trails.

Additional views of our trails.

A view of Fort Gaines.

A view of Fort Gaines.


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