For more than a thousand years, locals have left proof of their lives on our little Island Paradise. Its actually hard to imagine our island had locals and guests that long ago. But its true! Our Alabama Gulf Coast has seen its share of different people, professions and lifestyles over the years. Evidence of them is still obvious if you know what to look for. Native Americans once lived all over our island and we celebrate them by remembering and by looking forward. Today, we ask guests who visit Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan to Leave Only Footprints, when you walk in the same places these first beach loving Alabamians lived. We suspect that if you take the time to listen, you can hear their spirits still whispering in the oaks.
- Native American Canal
Not long ago, a group of archeologists from around the state of Alabama gathered in Gulf Shores to research a 1400 year old canal that existed between Oyster Bay and Little Lagoon. That’s right! Beneath part of what is our modern-day Fort Morgan community, there once existed a canal that connected those two bodies of water. Presumed to be built by ancient Middle Woodland Era Native Americans who inhabited the area, this canal was eight feet deep and thirty feet wide and about a half of a mile long. Today, that would take little more than a backhoe and a couple of days to complete, but in AD 600, this canal was built entirely by the hands and handmade tools of determined people. Known to many older residents as the “Indian ditch”, it is believed to have been used by ancient fishermen to make their trips to and from the Gulf easier than land travel. The canal has since been filled in either by men or nature or both, but relics dating it back to about 600 years after Jesus lived have recently been discovered. The land where the canal is located today is owned by the City of Gulf Shores. Researchers hope to have it linked to a hiking trail and one day in the near future, have it preserved for all to enjoy.
- Bear Point
Bear Point is located at the far east end of what is now Orange Beach. Until the early 1800’s, this area was home to a group of Creek Indians. These early settlers were descendants of the people of the Mississipian period and were known for their strong social structures and for building large mounds in or near their villages. They were among the most respected Native Americans by European settlers. In fact, in 1775, author and trader James Adair remarked about the Creeks that they were: “more powerful than any nation” in the American South. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians continue to contribute to our local history and future. In addition to constructing OWA in Foley, a wonderful family recreation amusement park, they sponsor the annual Ballyhoo Festival in Gulf Shores. Along with being known for its Native American inhabitants, Orange Beach was later known for its fishermen, turpentine producers and abundance of orange groves. Although theweather on our island is perfect for growing citrus fruits, today Orange Beach is more widely known for being a leader in fishing and water recreation sports. Everyone along the Alabama Gulf Coast knows that if you want to catch great fish, Orange Beach is the place to start.
- Shell Banks Cemetery
Located behind Shell Banks Baptist Church on Fort Morgan Road, historic Shell Banks Cemetery sits beneath the ancient Live Oaks just inland from Mobile Bay. While cemetery markers prove a timeline of Americans who lived near here, including some grave markers from the American Civil War, this was once the location of the Native American village of Achuse. A nearby historical marker states that in 1539 this location hosted a Native American settlement that was visited by one of Hernando DeSoto’s men. This initial meeting was the first ever recorded encounter with Native Americans by any European explorer. Native Americans were then referred to as “Indians”. To elaborate, this meeting was 81 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in what is now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and 68 years before the English settlers founded Jamestown located in Virginia. A Native American village called “Achuse” was listed on an old Spanish map from the 16th Century proving the community existed and verifying the location was near the modern-day Shell Banks Baptist Church.
In this time of social distancing along the Alabama Gulf Coast, we know you are looking for things to do and places to see that won’t involve being in crowded areas. We, at Sunset Properties, invite you to tour our island, enjoy our sandy white beaches, and consider those who lived here before us. Take a ride through our Fort Morgan Community or over to Bear Point. Along the way, you will see some of the most beautiful coastal landscaping anywhere. You will also pass several of our rental homes and one just might be perfect for you and your family. Located near Fort Morgan along and near the calm waters of Mobile Bay, we have several vacation homes ranging from condos to single family luxury homes available. In Orange Beach where the seafood is amazing and the fishing non-stop, we invite you to look at our selection of dog friendly homes. Or if you prefer to stay in Gulf Shores just a short distance from the world famous Hangout where there is fun for kids and adults alike, or a quick drive to the Flora-Bama where the bushwackers are always cold and the music always exceptional , we’ve got some fabulous beach homes available there, as well. Please enjoy all our island has to offer, the things that are obvious to everyone and the ones that are a little more hidden. Come stay with us and enjoy our beautiful beaches, back bays and rich history.
And please… Leave Only Footprints.