Bladon Springs State Park, AL:
February 11, 2017
Distance: -- miles
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Another of the five state parks closed in 2015, but one of the four reopened since, Bladon Springs boasts a lot of history, but not much to show for it anymore. At roughly 350 acres, the vast majority of the land seems managed for timber production, save for a small portion on the southern side where the springs reside. Yet another of the stops for the Alabama Black Belt Birding trail, it was once the site of a spa resort in the mid 1800's nicknamed the “Saratoga of the South”. The hotel, save for part of the foundation is long gone, but the park lives on today by the generosity of a few volunteers.
The most noticeable thing at first is the giant banner that reads “Welcome to Bladon Springs County Park”, nailed over the former state park sign. There's really a bit of confusion with this to me, as this is the only state park of the four reopened, and of the three given back to the county, to disavow it's status as a state park. It's still listed as a state park on the Alabama Parks website, so that's still what I'm calling it. [Florala State Park in south Alabama, which was the fifth is now known as the Florala Wetland City Park]. It's also worth notating that this is the only state park, up until then, that I'd ventured to that did not have paved roads. Years of use have worn deep ruts into the banks beneath a thick canopy of tall pines. Entering high up on a hill, we passed the pavilions and playground for a brief stop at the park office, which was closed. The trail wound downhill to the springs, though my interest was first of an old wooden bridge. Spanning a creek that forms part of the headwaters of Sea Warrior Creek, it only led to a gate and no trespassing signs. At the first spring, a square concrete box set about 6 feet into the ground with a half flight of stairs, was the old pump with catch basin and overflow that allowed the spring to continue to bubble out. Lulu only took a few licks of it before deciding it wasn't fit to drink, and a strong smell of sulfur emanated from it. Pumping the handle a few times produced an orange or reddish tinged water with an even stronger sulfur smell, off putting enough that we decided to continue on. The next spring was in a larger enclosure, which happened to be only original structure in the state park itself. This pump was the only sheltered one, but also the only one with a pavilion attached. A third pump sat in a separate “room” not far from the previous, both spewing more of the off colored water and rotten smell.
Knowing there were four springs here, we searched for a bit before crossing the creek, only to find the fourth spring flooded and inaccessible. We explored the woods here to the end of a well shaded picnic area, hoping to spot a small trail of some kind, but to no avail. Backtracking, we ventured up to the former campground, which seems to be undergoing some maintenance work. I never spotted the old foundation to the hotel, but with nothing much else to see, returned to camp and set out on the last leg of our little adventure.