Safe Travel Resources: COVID-19 Travel Information
Instagram Icon Facebook Icon YouTube Icon LinkedIn Icon Blog Icon

Getting Ready for Boating Season

people on a boat

Photo Credit: @lakemartingoods

Plug Day has come and gone, and Lake Martin is on it’s way to Summer Pool levels! With the lake filling back up and warmer weather on its way, many of us can’t wait to hit the water for the first time this season. But is your boat prepared? After a long winter in storage, there are a few things you will need to check before your first outing.

Here is our short, 10-point checklist to get you and your boat Summer ready!

1) Plug Your Boat

In celebration of Plug Day, our first checklist item is to “Plug Your Boat.” This might sound obvious, but forgetting the plug happens more often than you think!

The plug is often pulled from the stern of your boat to allow excess water to be drained from the hull. Many boaters tend to leave this unplugged throughout the Winter altogether, but this could lead to a disaster if you forget to put it back in. Double check that the plug is securely placed back into your boat. Just as easily as the pulling plug lets water out, it can let water right back in.

Seriously… Don’t sink your boat!

2) Inspect the Exterior

Statistically, one-third of the boats sink in the water due to damage to the boat’s hull. This could be cracks, gouges, or missing pieces. Damage can easily happen unknowingly while being stored, so be sure to give your boat a once over before moving on to the next step on this list.

3) Review Your Registration and Vessel License

Unlike our vehicles that we drive every day, your boat registration can be an easy one to forget to update.

Be sure your vessel license and registration are current, and readily accessible in the glove compartment before you leave the dock. You will also need to place updated stickers on the side of your boat if they aren’t currently there.

4) Make Sure You Have Your Safety Gear

Check that you have enough lifejackets for every passenger that plans to ride on your boat. You will also need a fire extinguisher (check the expiration date), and a signaling device on board in the event of an emergency – such as a pack of flares, horns, or whistles.

It also couldn’t hurt to have some sunscreen and an emergency kit on board for any scrapped knees while exploring the islands or Chimney Rock.

5) Check Your Navigational and Docking Lights

It is very important that your front red and green navigational lights are in working order, as well as your white light in the back. In addition, your docking lights are basically your headlights to park, so you will want those in full function too.

And finally, you should also toot your horn for good measure. Your horn is there for signaling to other boaters your directional maneuvers as well as if you are in distress … so be sure yours is still in working order!

6) Check Battery, Engine, and Gas

First things first, make sure your battery and electrical system is in working order.

You will also want to make sure to put plenty of fresh gas into your boat before you hit the open water. If your boat wasn’t properly Winterized, you may have old gas in your tank that can slow down your boat and cause issues. You will also want to freshen your oil and check for any leaks.

7) Inspect Trailer Condition

Your trailer should be looked over just as closely as your boat. After all, this is doing all the heavy lifting and transporting! A good practice would be to inspect the hubs and lights before every trip. If you have been in salt water lately, give it a good hose down too.

8) Know Your Buoys!

With the lake waters dropping so low this past year, it was probably a great reminder of how shallow some areas of the lake can get… even when you are a good distance from the shore.

The Lake Martin Resource Association is dedicated to keeping the buoys on the water in tip-top shape, spending a great deal of time replacing and secure buoys for boaters to safely enjoy the waters.

There are several types of buoys you will see on the lake, including “Hazard” and “No Wake.” Make sure you know the difference between the buoy markings before you hit the water – this could save you from potentially costly boat repairs or fines! Learn more about the buoys here.

9) Familiarize Yourself with the Local Boating Regulations and The Area

Let’s face it. It’s been a while since many of us have taken our boating test and we could probably use a refresher course.

I recommend reviewing a few basics such as when to use your Navigational lights vs. Docking lights, proper boating etiquette on the lake (which comes in handy on the busy holiday weekends) and looking over an updated area map of Lake Martin.

There are also plenty of resources to enhance or refresh your skills. Russell Marine offers a Women on Lake Martin Class on March 26 and a boating safety course at The Ridge Marina on April 2. These classes fill up quickly though, and both are now full for 2022. Singleton Marine will also be offering Driving and Docking classes for Pontoons, Sterndrives, and Tow Boats April-August. You can even brush up your skills with online courses and videos on Lake Martin Resource Association’s website, and get more info on boating safety here on our website.

10) Stay Social with Local Boating Groups

Get involved in the community of local boaters so you can ask questions, see photos, and get advice from others in the Lake Martin community. There are several great social groups for the Lake Martin, AL scene!

Lake Martin Resource Association – A great place to get involved in the monthly Lake Martin cleanup efforts or receive continuous updates on hazardous debris in the water and damaged buoys.

Lake Martin Boaters and Lake Martin Q & A – Ask questions and see photos from fellow boaters around the Lake Martin community. These are the largest community Facebook pages for Lake Martin, and are great places to connect with fellow boaters on questions, reviews, boat repair options and events happening in the area.

After following these tips, you may see that you need help servicing your boat, and there are many great places located right here on Lake Martin that can be of assistance! Check out our list of marinas here, as many of them offer servicing. Off the water, you may also want to check out Alex City Marine and Russell Marine Boating and Outdoors.      

Now that you have reached the end of your to-do checklist and your boat is in tip-top shape, we can’t wait to see you out on the lake!

Plug Day-Lake Martin’s Own Special Holiday

plug by lake

I remember my first trip to Alexander City a couple of years ago.  I was talking to the locals and I kept hearing about the upcoming Plug Day.  Everyone seemed so excited about it.  I personally had never observed this occasion before, but was intrigued to learn more.  I’m not one to play it off and pretend I know what someone is talking about.  I couldn’t anyway-my facial expressions usually give that away.  So, as my new friends looked at my confused face, I just came on out and asked-OK, so what is Plug Day?  Do I get off of work for this day?  Will there be cake in honor of Plug Day? Do we exchange gifts?  Is there a celebration? 

It turns out that this is a really joyous occasion-and this year it happens on February 18th.  There’s a fun explanation to it, and a technical explanation.  I will tell you a little about each so that when someone tells you “Happy Plug Day” you will know what it means and will look a lot less confused than I did that day.

Let’s start with the fun explanation!  Credit for the fun part has to be given to Lake Magazine.  They created this special little holiday to celebrate the start of the rising of the lake water-as Lake Martin transitions to what is called Summer Pool.  Think of when you put a plug in a bathtub, and you see the water level start to rise-that is kind of what starts happening to Lake Martin on Plug Day.  I know you are thinking it-because I certainly was too-and no, there is not an actual plug that makes it happen.  (More on the how in the next paragraph that talks about the technical stuff.)  However, it really does work the same way, and is cool to think of the virtual plug at the bottom of the lake as you see the water continue to rise over the next several weeks.  During that time, we celebrate everything about Lake Martin, and start to look forward to those Summer days out on the lake cruising around, hanging out on an island, swimming, or wakeboarding and skiing.  It’s a time when we think about our memories from past Summer days on the lake, and start planning for the upcoming Summer. 

Now, that I have ruined it for you and let the secret out that it’s not really a giant plug that is allowing the water to rise, let’s talk technical.  This is the part you can impress your friends with.  Alabama Power holds a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate Martin Dam.  The terms of that license are determined by an environmental impact study that is about 400 pages long.  We are certainly not going to get into all of that today, but I will give you the cliffs notes version.  The current license says Alabama Power has to keep Lake Martin’s water at very specific levels-491 mean sea level feet in the Summer and 484 mean sea level feet in the Winter.  The Summer levels and Winter levels are commonly referred to as Summer Pool and Winter Pool.  As with anything, there are some exceptions that sometimes allow for drought, flood control, scheduled drawdowns for maintenance, and emergencies.  Those levels are the norm most years though.  FERC even tells Alabama Power the exact dates at which they must start making the transition between water levels.  This is all controlled at an Alabama Power facility in Birmingham. 

February 18th is when the water level starts it’s rise to Summer Pool levels.  At that time, it is 481 msl feet.  One thing that is important to note is that this year the lake level was lowered an additional 3 feet in order to comply with Alabama Power’s license with FERC.  The license was renewed back in 2015-and the updated license says that once every six years, Alabama Power is required to lower the winter operating water level 3 feet below the normal level of 484 feet. This extra 3 feet of drawdown allows more access to the lakebed, and gives residents a chance to complete construction projects and maintenance on shoreline structures.  

They have to make sure that Lake Martin reaches Summer Pool levels-491 msl feet-by April 19th at midnight. That schedule of water level change is called the rule curve.  If all things were perfect in nature, you could follow the rule curve and know exactly what the water level will be each day.  If we’ve learned anything about nature though, we know that it can be unpredictable.  We can get lots of rain, or no rain-you never know.  Flood control is what affects the rule curve the most in the Spring.  For example, Alabama Power could hold extra water in the Lake Martin reservoir to prevent downstream flooding.  What we do know is that by April 19th, Lake Martin will be at full Summer Pool.  You can always check the current level of the lake here. Most of us can’t contain ourselves that long though, and as the water level starts rising and weather allows, we are already enjoying the lake fully by that time. 

Lake Martin’s Most Famous Landmark- Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock is easily one of the most iconic landmarks at Lake Martin, Alabama. Located near the Ridge Marina, it is easily recognized by its colorful graffiti and usually a large gathering of boats. On any given summer day, you can hear music cranked up and see the boats connected and enjoying the Alabama sunshine! Chimney Rock is a staple to the Lake Martin community – and here is everything you need to know to go out and enjoy it!

Chimney Rock vs. Acapulco Rock

chimney rock

To set the record straight, what many refer to now as Chimney Rock is actually “Acapulco Rock.” The real Chimney Rock is a separate island of massive rock formations, that is located near the rock most know as Chimney Rock. It can be identified by a tall, singular stone that juts up at the top, giving the appearance of a “chimney” growing from the stony cliffs – hence the name.

Just beyond this landmark however is another island, Acapulco Rock, which has now taken over the iconic Chimney Rock name and over the years has become the famous main attraction. It is a wildly popular hang out spot on Lake Martin and can easily be spotted by the layers of brightly colored spray paint graffiti and a crowd of boats.

Graffiti Artwork 

girl in front of chimney rock

One of the most notable features of Chimney Rock is the colorful display of graffiti artwork across its surface. The spray-painted images are often portrayed in paintings, t-shirts, and photographs. And in many ways, the artwork has become as iconic as the hangout spot itself. Some of the more notable images can date as far back as several decades, somehow surviving the Alabama sun and other ambitious artists.

But what people don’t know is that many of these images actually have special meanings behind the art. Many of the names and college logos are painted in honor of a loved one or in their memory. I took the time to track down and interview a few of the artists this past summer and was surprised to hear their inspirational stories behind braving the climb and painting Chimney Rock.

There are some tips and tricks to painting Chimney Rock, but unfortunately, I cannot share them here. It is not legal to spray paint Chimney Rock – so we do not recommend it. But for now, we will just have to admire the artwork already there and the years of memories currently displayed.

Jumping From Chimney Rock 

chimney rock

Disclaimer:  We do not encourage or recommend that you jump from Chimney Rock.  It is very dangerous, and people have been seriously injured.  With that said, on any given summer day, you can usually find a large gathering of boats circling Chimney Rock, with people watching and cheering on daredevils as they leap off of the three main cliffs: Chicken Rock, Acapulco Rock, and Lost Boys. These three cliffs all range in height, anywhere from 20 feet high to a whopping 60 feet above the water.  However, locals will tell you that the jump is higher at the top than it appears from your boat.  

Hanging Out at Chimney Rock

boats tied up on lake martin

As a boater, you will find it enjoyable to just sit back and watch the fun. Many people drop by the iconic hang out spot to simply hang out, play music, and catch some sunrays on the boat.

It’s also a great place to pull out a float and swim with other fellow lake neighbors. Just to the left of Chimney Rock is a calmer area where many people will tie up boat to boat with mooring lines. It’s a great way to meet other people on the lake and take a long, relaxing dip in the water.

Hanging out at Chimney Rock is quite an experience. If you are seeking to add a unique little thrill to your day on Lake Martin, Chimney Rock should be at the top of your bucket list!

Where Is Chimney Rock?

chimney rock

Chimney Rock is located on the southern end of Lake Martin near the Ridge Marina.  Download a map of the lake here to find your way there.  

Chimney Rock Virtual Backgroundzoom screenshot

Chimney Rock is one of the most unique landmarks on Lake Martin, so it is only fitting that it is one of our free virtual backgrounds. Spice up your next Zoom meeting-and wow your colleagues with the iconic Chimney Rock in the background. You can also download free wallpaper for your desktop or phone.

May 2022-Lake Martin Fishing Report

man with big fish

Lake Level: 490.2
Surface Temp: 71 -72 degrees
Water Clarity: Mostly clear to very light stain

Looking back the last 30 days for me and my team of guides at Alex City Guide Service, the month of April was awesome on big trophy catches. We caught numerous 20- 30 plus pound stripers including a 32 pounder, two 36 pounders, a 40 plus, and two 45 pounders. Of course I’m talking about stripers- that’s all we target. We also caught numerous 22” or longer stripers per daily trips.

Now getting to May- I’ve been saying all spring that I think most of our larger stripers are going to be caught in May and over into to June, just for the simple reason it seems like most everything is running about 30 days behind past year’s schedules. The stripers are just getting into a spawning stage, and for sure they all do not spawn out at same time.


Even though we only target the stripers, I do get updated information from my friends that target bass, crappie, catfish, and bream. The bass fishermen are saying they’ve had some good catches and are predicting even better May catches. The crappie report and pictures I’ve received the last 30 days is absolutely crazy- especially the number and sizes they’ve been catching! My friend Gary that’s a catfish guide said his trips are really producing some nice eating size catfish. And last but not least, people are starting to catch some really pretty bream.


For you pier fishermen, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised how good it’s going to be this month. It always amazes me the catches people tell me about that they get right off their private docks.

That’s about it until next month, so get out and enjoy the south’s best all around recreational and fishing lake- which is Lake Martin!

Thanks to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for this month’s fishing report.

guide service logo

Update on “The Million Dollar Fish Swimming in Lake Martin

tagged fish

I’m excited to say that in the first month of Crank 4 Bank, 6 tagged fish have been caught!  Each of these fish are worth at least $1,500. 

Last month we told you about Crank 4 Bank put on by OGS Fishing Tournaments.  The event started April 1, and there are 200 tagged fish swimming in the lake.  Each one of those fish is worth at least $1,500, and a couple are worth boats, one is worth a truck, and yes, one is worth a million dollars! 

People are catching them, but there are still plenty left to catch, and you have until July 4th to catch yours!  

May Fishing Tournaments at Lake Martin

man holding trophies

May 7- Russell Marine Spring Bass Clash 

May 13- Moonlight Series by OGS Tournaments

May 27- Moonlight Series by OGS Tournaments

Freshwater Limits in Alabama

people with fish

Visiting Lake Martin and want to learn more about the limits for each species?  Get all the information you need here.  

The Magical Thing That Happens on the Tallapoosa River Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

Spring is in the air and everything is coming to full bloom at Lake Martin! But something particularly magical happens between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day every year. The famous “Cahaba Lily” begins to make its long-awaited appearance, with its spider-like petals stretching out and putting on a spectacular show for all to see.

To add to their unique beauty, these lilies are also incredibly rare, attracting people from far and wide just to catch a glimpse of them on display.

Luckily, right here in our backyard is the Tallapoosa River – one of very few homes to these majestic flowers. Here is everything you need to know about the Cahaba Lily, as well as our recommendations on how to catch them for yourself before they disappear for yet another year!

What Makes the Cahaba Lily So Unique

Visit Lake Martin

So just why is the Cahaba Lily so unique? For starters, the Cahaba Lily is an aquatic flower – meaning it only grows in running water. But not just any running water. It needs to be swift-flowing water over rocks as well as an area with lots of sunshine. Outside of very rare circumstances, the vast majority of the Cahaba Lily population only grows in three Southern states, with the best and largest populations located in Alabama.

What also attracts people to the flower are its strange, spider-like petals. The Latin name for a Cahaba Lily is “Hymenocallis Coronaria”, meaning “beautiful crown-like membrane.” This is referencing the shape of the flower, often also described as a Spider Lily.

To add to their mystique, the Cahaba Lily itself is almost like a Cinderella story. Each bloom on a lily opens up for only one night a year. After a 24-hour period, the flower closes back up and wilts away, leaving us with only its leaves and stem again until next year.

Though the bulbs and the stems of the plant are impressively resilient to the harsh environments of a river, the flower itself is very delicate. To add to its already diminishing habitat options, there are only about 50 populations left – placing the Cahaba Lily under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

How to See the Cahaba Lilies

cahaba lilies

We are incredibly lucky to call Lake Martin a home for these beautiful lilies! Cahaba Lilies grow within the flowing waters of the Tallapoosa River, which also happens to be a popular kayaking spot in the area – particularly the section between Horseshoe Bend and Jaybird Landing. You can read all about kayaking this section of the Tallapoosa River here.

Because of the timing of the Cahaba Lilies in full bloom, this would be a great trip to plan as a unique Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift to your parents. And the good news is, you don’t have to invest in your own kayaks to go see them. There are actually some great tour groups and local rental companies that will be happy to help you out!

Tallapoosa Wilds

Tallapoosa Wilds rents kayaks and canoes and will deliver them to the river.  Along with your kayak or canoe, your rental also includes a life jacket, paddles, and a shuttle service from Jaybird Landing to the Horseshoe Bend drop in point.  Venture out on your own, or book a guided tour.

Learn more about Tallapoosa Wilds here.

The Adventure Center at Russell Crossroads

The Adventure Center is located in an authentic, rustic cabin next to the Town Green at Russell Crossroads, and they rent canoes and kayaks that you can take to the river.  You can also meet with a Russell Lands adventure outfitter to learn more about the area and the adventures that await you.

Learn more about the Adventure Center at Russell Crossroads here.

Float Alabama

Float Alabama is a paddle sports store that specializes in selling and renting inflatable kayaks, paddle boards, and rafts. The perk of renting an inflatable kayak is most obviously the space you save. These can be rolled up and taken anywhere – and are yours for an entire 24-hour period.

Learn more about Float Alabama here.

The Best Time to See the Cahaba Lilies on the Tallapoosa River

We are so lucky to have these beautiful and rare Cahaba Lilies are right here in our backyard. But remember – the best time to catch the Cahaba Lilies in bloom is from mid-May to mid-June. Be sure to plan your trip now, before they disappear for yet another year!

Spotting Bald Eagles At Lake Martin

bald eagle in flight at lake martin

Photos by:  John Denney 

Everyone loves Lake Martin for their own reasons.  Most will tell you how awesome it is to be out on the water, whether on a boat, Sea Doo, or kayak.  We have almost 900 miles of shoreline, and there is plenty to see and do on the lake.  However, with all of the stops at the local lakeside bars and restaurants, hanging out with the music cranked up at Chimney Rock, and the focus on watersports and fishing, it can be easy to overlook one of my personal favorite things to do on the lake……. taking in the beauty of the Bald Eagles that call Lake Martin home. 

A Great Comeback Story

Bald Eagles are one of nature’s greatest comeback stories.  During the beginning of the 20th century, their numbers declined due to shooting and the effects of DDT and other pesticides.  However, the eagles were given full legal protection, DDT was banned, and it made a significant difference.  Once listed on the endangered species list, they were removed from the list in 2007.  Alabama Audubon says that the population appears to have continually increased since delisting, but the population is still below historic numbers.  However, one thing we do know is that Bald Eagles love visiting Lake Martin and making it their home.  We have both eagle residents who take permanent residence, and we also have ones that show up for the winter.  Even the Bald Eagles realize how awesome Lake Martin is to visit!  This is actually a great place to see many birds, as the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail has many stops in our area. 

Bald Eagles Right Outside My Door

I will admit, there have been so many times that I have been on the lake and didn’t realize what was just above me.  That all changed the day that my friend, John Denney, and I went out eagle watching.  He grew up in the area and has been photographing them for years, so I felt confident that if anyone was going to show me an eagle, it would be him.  Departing from my lakeside home by kayaks, we went to the first slough by my home, and saw our first pair of eagles.  I couldn’t believe it-they had been there all along, that close to me, and I didn’t even realize it!  It was a great lesson to me to slow down, be quiet,  and be aware of my surroundings.  We are so accustomed to being in a hurry these days that it is sometimes hard to just slow down and take it all in.  That’s necessary though to be able to acknowledge and appreciate all of the cool things that are happening around us that often get missed.  Of course, after seeing that first pair of eagles, I was hooked!  That certainly was not the last time we went out eagle watching, and on our record day, which was just a couple of hours out on the north end of the lake, we spotted a total of 6 different Bald Eagles-not a bad day of birdwatching in my book! 

How to Spot a Bald Eagle at Lake Martin

I still consider myself a beginner Bald Eagle spotter, but the first thing I look for is the white head.  That can be a little tricky if they are in flight, but when they are perched in a tree, if you are looking closely, you can often see the white stand out against the green of the foliage that surrounds them.  The adults are larger than a hawk, have a large hooked bill, yellow legs, and a dark brown body.  The white head and tail tend to be the most noticeable thing to me though.  However, if you just go by that recommendation alone, you are going to miss out on a lot of Bald Eagles.  One thing that I have learned since I started appreciating and watching these birds, is that the adults are the only ones that have white heads.  When they are first born, they are born with a dark head, and they slowly get more white showing up on their head as they age (kind of like me.)  While the white on my head took a little longer to form, a Bald Eagle typically has a fully white head by 4.5-5 years old.  As they age, the body feathers and tail also change, but the head is the most noticeable aspect that people see first.  There are great resources available online to help you estimate the age of a Bald Eagle.  

juvenile bald eagle

More senses come into play when birdwatching.  While you should visually be on the lookout, Bald Eagles can also be spotted by their strange squeaky cackling.  The National Audubon Society has audio of their calls available on their website.  The Merlin app is also a great tool for indentifying bird sounds.  It can be helpful to give the recorded sounds a listen before heading out on your eagle watching adventure.  This will help you to know what to listen for, as you will often hear them before you see them. 

bald eagle

In nature, it is impossible to give exact locations of Bald Eagles.  However, just like those of us that love the lake life, so do they.  Bald Eagles love fishing, and I guess they too have heard about the great fishing on Lake Martin.  If you are on the lake, or even the Tallapoosa River, you have a very good chance of spotting one, or two.  Maybe you will even get as lucky as us and spot six in a day!  One thing I have noticed is that when they find a spot they like, they tend to hang out for awhile.  That pair we spotted by my house seems to have taken residence there, and are seen quite frequently in that same slough.  So if you do spot a Bald Eagle, it doesn’t hurt to revisit the same spot to try to see them again.

If You Do See a Bald Eagle

bald eagle

When you see a Bald Eagle, just give them their space and don’t disturb them.  However, you should consider yourself a very blessed person when that moment happens-I can’t even describe that awestruck feeling.  The magnificence and beauty are just amazing, and since they are our national bird, there is also a sense of patriotism that is also felt.  Maybe you have seen them in a zoo or bird refuge, but there is a very special sentiment that is felt when seeing them in nature-especially knowing they were on the verge of being gone not that long ago.  The next time you are on the lake, I challenge you to slow down, be silent, look up, and take it all in.  There is a whole other world above you, and around our parts, you have a good chance at spotting a bald eagle on Lake Martin by just doing those four things. 

For more tips on birdwatching, check out:  How to Get Started Birding

bald eagle flying at lake martin

Planning a Family Reunion at Lake Martin

people on lake on floats lake martin

The last couple of years have taught us many things.  One of the main things I have taken away from the pandemic is to treasure the time I have with my loved ones.  I have realized that my family and friends are what truly matters, and if anything, that should be priority over everything else in life.  Our relationships with those we care about are priceless, and have to be nourished.  We have to find ways to enjoy our tribe, have unforgettable experiences, great bonding time, and create opportunities to make awesome memories. 

Back in the old days, a family unit looked like a mom, dad, two kids, and maybe a dog. Today, families come in all shapes and sizes.  Maybe that is what yours still looks like, or maybe your family unit is just you and your significant other.  Maybe your family is more of a framily, and consists of a group of old friends that considers themselves a family.  Some family we are given, and some we choose-and that is totally ok.  I’m not here to define what a family unit should consist of, but I am here to encourage you to treasure your time with them.  Now is the time to bring the band back together and make up for the time we have missed together the last couple of years.  Now is the time for a family reunion….. or a framily reunion. 

3 Tips for Planning Your Family Reunion

family on a picnic at heaven hill

As you get ready to start planning your reunion, there are a few things to think about and take into consideration:

  • How many people will be a part of the event?  A reunion can consist of anywhere from 2 people to maybe even hundreds of people.  We love our extended family in the south, and there is no reason you can’t invite the whole gang.  Determining a roughly estimated number is the first step in planning a trip though, because all of the other considerations will be based upon your group size.
  • Where would you like to go for your reunion?  A place where everyone in the group can travel and have a getaway is a great way to have a reunion.  This gives everyone a chance to get away, and nobody is left with the responsibility of hosting at their home. 
  • What time of year would you like to travel?  Let’s face it, it will usually be impossible to accommodate everyone’s schedule, but it is worth including everyone in the conversation and planning with enough notice so that people do have time to plan accordingly, take time off work, etc.  When planning the time of year, think about the types of things you want to do, and check to see if some of those activities are more seasonal for the destination you are considering.  Also check different times of the year for pricing, as you may find deals on shoulder seasons-the times right before or after a destination’s busiest time.

Some of my personal favorite times with my family have been spent in the outdoors.  Being exposed to nature helps us all unwind and just have a great time.  Lake Martin offers an endless supply of outdoor fun, including activities like boating, fishing, horseback riding, ziplining, hiking, and more.  It’s also ok to have options for those within your group to go and enjoy different activities in smaller groups, and then come back together for communal family time.  If grandma wants to go ziplining, and the cousins want to go ride horses, that is totally fine.  You can come back together afterward, tell each other your stories of your day’s adventures, and still have plenty of time to enjoy with the whole family together. 

Places to Host a Family Reunion at Lake Martin 

There are great options for staying together as a family at Lake Martin, and having that space to spread out.  Here are just a few of our favorite lakeside spots for family reunions at Lake Martin:

Wind Creek State Park

people eating and drinking wine by the lake at wind creek state park

Wind Creek State Park is right on the shores of Lake Martin and offers RV camping, tent camping, and camping cabins.  Many families enjoy this space because there is ample room to camp, there are multiple activities within the park, and there are great pavilions to host family meals and such.  Even if you don’t stay here, getting a pavilion for a day and hosting a family day at the park is still super cool.

The Lodge at Cocktail Slough

the lodge at cocktail slough

This lodge is a warm, welcoming space with a large covered patio, lush lawn, and an oversized boat dock for boats and watercraft.  There are 12 guest rooms, a kitchen, wet bar, and a conference center.  The Lodge at Cocktail Slough is a great private area where the family can all stay together, be able to cook meals together on site, and enjoy the lake life.  Your family will have the whole lodge to yourself during your stay. 

Holiday Cove

houses by lake

This is a 4 house vacation rental complex on Lake Martin.  Collectively, the houses can sleep up to 48 people.  All of the homes have fully stocked kitchens, and they share two separate picnic areas with tables, chairs. BBQ grills, and a fire pit. What’s nice about Holiday Cove is that it comes with lawn games, a kayak, boat dock, and its own white sandy beach. 

If you want to offer a variety of lodging options for your family members, that is possible too.  Plan the group activities, and then let them choose their preference of where to stay.  We have plenty of places to stay in the area including hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, a campground, and even glamping (aka glamourous camping.) 

Free Planning Resources for Your Family Reunion 

If you need assistance planning your family reunion at Lake Martin, we are happy to help.  We can offer options for lodging and meeting space, help plan activities, make dinner reservations, mail visitor guides to each member of your family, and even provide free welcome bags for the members of your group.  Reach out to me at brandy@explorelakemartin.com if we can be of any assistance. 

 

April 2022-Lake Martin Fishing Report

people holding fish


Surface Temperature: 62-64
Lake Level: 489.58 (As of April 5-You can always keep up with the current lake level here.)
Clarity: Slightly stained

Lake Martin fishing in April has always been awesome. My parents always said that when the dogwoods are blooming, then the crappie were biting- and year after year that same saying holds true, and especially for the trophy striped bass here. April may be one of my favorite months here on our lake. Last year some of our biggest stripers came in March, but this year is different and I predict most of our 40+ pounders will be boated in April- mainly due to this years weather conditions and water levels coming up a little slower, which means a little later spawning.

A few suggestions to help you this month are things you have read time and time again in my articles, but I only repeat this a lot because it’s what works for us on our lake in April. First of all, catch you some good live bait here on the lake and pull them behind some planer boards in the major feeder creeks and river channel. Next, always keep a couple of spinning rods ready rigged with top water lures, because if you are on the water enough this month you’ll definitely get some huge stripers exploding on the surface close to you. Some ( but not all ) of my favorite top water lures are Redfins, Spooks, Chug Bugs and the occasional Whopper Ploppers.

April is always a busy fishing month for all type of anglers- especially the weekend anglers- so if you get a chance to fish during a weekday then take advantage of it. If not, you’ll still enjoy the weekends on the water. We guide 7 days a week and enjoy every day we are on the water- especially in April. With more and more anglers fishing these days, always have a back up area to fish. Someone may beat you to your favorite spot, and if you have a secondary plan, then you will spend more time fishing than riding and looking. Believe me folks, with 880 miles of shoreline, you will always find a quiet spot to catch fish on Lake Martin.

I hope your April brings you many bent rods and lots of great memories.

We would like to give a special thanks to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for providing our monthly fishing report.

guide service logo

 

Local Fishing Tournaments 

April 2- Mike Oglesbee WCBT Classic-OGS

April 2-Southern Union Bass Team

April 9-Ferst Readers of Tallapoosa County-OGS

April 9-Fishers of Men 

April 10-Fishing for Anna Bell Benefit-OGS

April 23- Dadeville Double Play

April 29-OGS Moonlight Series

April 29-30- Alabama Bass Federation

 

You can check out a complete list of our local fishing tournaments here.  

 

Catch The Million Dollar Fish Swimming in Lake Martin 

 

tagged fish

If I were to tell you that one fish could change your life…. would you believe me? What if I told you that fish was worth a cool million dollars? The first time I heard it, I thought that was great for the pros and I thought it would be exciting to hear about one of them catching it. Then, I realized that this little game of chance isn’t just for the pros. Of course, one of the pro anglers in their beautiful bass boats and immaculate tackle collection could be the one to catch it. However, a grandma and grandson sitting out on their back dock could also be the ones to reel that fish in, or I could be out in my kayak fishing and be the lucky one. This is an even playing field for everyone who loves fishing, and likes a little game of chance to go with it. It’s not about catching the biggest fish, or the most fish. All that matters is that you catch the RIGHT fish.  It’s called Crank 4 Bank-and it started April 1.  But-you still have plenty of time, as you have until July 4 to catch this fish or one of his 199 other tagged friends.  Get more information here.  

 

Send Us Your Fishing Pics 

We would love to see what you are catching on Lake Martin! Want to show it off in next month’s fishing report? Send your pictures to brandy@explorelakemartin.com

 

Helping Others Through Fishing at Lake Martin

 

flyer for charity fishing tournament

Staying at a Cabin on Lake Martin

porch of a cabin at wind creek state park

In a world of hotels and Airbnb’s, there is no shortage of unique places to stay when visiting Lake Martin. However, there is just something charming about sleeping in a cabin while visiting the lake. Here are a couple of unforgettable cabin options for rent on Lake Martin, Alabama.

Cabins at Wind Creek State Park 

cabin

Wind Creek State Park is a beautiful, 1,440 acre land that stretches across the shorelines of Lake Martin, Alabama. Here guests can lay out on the private sandy beach, climb the historic silo, or enjoy endless activities such as ziplining, horseback riding, archery, putt putt, and much more.  And the good news is, you don’t have to pop a tent or rent an RV to camp here. Wind Creek State Park actually has 7 different camping cabins, each one unique and ready for your stay!  All of the camping cabins at Wind Creek State Park are located right on the shores of Lake Martin.  

Renting Cabins at Wind Creek State Park

inside of cabin at wind creek state park

Renting a camping cabin at Wind Creek State Park is not only an affordable option, it also gives you the opportunity to stay at one of the most exciting locations on Lake Martin!

Cabins 1, 2, and 3 are all dog friendly and come complete with a kitchenette that provides a microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and small refrigerator.

Cabins 1 and 3 both have one bath, two sets of bunk beds, and a queen sleeper sofa – making it a comfortable option for up to 6 people to stay.

Cabin 2 is handicap accessible with one accessible bath, one twin bed and one set of bunk beds – making it a great option for up to 3 people.

Cabins 4, 5 ,6, and 7 are all furnished with two queen beds, a sleeper sofa, table, chairs, and one bath. All four of these cabins have the same interior design, except for cabin 4 – which has vaulted ceilings. These can all sleep up to 6 people.

All camping cabins come complete with a bathroom, tables, chairs, and a kitchenette with a microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and small refrigerator.  Each camping cabin at Wind Creek State Park is unique and we encourage you to select the one that best fits your camping needs. 

For full dimensions and details on individual cabins visit their website. To rent a Wind Creek State Park camping cabin, use their online reservation tool. For more information on things to do at Wind Creek State Park, check out our blog

The Hank Williams Cabin

hanks williams cabin

Located on campus at Children’s Harbor is the famous Hank Williams Cabin.  This cabin is believed to be where the Country music legend Hank Williams stayed during his visit to Lake Martin in 1952 and is also rumored to be where he was inspired to write his hit classic song, “Kaw-Liga.

The interior of the cabin itself is like stepping back into time. Along with memorabilia of the great Hank Williams, the cabin is decorated true to the 1950 time period, complete with wooden flooring, modest living room furniture, and even a vintage card table doubling as your dining area.  But this is much more than just a nod at the decade. The décor is actually an exact replica of the original cabin that Hank stayed in, right down to the checkered curtains and decorative plates sitting on top of the fireplace mantle. A photo of the original living room hangs on the wall, where you can compare the similarities between now and then.  The shores of Lake Martin are just outside your porch-it’s just you and the beautiful, peaceful lake waters just steps away.

Renting the Hank Williams Cabin

inside of hank williams cabin

The Hank Williams Cabin is a charming two-bedroom, one bathroom home located right on the Lake Martin shoreline at Children’s Harbor. Each bedroom itself has two twin size beds, a wooden dresser, and a fresh set of linens and towels, making it a comfortable stay for up to 4 people. The kitchen comes with a working oven/stove combination and refrigerator, as well as a modest supply of your basic dining needs – such as drinkware and plates.

Renting the Hank Williams Cabin is a popular choice for small wedding parties (such as groomsmen) to get ready in before the big ceremony at the chapel. While the cabin is available to wedding parties anytime, it is available for anyone to rent November-February.  We recommend this for anyone who is looking for an opportunity to spend a few nights in the historic Hank Williams atmosphere and enjoy the tranquility of Lake Martin. To rent the Hank Williams Cabin, visit Children’s Harbor Rental Facilities or contact taylorday@childrensharbor.com.

You can also read more about the Hank Williams Cabin here.

Our Advice on Renting a Cabin at Lake Martin

Whether you decide to enjoy the activities at Wind Creek State Park, or take a step back in time at the Hank Williams cabin, you can’t go wrong with either of these options for cabins on Lake Martin.  Both cabin options offer you the chance to wake up lakeside, and enjoy the lake to the fullest extent possible.  Our biggest recommendation for both though, is to book early, as they are very popular places to stay at Lake Martin.  

One of the South’s Most Unique Churches-Church in the Pines

church in the pines

Church in the Pines is perhaps one of the most unique and iconic structures on Lake Martin. Built on the shorelines of the lake waters, this non-denominational church draws attention from visitors all across the country. It is not unusual to see all 800+ seats filled during the warm weather months, or guests pulling up by boat to catch a Sunday service.

With its distinct, open-air structure and dramatic backdrop of the Kowaliga Bridge, it’s really no wonder why Church in the Pines is a treasured icon at Lake Martin.

The Story Behind Church in the Pines

man sitting on church pew at Church in the Pines Originally built in 1953, Church in the Pines is easily one of the oldest churches (and perhaps one of the first) on the shores of Lake Martin, AL. It started as a small, pine straw covered arbor, where weekenders could catch a Sunday service without having to leave the lake and head back into town for church.

You see, in those times you didn’t skip church on Sunday morning – especially after a few rowdy weekend nights. As to not be seen as “heathens at the lake,” folks with cabins decided to build a church locally. This way, instead of rushing home at sunrise to catch church in town, they could hear a Sunday teaching at Church in the Pines and catch a few extra hours at the lake!

Another perk to building Church in the Pines was that it was located on the water, which opened up the opportunity for people to come to church by boat. Many times, people would simply anchor their boat in the harbor and listen to the teaching without ever stepping ashore. This was a very casual approach to church and looked down upon by some. But nonetheless, the practice stuck and has become one we have fondly embraced over the years.

Over the next couple years, Church in the Pines began to grow in popularity and in 1956 it transformed from the original pine straw arbor into the large, A-frame building we now know it as today.

However, there were struggles to find preachers in the beginning days. It’s been said that the well-known, “big city” pastors were hard to come by, as they were usually teaching at their own congregations on Sundays and were often times leery to come down to the lake.

Then came along Rabbi Eugene Blachschleger. He became the first staple preacher in 1954 and led Sunday service at Church in the Pines for 10 years, alongside the first organist, Alfred Sidney “Sid” Jay. You can see both of them honored on a plaque near the altar of Church in the Pines, along with the founding members of the church.

Over time however, it became easier to persuade guest preachers to spend their Sundays at Lake Martin. They were said to be well-fed and entertained at the lake “cabin”, making an invitation to teach at Church in the Pines suddenly a coveted opportunity.

In addition, payments to the preachers were made as undisclosed offerings in brown paper bags from the congregation. As time went on, these bags became “heavier” to say the least. As word got out about the brown paper bags, it suddenly it wasn’t so hard to get guest preachers to Lake Martin on Sundays. Stories have it that preachers would compare the weight of their brown bag to others for bragging rights, as the heavier the bag usually meant more people attended their service. Kind of a funny story when we look back on the history of the times!

Church in the Pines Today

people at church in the pinesSince that time, Church in the Pines has grown into the wonderful, non-denominational haven many of us come to enjoy today. It also continues to host guest preachers every weekend, as well as visitors from all across the country.  You can check out their calendar of guest speakers here.  

Church in the Pines holds services every Sunday at 9AM. During the warmer months, you can often expect to see all 800+ seats filled with people under the shade of the A-frame roof, as well as sitting on blankets stretched all across the surrounding hill.

And yes, the tradition of pulling up by boat still lives on to this day. On warmer Sundays, especially when the lake water levels are up, it is not uncommon to see the shores next to Church in the Pines filled with boats anchored and eager guests ready to catch a teaching.

Weddings at Church in the Pines

people getting married

For anyone who loves Lake Martin, Church in the Pines is a dream wedding venue for your big day.

With its open-air structure and dramatic backdrops of the Kowaliga Bridge, Church in the Pines is one of the most beautiful and iconic wedding ceremony options available. Plus, your venue rental includes a $250 donation to Children’s Harbor, who offers programs and services at no cost to seriously ill children and their families. You can read more about using Church in the Pines as a wedding venue here.

Popular Services at Church in the Pines 

Church in the Pines sign at Christmas

Along with weekly Sunday services, Church in the Pines is known for “packing the house” so to speak for the big holiday weekends. It is famed for their Sunrise Easter service, Memorial Day service, and even a Christmas Eve service during warmer Winters.

However, if I had to pick a favorite, a particularly popular service is the 4th of July.

Members of the congregation always look forward to the tradition of hearing a teaching from John Ed Mathison, a preacher from Montgomery, AL. He famously jokes every 4th of July that, “whomever comes forth with a fifth on the fourth, may not come forth on the fifth.”

To add to the lighthearted fun, John Ed Mathison also has a brother, George Mathison, who usually preaches the Memorial Day weekend service. They often tease about who had the bigger crowd in attendance at their Church in the Pines sermon… almost like bragging rights. It’s funny how some things never change!

We take pride in the Lake Martin community on how close Church in the Pines is to our hearts, and cherish the traditions that have come from the years of gathering there. The roots of the church were formed for people to stay a little extra time at the lake, bond with friends and family, and create memories that last a lifetime.

In the words of Ben Russell himself, Church in the Pines and the people were “the backbone of today’s great Lake Martin community” and can be credited for why the lake is the way it is today.

How To Catch The Million Dollar Bass That is Swimming in Lake Martin

tagged fish

If I were to tell you that one fish could change your life…. would you believe me? What if I told you that fish was worth a cool million dollars? The first time I heard it, I thought that was great for the pros and I thought it would be exciting to hear about one of them catching it. Then, I realized that this little game of chance isn’t just for the pros. Of course, one of the pro anglers in their beautiful bass boats and immaculate tackle collection could be the one to catch it. However, a grandma and grandson sitting out on their back dock could also be the ones to reel that fish in, or I could be out in my kayak fishing and be the lucky one. This is an even playing field for everyone who loves fishing, and likes a little game of chance to go with it. It’s not about catching the biggest fish, or the most fish. All that matters is that you catch the RIGHT fish.

Crank 4 Bank Details

The game is called Crank for Bank, and it is put on by OGS Fishing Tournaments between April 1, 2022-July 4, 2022. Even though they are one of the great fishing tournament organizers in our area, I wouldn’t call this your traditional fishing tournament. Actually, I wouldn’t call it a tournament at all-it is totally different, and allows anyone with a heart for fishing to be on an even playing field to have a chance to win. April 1-July 4, you are invited to fish on Lake Martin and take a chance at catching that dream fish-or one of his many friends worth $1,500, 2 boats, or a truck. Yes-while my eye is on that one fish worth a million dollars, there are still plenty of other valuable prizes to be won as well. There are a total of 200 tagged fish who will be swimming all over the lake, and are all worth prizes. However, in order to be eligible to win any of these prizes, there are a few things you need to do before you even hit the water. I want to share these instructions with you now, because if you are out and catch any of these fish, and have not taken the proper steps prior, you are not eligible to collect any winnings. Can you imagine how painful that would be to catch the fish, but then not be able to collect the winnings? Don’t be that guy (or girl). If you want to play, take note of the basic rules below.

Do These 3 Simple Things Or You Win Nothing

  • First and foremost, you have to have an Alabama Freshwater Fishing License if required by Alabama law. But come on, if you are out fishing, you need to have that anyway-you don’t want to get busted without it. And in this case, if you catch the winning fish and don’t have an Alabama Freshwater License at the time the fish was caught, you get nothing. Get information on getting your fishing license here.
  • Next, you have to be registered ahead of time for the contest. Yes, you have to buy a ticket, and you can get your ticket and get registered by clicking here. If you don’t, and you catch a tagged fish, you get nothing.  No-you can’t go and get registered after you catch your winning fish.  You have to do it at least 2 hours before you catch your tagged fish.  Check out this video that walks you step by step through the registration process.
  • Read the rules (and then read them again.) Make sure you completely understand how to upload the pictures of your fish and know what to do when you catch a tagged fish. You can check those out here

More Fun Prizes

Another cool thing is that those who choose to participate, also get to be a part of the virtual fishing tournament. Again though-this is not like your normal fishing tournament.  Basically, you catch a fish, and regardless of size, you upload the picture.  They will have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place big fish winners, as well as weekly big fish winners.  They will also have a random drawing every other week and select winners that way as well.  It’s just another way you can win, and is something that anyone can do regardless of your fishing experience. 

What Does The Million Dollar Fish Look Like?

The fish that are tagged and put in Lake Martin are all largemouth or spotted bass. They might be small or large-we don’t know. What we do know is that the fish will be wearing a special fashion accessory that sets it apart. You will see the tag on the fish, and will know it is one that is a part of the Crank 4 Bank contest.

Where Is The Million Dollar Fish?

Right here in Lake Martin!  The tagged fish are released in different locations on Lake Martin, from up the river beyond Highway 280, to Parker Creek near Kowaliga.  The lucky fish could be anywhere on the lake, and your chance is as good as mine.  Download a copy of the Lake Martin map and start plotting out your game plan of spots to hit.  

Do People Ever Catch The Tagged Fish? 

Yes, yes, yes!  Last year we had 16 total winners.  One took home a Skeeter Boat, and the rest took home $1,500.  Some people were super lucky and caught more than one tagged fish.  You have just as good of a chance as anyone, so we hope to have you out there on the lake with us as we search for the Million Dollar Bass! 

Doing Good For The Fishing Community

Another thing I really like is that a portion of the proceeds from the Crank 4 Bank tickets goes to help high school fishing teams. These teams are often underfunded, and I think it is kind of cool to be a part of giving back to something that invests in our future anglers.

March 2022-Lake Martin Fishing Report

people holding fish

Lake Level:  484.72 feet (Please note that the lake level started increasing on February 18, as it makes it’s way toward Summer Pool, which is 491 feet.  484.72 feet is the lake level as of March 3, but you can always check the current lake level here.) Surface Temp: 48 on lake, 43 up riverClarity: Very stained on north end and partially stained in Kowaliga areaIt was a really good February for quantity and the occasional 15-20 lb. stripers, but in March, we  will be on the 20-40 lb. class.

March will definitely kick off trophy class stripers here on our lake! As of right now, the biggest we know that was caught on Lake Martin was by Alex City Guide Service’s own guide, JB, and it was 52 lbs. In 2021, our biggest was 45 lbs. on March 15, 2021, and was caught by one of our clients.

Concentrate on both the lake and major creek channels this month, because both will be producing.  If you are a weekend warrior, plan on sharing the lake with hundreds of others since it’s tournament time,  but remember, you have just as good of a chance as anyone to catch fish.

If you are into catching crappie, some of the most frequently visited areas for crappie are the river, Camp ASCA, Wind Creek, and Elkahatchee Creek .

For you that like to catch stripers off your dock at night, well this is the month that it gets cranked up big time.  If you don’t have a Green Monster Fishing Light, well you don’t know what you’re missing. Give my friend David Carlee a call.  Tell him I sent you, and he will fix you up.  He is the owner of Green Monster Fishing Lights, and they are built by him right here on Lake Martin (yes he even installs them.)

Looking back over several years, Lake Martin and the month of March never fails to produce some of the biggest stripers in the south.  Don’t get get me wrong, there are other good striper lakes around the USA,  but in my opinion, year round and year after year, Lake Martin never fails to produce high quality stripers. Some reservoirs have off years but in my 42 years of fishing for stripers on Lake Martin, I can honestly say we have just not had a bad year, and I think it’s not going to do anything but get better and better over the next several years. Lake Martin’s water quality and 880 miles of shoreline, along with its abundance of bait fish, is just a haven for the elusive salt water striped bass.

I often get asked from clients if they can bring their fly rod along, and of course I say yes. I would love to carry you to some of our spots that produce some action on top this time of year.  In fact, one of my clients got a 33 lb. striper several years back on a fly rod, and it would be awesome to see someone do that again.

I hope you all get out this month and enjoy the outdoors- there’s nothing better than a pretty March day on the water fighting a big ole striper.  Beware though, it might be the most addictive thing you have ever done.

If you’d like to book a trip here on Lake Martin, please consider us as we are the # 1 guide service on the lake. TEXT ANYTIME 256-401-3089

Thank you to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for providing this month’s fishing report.  

guide service logo

March Fishing Tournaments

boys holding fish

March 5-Major League Fishing

March 6-Wind Creek Bass Trail

March 12-Wind Creek Bass Trail

March 19-Alabama Bass Trail

March 20-Dadeville Double Play Club Benefit

March 26-Ashley’s Boat and RV

March 26-Fishers of Men

Getting Your Alabama Freshwater Fishing License

girl in kayak holding fish

Lake Martin is Alabama’s Freshwater Coast, but to fish Alabama’s freshwaters, in most cases, you must have a freshwater fishing license.  But-you can feel good about your purchase, because the money raised from the sale of fishing licenses supports the protection and enhancement of Alabama’s aquatic resources.  Except for the issuance fees and internet or telephone convenience fees, 100% of your license fee goes to management of, protection of, and education about Alabama’s natural resources. 

There are different Alabama Freshwater Fishing License requirements for both in-state residents and non-residents.  If you are coming on vacation from out of state, you even have an option to get a 3 day or 7 day license.  For all of the options available, check out OutdoorAlabama.com.   

5 Free Things To Do At Lake Martin During Spring Break

Take a Hike and Get Started on the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge

It is such a beautiful time to be outside enjoying the trails, and we have a variety of them for you to try. They are all unique, and have varying levels of difficulty. Hike just for fun, or start the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge-it is free to participate! If you hike a portion of all of the trails, you will earn a free patch and certificate. Get information on all of the trails, and the downloadable hiking log here.

Visit Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

cannon

This was not only the final battle of the Creek War, but it also ultimately resulted in the United States government obtaining over 23 million acres of land through the signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814. This park offers so much history. You can walk the trail to see historical sites, or drive in your car through the sites and listen to the stories on their audio tour. They also have a newly redesigned museum for you to visit. There is no charge to visit this park, and they do have a Junior Ranger program so the kiddos can earn their badge. Learn more about the park here.

Check Out The Activities At Wind Creek State Park 

nature event at wind creek state park

Wind Creek State Park offers a variety of nature programming each month including changes to meet and learn about wildlife, take guided nature hikes, and participate in arts and crafts projects. You can keep up with all of their monthly events on our event calendar. All of these activities are 100% free, but if you are not camping at the park, it does cost just a few bucks to get a day pass to get in for the day. However, while you are there, you can also climb the silo, hang on the beach, play in the playground, and fish from the pier.

Go Geocaching

geocache container

Think of this as a giant, worldwide scavenger hunt. It involves hiking, tracking, and following clues to find secret containers that are hidden all around you. There are over 200 geocahes in the Lake Martin area alone, and it is a blast to get out with your family and friends and put your detective skills to work. Learn more about geocaching here.

Go Birdwatching 

woodpecker

Did you know there are over 400 species of birds that you can see in Alabama? There’s alot that you can actually see in the Lake Martin area, as the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail runs right through here and has some pretty cool places to visit here. Birdwatching is free and it is very easy to get started. For tips on going birding, and learning how to identify birds by sight and sound, go here.

Wedding Venues in the Lake Martin Area

bride and groom on boat

Your wedding day is one of the most important events of your life! And many will say picking out your venue is the first step to successfully start planning your big day. Here is your ultimate, all-in-one guide to some of the best wedding venues at Lake Martin, AL!

The Stables at Russell Crossroads

couple getting married

Location: Russell Crossroads-Alexander City, AL 

Holds: 250-300 Attendees

Price: $$

Paint your wedding inspiration on the pastoral canvas of the rustic and charming yet refined and inspired backdrop of the scenic Stables. The Stables offers both indoor and outdoor ceremony and reception sites. The Stables venue fee includes a deep clean of the stables, 220 natural wood folding chairs, 6 rustic benches, tables, built in bar, white lights, carriage ride, parking assistant and various props.

Why It’s Unique:  Imagine a rustic, elegant celebration set among the ancient oaks of Russell Forest along Lake Martin. Allow The Stables to set the stage for the wedding of your dreams by providing and setting up tables, chairs, benches, pews, a built-in bar, and parking assistant. Think of The Stables as a setting worthy of film sets—and truly unforgettable celebrations.

What’s Included:

  • Deep clean of the stables 
  • 220 natural wood folding chairs
  • 6 rustic benches
  • Tables
  • Built in bar
  • White lights
  • Carriage ride
  • Parking assistant
  • Various props

Contact:
For more information, go to their website or email: esprayberry@russelllands.com 

SpringHouse

springhouse bride and groom

Location: Russell Crossroads-Alexander City, AL 

Holds: 200-400 Attendees

Price: $$$

SpringHouse offers stunning and expansive outdoor vistas as well as a warm central hearth that inspires comfort in a multi-level setting surrounded by rough-hewn beams and granite and hand-forged ironwork set to accommodate small intimate gatherings or larger receptions.  SpringHouse can accommodate parties of 200+ people.

Why It’s Unique:
A warm, inviting venue, SpringHouse offers panoramic views of lush rolling hills and five distinctive spaces. Architectural details reflect the beauty of its natural surroundings which creates a timeless backdrop for any event. That natural harmony is complemented by their fresh, southern cuisine and a gracious, intuitive staff committed to creating unforgettable experiences.

What’s Included:

  • White tablecloths
  • Knowledgeable staff and bartenders
  • Customizable bar menus
  • Tables and chairs provided in dining areas for up to 150 guests
  • Buffet and drink station serving pieces
  • WellHouse room fits 12 guests for use as a ready room, newlywed meal, or breakroom for the band
  • Golf cart for photographer to use during couple photos 
  • Early tent and rental installation 

Contact:
For more information, go to their website or email: esprayberry@russelllands.com 

The Lodge at Cocktail Slough

lodge at cocktail slough

Location: Alexander City, AL

Holds: 400

Price: $$$

Large enough for a family reunion, business retreat or any wedding event! One end of the lodge has twelve hotel-style guest rooms with two full beds in each. The other end is a large gathering room arranged into several intimate clusters, dining space, commercial kitchen and wet bar all with panoramic views of Lake Martin. The downstairs has a variety of uses – it has a large open room that overlooks a cozy lakeside patio.

Why It’s Unique:
A multipurpose space with breathtaking views of Lake Martin, The Lodge is a warm, welcoming space with wood-beamed ceilings, expansive covered patio, lush lawn, and oversized dock for boats and watercraft. Twelve guest rooms, kitchen, wet bar, and conference center make it a versatile space for private celebrations.

What’s Included:

  • Use of the entire property Thursday-Sunday
  • 11 double occupancy bedrooms and 1 handicap-accessible bedroom with a kig bed
  • All bedrooms have a private bathroom and television
  • Large great room with comfortable furnishings, dining area for 21, and stone fireplace
  • Wet bar, commercial kitchen, and large icemaker
  • Downstairs conference center equipped with drop-down screen and mounted LCD projector
  • Large patio with seven iron tables
  • Two-tiered lawn perfect for ceremonies and receptions
  • Large dock for boats and watercraft 

Contact:
For more information, go to their website or email: esprayberry@russelllands.com 

The Mitchell House

couple in wedding clothes on swing

Location: Dadeville, AL

Holds: 150 – 200 Attendees

Price: $

The Mitchell House is a gorgeous, Alabama antebellum home with picturesque white pillars and a charming southern atmosphere.  Brides fall in love with the scenery, espeiciall the bridal suite, gazebo, and most of all, the historic ginkgo tree.  The Mitchell House makes for stunning photos any time of the year, especially if you are lucky enough to have the golden tree in bloom!

Why It’s Unique:

There are two things that make the Mitchell House incredibly unique.

One, the history behind the house is tied to the creation of Lake Martin itself.  S.Z. Mitchell’s father was a local physician, whose claim to fame was inventing the electrical grid system.  He later became friends with Thomas Edison and invented hydroelectricity-thus, the creation of the Lake Martin dam.  

Secondly, the Mitchell House is home to the oldest male ginkgo tree in the United States.  It has been established that this tree is 101 years old was was planted as a seedling by the son of S. Z. Mitchell upon his return home from WWI.  Still to this day, the ginkgo tree blooms brilliant gold leaves every year, putting on a remarkable and rare show for all to see.  

What’s Included:

  • Full access to the Mitchell House and 2-acre landscape
  • A  40 x 40-foot permanent tent that seats up to 175 attendees, with wooden flooring,
    chandeliers, and draped curtains.
  • Use of on-site wedding décor
  • An elegant Bridal Suite that is complete with light up vanity mirrors and stylish salon chairs. It is
    large enough for 8 ladies to get ready at a time comfortably.
  • Groom’s Room for dressing
  • Guest Room for family dressing
  • Kitchen for caterer’s use
  • Banquet room that seats 50
  • Conveniently located near the local courthouse and the soon to be open Miller Hotel- Not only does it give your family and wedding party a nearby place to book a stay, they can literally walk to the wedding venue from their hotel room.

Contact:
For more information, go to their website or email: themitchellhouseevents@gmail.com

Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast

bride on porch

Location: Historic Alexander City, AL

Holds: 2 – 300 attendees

Price: $ – $$$ (Varies with Package)

Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast is a majestic, three-story mansion located in the historical area of Alexander City. Here, brides can enjoy the elegance of a Southern and timeless venue along with the luxury of being pampered with bed and breakfast perks, such as on-site lodging and three-course meals during their stay. This gorgeous venue can easily accommodate wedding ceremonies and receptions of any size.

Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast also prides themselves on offering an unrushed wedding experience, allowing you to take your time and enjoy one of the best days of your life at Lake Martin.  

Why It’s Unique:
This house originally belonged to the Herzfeld family, who immigrated to the United States in 1875.  After running a dry food store in Alexander City, he founded the Alexander City Bank and was its president for many years.  Herzfeld, among a couple other prominent citizens, was responsible for bringing the first mill to Alexander City which eventually led to the establishment of Avondale Mills.

It also has some of the most customizable wedding packages available at Lake Martin, offering everything from a “Luxury Elopement” package-designed to pamper a couple on their personal day with flowers, massages, and even a romantic three-course meal-all the way up to large, 300-person wedding ceremonies and receptions.  

And as far as location, Mistletoe Bough is near the historical area of Alexander City, offering restaurants, shopping, and entertainment right at your fingertips.  This is great to suggest for guests to check out who may be coming in from out of town.  

What’s Included:

  • Full access to on-site linens, tables, chairs, a gazebo, and décor
  • Access to the entire mansion, including the 5 bedrooms – each with their own individual
    bathrooms
  • Rooms for the groomsmen and bridesmaids to get ready for the big day, each elegantly
    decorated with artwork of Monet and Rembrandt
  • Brides have full use of the luxurious 2-acre property, including a Coy Fish pond, waterfall, a
    European style courtyard with inlaid marble, and a trellis filled with a canopy of overflowing
    purple and white flowers
  • A three-course breakfast the morning of your wedding, so no worries on arranging food… just
    focus on the fun ahead
  • A personal coordinator to handle details the day before and day of your wedding. For the larger
    wedding package, you have full access to a wedding planner 6 months to a year in advance,
    helping you coordinate all the intimate details of your special day (think: catering, flowers, bar
    service, DJ services, etc.)

Contact:
This year is their first wedding season, so your perfect dates are available for 2022! Don’t wait long to
tour it though – this majestic venue is sure to fill up quick.

For all the details such as pricing and packages, go to their website or email: mistletoeboughbandb@gmail.com

Overlook Farms 

wedding venue set up

Location: Dadeville, AL

Holds: 200 – 300 attendees

Price: $$

Overlook Farms is one of the newest venues in the area-and it is absolutely stunning!  This wedding venue brings the charm of a mountain lodge to Lake Martin, surrounded by scenic woodlands and lake views in the backdrop.  It also boasts a giant grassy lawn, making it the perfect space for larger ceremonies and receptions.  

Why It’s Unique:

Decorated with horned chandeliers, water fountains, and rocking chairs-this is easily one of the coolest and trendiest venues on the block.  It’s “mountain lodge style” has an incredible balance between a country vibe and a chic elegance that your guests will absolutely love.  

The main entertainment room has an open space floor plan, with beautiful, exposed wooden ceiling beams, adjustable lighting, and a stairway to the second story indoor/outdoor balcony.  This is neat, as your guests can actually mingle upstairs while also looking down to the party below.  It also offers surreal views and what I imagive would also make for a great place to throw your bouquet!

Also unique is the fact that you have the option to have your musical entertainment indoors or outdoors.  Yes, the inside can hold an entire band or DJ set up… so no worries about rain cancelling your big plans.  

What’s Included:

  • Full access to the venue and lawn
  • Use of the caterer’s kitchen (industrial ovens, refrigerators, spacious counter tops and industrial
    sized ice machine) and indoor bar
  • Tables, linens, and chairs for up to 200 people as well as on-site décor
  • Brides and grooms have separate, luxurious on-site rooms to get ready in. Both have closets for
    storage as well as marble showers and bathrooms
  • The venue is available as early as noon on Friday for set up and as late as 11PM on Saturday… so
    no hurrying your guests out the door
  • This is also one of the only wedding venues that offers views of Lake Martin waters, making it a
    hidden gem you won’t want to overlook

Contact
For more information, go to their website or email: overlookfarmslm@gmail.com

New Water Farms 

outdoor venue with cross

Location: Dadeville, AL

Holds: 250 – 300 attendees

Price: $$

Hold your dream wedding on the shores of Lake Martin at New Water Farms!  Located in the Sandy Creek area, this wedding venue is a 22-acre working farm that also serves as a ministry retreat.  It’s claim to fame are the epic waterfront views and diverse sceneries, giving brides endless location options for their ceremony and reception.

To use the owner’s exact words, New Water Farms is “your own little world for the day.”

Why It’s Unique:

Along with waterfront views, New Water Farms is home to an orchard, vineyard, beach area, and multiple facilities to host your ceremony and receptions.  It also has several buildings such as “The Guest House” and “Porch House” that are available to rent for the wedding parties to relax and get ready in. 

An indoor and outdoor reception area is also available, know as “The Lodge.”  This is a multipurpose building with glass garage doors that can be opened or shut, depending on the weather.  It also has an incredible and spacious kitchen that caterers love to use!

To top it off, New Water Farms has a stunning open-air chapel located on the point of a peninsula, making for dramatic waterfront views while you say, “I do.” 

What’s Included:

  • Access to the chapel, beach, lawn, or Vineyard for your ceremony
  • Access to the Lodge, Back Porch, or lawn for your reception
  • Tables and chairs for 225 attendees
  • 8 Adirondack chairs
  • Yard games such as croquet, corn hole, bocce ball, and frisbee golf
  • Options to rent additional facilities such as a golf cart, tent, “The Guest House” and “The Porch House.”  Bunkrooms are also available as additional accommodations.  

Contact:
For more information go to their website or email: sandy@newwater.com

Creekside Lodge

chairs set up for wedding by the water

Location: Dadeville, AL

Holds: 250 attendees

Price: $$$

Creekside Lodge gives you all the feelings of a true lake wedding! This rustic yet elegant waterfront property has beautiful panoramic views of Lake Martin, giving brides endless photo opts and staging opportunities for the big day. In addition to the Main Event Center area, Creekside Lodge also offers indoor and outdoor open floor plans, a lovely covered and open-air deck, an outside bar, and two piers on the water – making this a dream location for a waterfront wedding.

Why It’s Unique:

Along with planning your wedding, brides also have to consider accommodations for attendees. In addition to being a waterfront property, Creekside Lodge offers 27 beautifully appointed lodging rooms, including three grand suites – making this a perfect and convenient choice for all of your out-of-town guests. Plus, everything you need is located on the property for not only your ceremony and reception, but also for guest entertainment, such as an on-site swimming pool, coffee bar, and plenty of deck space to relax right on the edge of the Lake Martin waters.

And of course, there is a beautiful bridal suite for the ladies but what you will also love is the attention to the Grooms Lounge. Let’s face it, the groom and groomsmen usually don’t get great rooms for the wedding day. But at Creekside Lodge, the second floor Grooms Lounge is complete with its own bar, comfortable seating, and even its own outside deck.

What’s Included:

  • Up to 100 fruitwood banquet chairs (interior Main Event Center)
  • Up to (10) 6 ft. round tables with seating for up to 100 (interior) of main dining
  • Seating for 50 in the Blu Room
  • Wrought Iron tables and chairs for 60 (deck)
  • Bistro Tall tables & chairs for 20
  • Bridal Suite for the Bride and her bridesmaids (Sleeping arrangements up to 6) 2 night maximum 
  • Groomsmen Lounge available at additional fee (Staged for Groomsmen for day of or seating for 40 as a stand-alone event)

Contact:
For more information, check out their website or email: creeksidelodgelakemartin@gmail.com

Zazu’s Verandah 

place settings on table

Location:  Dadeville Square

Holds:  80 attendees

Price:  $

Zazu’s Verandah is a beautiful event space with a moden twist of “city-chic” meets “rustic-country.”  The newly renovated space is perfect for small to medium size wedding receptions, with your guests socializing amongst the original exposed brick walls, heart pine floors, and a beautiful haint blue ceiling.  It brings the feeling of the Lake Martin countryside to your reception!  This is also a great location for rehearsal dinners and bridal luncheons.  

Why It’s Unique

Zazu’s Verandah was originally home to the 1914 “Hick’s & Oliver Building” located in Dadeville, AL.  One of the biggest features to me is that the event space has a built-in kitchen, making it the perfect place for easy catering planning.  It also has three bathrooms, one being ADA compliant, as well as built in acoustic panels for live musical performances.  And no worries about adult beverages-they have their license for wine and beer.  

What’s Included

  • Venue space for 80 attendees
  • Access to the caterer’s kitchen and cozy front porch
  • 10 farm tables and 80 chairs for your event

Contact
For additional information, go to their website or email: info@ZazusVerandah.com

Church in the Pines 

people getting married

Location: Alexander City, AL

Holds: 850 attendees

Price: $

With capacity of over 800, Church in the Pines is a perfect setting for larger weddings. It is a beautiful open-air facility perched on the edge of scenic Lake Martin. From the three spacious aisles to the rustic wooden cross hanging above the pulpit, Church in the Pines will provide a unique experience that will make memories for a lifetime.

Why It’s Unique:

Church in the Pines started in the 1950’s, making it one of the original churches in the Lake Martin area. It is also one of the most beautiful venues too, with the Lake Martin waters and iconic Kowaliga Bridge uniquely as the backdrop behind the alter. Though brides have the option of decorating the venue as they’d like, the beautiful wooden beams and stone aisleways are more than enough to dazzle your guests.

In addition, when you choose Children’s Harbor as your wedding destination, you are also choosing to support seriously ill children and their families. $250 of your rental fee is a tax-deductible donation that helps Children’s Harbor continue to offer our programs and services at no cost to seriously ill children and their families.

What’s Included:

  • Church venue with seating for up to 850
  • Grounds around the Church in the Pines
  • The bathhouse, which includes a bridal suite
  • $250 donation to Children’s Harbor

Contact:

For more information, go to their website, or email taylorday@childrensharbor.com

Children’s Harbor 

people getting married

Location: Alexander City, AL

Holds: 125 attendees

Price: $

With capacity of 125, Children’s Chapel is the perfect setting for a small, intimate wedding of just family and friends. It sits on the edge of the beautiful Lake Martin waters, with the famous Children’s Harbor Plymouth Lighthouse and the Kowaliga Bridge as the backdrop. Whether you choose to have your special day inside the chapel or on the grounds by the lake, Children’s Chapel is the perfect destination for an iconic and classic Lake Martin wedding.

Why It’s Unique:

Children’s Chapel is a beautiful, classic white chapel with wooden flooring, red covered pews, and tall, high-rise ceilings. Not only does it have a sound system inside, the Chapel also has both heating and cooling – making it a perfect ceremony option no matter the time of year. To top it off, there is a bell tower and small balcony inside that overlooks the entire congregation in the Chapel.

Outside, the Children’s Chapel has some of the most iconic landmarks of Lake Martin available, such as the famous Plymouth Lighthouse as well as the Kowaliga Bridge – making this one of the most photographic locations and backdrops you will be able to find. It’s no wonder that it is one of the most sought-after wedding destinations in the region.

In addition, when you choose Children’s Harbor as your wedding destination, you are also choosing to support seriously ill children and their families. $250 of your rental fee is a tax-deductible donation that helps Children’s Harbor continue to offer our programs and services at no cost to seriously ill children and their families.

What’s Included:

  • Grounds around the Chapel including the Lighthouse
  • Bathrooms and Gazebo
  • Use of the baby grand piano
  • $250 donation to Children’s Harbor

For more information, go to their website or email taylorday@childrensharbor.com 

The Orchard on Washington Street

house with tables set up outside

Location: Alexander City, AL

Holds: Up to 200 attendees 

Price: $$$

Nestled under the shade of 100 year old pecan trees lies The Orchard Venue.  This beautiful estate is intimate enough for small groups to live in luxury, but grand enough to host all your family and friends for a special celebration.  The Orchard on Washington is located minutes from downtown Alexander City, but also a short distance from Lake Martin.  The beautiful venue is gated, and private with sprawling grounds that provide the perfect backdrop to outdoor weddings, receptions, and large family reunions.  The grand home hosts corporate events, supper clubs, family celebrations, bridal teas, baby showers, engagement celebrations, and even small weddings.  

Why It’s Unique:

The Orchard is unique because is offers a private home as well as the gated outdoor venue.  The home at The Orchard was 5 spacious bedrooms with multiple beds, and 5 1/2 bathrooms.  The kitchen is a chef’s dream!  The pool is surrounded by a screened porch as well as an outdoord stone fireplace.  

What’s Included:

  • The most popular wedding package includes The Orchard Venue (grounds and entire home)
    (Thursday 4:00 p.m.- Sunday 1:00 p.m.)
  • Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner
  • Bride and Bridesmaids sleepover at The Orchard & a spot to get dressed for the big day
  • Wedding and Reception
  • Bride and Groom stay at The Orchard on their wedding night 

Contact:
For additional information, go to their website or email events@theorchardvenue.com

Legacy Event Center

table and chairs set up for an event

Location: Alexander City, AL

Holds: 100-125 attendees

Price: $

The event venue can host corporate events,weddings, rehearsal dinners, receptions, birthday parties, baby showers and much more.  It has an onsite serving kitchen for catering and parking for 50 plus vehicles.  

Why It’s Unique:

This venue is perfect for small intimate gatherings, and is conveniently located with lots of parking. They also have very affordable package prices.

What’s Included:

  • Fifteen 60” round tables
  • Ten 8’ banquet tables
  • 100 banquet chairs
  • Three large screen televisions with cable
  • Bluetooth powered PA system with Mixer/Amp connects with phone or mobile devices 
  • Three cordless microphones

Contact:

For more information, go to their Facebook page or email rvf324@gmail.com

Additional Services

If you are planning a wedding in the Lake Martin area, and would like to set up tours of any of our venues, or need help making arrangements for lodging, meals, and other activities, Lake Martin Tourism Association is happy to help. We can also provide welcome bags for your guests with information on all of the fun things to do in the area. Just let us know how we can be of assistance to help with your big day! Reach out to us anytime at brandy@explorelakemartin.com

How To Get Started Birding

red headed woodpecker

Photo Credit: C & G Goss

So you like to be out in nature, taking in the fresh air, smelling the flowers, and feeling the sun on your skin? You enjoy the peaceful serenity of it, and maybe it is your exercise outlet also. You may be a hiker, runner, boater, kayaker, or an explorer who just likes to get out and see what treasures you can find in the beautiful outdoors. However, what if I told you there is another awesome hobby you can enjoy simultaneously? If I told you that hobby was birding, I would probably get two reactions.

The first would be the intimidated reaction. To be a “birder” sounds so official. It can sound as if the only ones who get to wear that title are those who have studied ornithology in school for many years, or those who went through years of scouting and literally earned a patch proclaiming them as a birder. It sounds like something that requires special underlying knowledge and probably a lot of travel. An actual birder is probably a person who travels the globe in search of that one rare bird, right? You probably also have the mindset that there is a lot of special equipment involved. If you are already intimidated by the hobby, you are also going to go ahead and already assume that equipment is going to break the bank.

The second reaction I would get would be those that already know they are a birder. If you are out in nature already, and enjoy watching birds when you see them, you are a birder. If it makes you smile to sit in the backyard and see the birds that show up for happy hour at your birdfeeder, surprise-you are a birder too. When I asked Sarah Randolph with Alabama Audubon how she defined birding, she said “Birding is simply the act of watching or listening to birds, or the appreciation and wonder of birds.” You can do this anywhere-even at your own home.  So congratulations, if you are one that is already out enjoying the great outdoors in other ways, you are officially a birder also, because that just comes with the territory. You now get to go ahead and add birder to your list of credentials too.

No matter what category you fell into, we want to share with you just how easy it is to be a birder, and give you a few of our tips to get the most enjoyment out of this awesome hobby.  

Find A Great Place to Watch Birds

blue bird

You can do this anywhere-even at your own home. However, if you do want to get out and hit some areas that have been identified as great areas to see birds, there are plenty that await you. In the Lake Martin area, we have the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail. This particular birding trail actually has 40 sites across 9 counties-that’s a lot of exploring for you! It covers everything from Alabama’s highest mountain to the shores of Lake Martin. You can see cool birds in these areas anytime of the year, but it will vary some by the season. Bald Eagles and Osprey soar over the lake year round, and lots of ducks tend to hang out on the lake when the weather turns a little cooler. Warblers come in droves each spring and fall, and you will see swallow-tailed kites in the summer. There is never a dull moment when it comes to birding in the Lake Martin area.  Russell Lands has a naturalist that offers presentations and guided nature tours.  Keep an eye on their schedule of events to see when these events are happening.  Make sure to keep an eye on the event schedule for Wind Creek State Park also, as they too host educational sessions about birding and guided nature walks.  Alabama Audubon also hosts field trips throughout the state. 

Getting The Right Gear For Bird Watching

duckk

The first, and easiest place to watch birds is at your own home, so the first gear to get would be a couple of strategically placed bird feeders.  Make sure you have them in spots where you can easily view them from far enough away.  If your birding adventures take you out in nature, you may also want to have a good pair of binoculars.  If you see that you enjoy waterfowl or shore birds, you may consider at some point investing in a good scope for viewing.  A good field guide is also helpful to be able to identify birds that you see.  You can grab one at a local bookstore or even download one on your phone.  

Be Observant 

bird

I think the best way to get started with anything is to just get out there and do it. If you are outdoors anyway, take the time to be more observant of what is around you. By slowing down and paying attention, you will hear the melodic tunes of new feathered friends that you may have previously missed out on as you were in a hurry and less aware of your surroundings. I’m a hiker, but I’m definitely not the hiker who is trying to see how fast I can complete a trail. I’m the hiker who is easily distracted and will stop if I hear my favorite jam. In the forest, my favorite jam tends to be the song of the bluebirds. I usually hear them first, and then will find them playing and putting on a show. So my best advice is to slow down, be very aware of your senses of both sight and sound, and remember 3 important words-Just Look Up!

Learn To Identify Birds

We mentioned the field guides that show pictures of birds so that you can identify them by sight. I do suggest having one of those with you.  However, many times you will hear a bird before you see it, and it is totally possible to be able to identify it by sound as well. If your friend yells your name from the other side of the room, chances are, you know who it is before you see them. You have learned their voice-and you can learn the voices of your new feathered friends too. The Merlin app has a great song ID tool that you can use.  Alabama Audubon also has many courses throughout the year, including some that incorporate bird melodies into them. 

Checklist of Alabama Birds

bird

Alabama has quite a bit of diversity in the habitats that are offered to birds, and because of this, there are over 400 species of birds that can be found here.  There is plenty to see without going far, and once you start seeing more, you may want to keep up with your finds.  The Alabama Ornithological Society has a checklist of birds that you can see in Alabama.  

We wish you the best on your bird watching journey!  To learn more about getting started birding, check out Alabama Audubon and Alabama Birding Trails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2022-Lake Martin Fishing Report

man with fish

Lake Level:  480 (You can always check the current lake level here.)  Clarity: Lightly stained to clearSurface Temp: 52 degreesAs you see in picture of Brian Mancuso from Atlanta, we are already catching some trophy fish.  This is one you would expect to be a springtime fish. The winter water temps have so far been warmer than normal, so we are catching very nice stripers both deep (downlining) and shallow (by pulling boards). The stripers are still feeding on smaller than normal bait fish, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon- probably not until March.  In February there will be a few more sea gulls than usual, which is always a good thing because it’s another tool to use to locate the Lake Martin stripers. Never pass up an opportunity to graph for stripers when sea gulls are in the area.  At some point in February, the Red Horse Suckers will start spawning here.  They make an excellent striper bait, and when they are spawning it makes it much easier to catch them for a good day of fishing.  If you come fishing on your own this month, don’t forget our lake is down an additional 3 feet from the normal winter pool.  This means you are going to have many more hazard areas to avoid, so be careful and keep an eye out for the buoys.  Also, I do not advise running anywhere north of the railroad trusell until we get much more water depth back in the lake.  This is also the month to start  booking your spring time trips with us as March, April, and May are some of our most consistent months to catch the 25-45 lb stripers Lake Martin has to offer. Who knows you might break our lake record of 52 lbs….. and yes, it was a March fish.  In March of 2021, our biggest was 45 lbs and was a top water fish. 

Until next time stay safe and warm!

-Captain David 

A special thank you to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for our monthly fishing report.  

guide service logo

 

February Fishing Tournaments

man holding fish at ogs fishing tournament

February 5-Wind Creek Bass Trail Event #4-OGS

February 5-Southern Bass Anglers

February 6-Reel Money Team Trail

February 12-ASABFA Classic Qualifier-Students

February 13-Sylacauga Marine Spring Opener

February 19-Alabama Bass Nation-Adults

February 19-Bremen Bass Anglers

February 26-Alabama Bass Nation-Juniors

February 27-East Alabama HIgh School Bass Team 

For a complete list of 2022 tournaments, click here.  

Safe Boating on Lake Martin-Watching Out For the Buoys

buoy in water

At Lake Martin, our water level fluctuates between summer pool level and winter pool level.  This year, the water level is down an additional 3 feet-for a total of 10 feet below summer pool.  This can make fishing alot of fun because you can see some of those hot spots.  However, with the water level lower, it is extra important to be safe and pay attention to the buoys that are there to tell you of hazards.

We are thankful that we have a wonderful non-profit group called Lake Martin Resource Association that works tirelessly to keep our water and land clean, and also to maintain our buoys. 

You can check out a map of the buoys here.  

And you can learn more about the buoy guidelines here.  

Sometimes buoys are destroyed or move away from the hazard they are marking. LMRA requests that the public assist by contacting their office and reporting missing or damaged buoys.

Lake Martin Resource Association: 256-212-1422

As an extra safety precaution, please also use your GPS/Depth Finders and Chartplotters.  

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Places To Propose at Lake Martin

man and woman showing engagement ring

Lake Martin is a haven of special memories for many of us. It’s a place where folks come to unwind, create family bonding moments, and tell dock-side stories that last a lifetime. It’s a timeless destination- and no wonder why it would be a perfect choice for your engagement.

When thinking of your dream place to propose, it is easy to get stumped on creative ideas. After all, it’s a story you two will share for years to come. And everyone will want to know, “how did you do it?”

And I am excited to say, I am writing this article based on my own proposal at Lake Martin, so I have a few ideas that can help you have the perfect engagement too.

Do You Know What You Want For Christmas?

man proposing to girl by Santa

This past fall, I had the dream proposal of a lifetime at Lake Martin. It honestly was like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie. And above all, it was a complete surprise.

It was the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday to be exact. Word on the street was Santa Claus was going to be at Russell Crossroads for their annual holiday celebration, and Stephen and I thought it would a great opportunity to snap a few photos for our Christmas card this year.

When we arrived, Russell Crossroads was already buzzing with excitement from the festival, and we took our place in line with all the eager kids and their parents waiting to see Santa on the big stage. We laughed as we waited, joking about what we would say if Santa asked us what we wanted for Christmas. A weekend getaway? Our college football team winning the Iron Bowl?

Well, that’s when it happened. We finally took our seats on Santa’s lap and Stephen asked me, a bit more seriously, if I knew what I wanted for Christmas. I laughed, thinking he was still joking.

But that’s when Stephen stood up. It was in that moment that he says, “Well, I do know what I want ….”

As he got down on one knee, there was a sudden realization of what this was all about. I was overwhelmed with surprise and excitement as Stephen asked me to marry him. Santa laughed – he was just as surprised as I was! And the crowd clapped and cheered as Stephen slipped the ring on my finger.

Proposing with Santa, and both of our reactions, makes it a fun story that we now love to share with everyone who asks!

Your engagement proposal is one of the most exciting days of your life! And you too can have a fairy tale engagement at Lake Martin. Whether you are looking to put on a big show or prefer an intimate, private setting – here is our list of Top 10 places on the lake to pop the big question.

Top 10 Engagement Spots At Lake Martin

1. Smith Mountain Fire Tower

man and woman in front of smith mountain fire tower

Hands down, the Smith Mountain Fire Tower has some of the most exceptional views of Lake Martin available. Along with endless hiking trails and a scenic pavilion rest stop, the tower most famously has an overlook enclosure at the very top, offering 360-degree views of both picture-perfect woods and miles of Lake Martin shorelines that stretch as far as the eye can see.

This spot makes for great photos and is stunning any time of the year too, which makes it a perfect engagement option no matter the season. Plus, visiting the tower is a fun outdoor activity that is sure to get your other half out without suspecting a thing.

If you are imaging an incredibly unique proposal with breathtaking water views, the Smith Mountain Fire Tower is my top suggestion for you.

2. A Horse Drawn Carriage Ride or Horseback Riding at The Stables

man proposing to woman on horse

You, too, can have a storybook engagement at Russell Crossroads – and you don’t even have to wait for Santa to do it. The Stables at Russell Crossroads is a beautiful, two-story equestrian center sitting on rolling hills and acres of picturesque, wooded forest.

If you are looking for something a little more elegant yet leisurely for your proposal, The Stables offers horseback riding and horse drawn carriage rides – a perfectly romantic way to cozy up together and take in the views side by side. They even offer options to arrange private picnics in the forest.

This is also an ideal setting if you would like friends and family involved. After you pop the question, loved ones can be waiting at The Stables with champagne and cameras to celebrate the special moment.

No matter how you plan to do it, there is something so beautiful and romantic about the rustic atmosphere, which is probably why The Stables is one of the top wedding venues in the area too.

And just think – what better way to celebrate your big day than to plan your wedding at the same place you got engaged?

3.  The Lighthouse At Children’s Harbor

lighthouse

When you think of Lake Martin, you can’t help but think of The Lighthouse. It is an iconic staple to the Lake Martin community and represents a safe harbor and peace on the waters.

This to me is the perfect location for a timeless proposal. The Lighthouse is located at Children’s Harbor and sits on the shoreline of Lake Martin, with the Kowaliga Bridge resting in the background. It’s easily one of the most photographed icons on the lake and no matter the time of day, the views are absolutely breathtaking.

You can work with the Children’s Harbor staff to reserve the location and make the moment your own. There is also a charming little white chapel onsite too, that can be reserved as a wedding venue – just saying.

4.  Overlook Park At The Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail

trail sign at overlook

This is one of the most popular spots to visit at Lake Martin, and for a good reason!

The Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail is located near the Lake Martin dam and is most notably known for its scenic trail loops and famous overlook view of the lake. This area is called “Overlook Park”, where visitors are greeted with displays about local wildlife, beautiful hiking trailheads, and one of the most iconic views of Lake Martin.

There is no shortage of places to propose at this destination. You could spend the day hiking the trails to enjoy nature and see famous sights, such as Chimney Rock. There are also picnic tables and benches at Overlook Park to enjoy a lunch together and take in the beauty of the moment. Then when you have your courage up, you can pop the question with one of the most memorable sceneries at Lake Martin.

5.  Fireworks on the 4th of July at The Amp

fireworks

Fourth of July is one of the most exciting holidays of the year on Lake Martin! Every year, Russell Lands hosts the largest firework show in the Southeast at The Amp, along with a concert packed with special guests and live music.

The good news there’s no boat needed to enjoy the fireworks or the concert. Guests can easily access The Amp by car and sit on the big grassy hill to enjoy views of the lake behind the stage. In my opinion, the hill makes for the perfect place to lay out a blanket, pop open a cooler, and snuggle up close to your sweetheart under the stars.

Then, as the firework show comes to a crescendo, you can pop the question while colors light up the night sky. Your proposal is sure to go off with a bang!

6.  Wind Creek State Park

wind creek silo

Wind Creek State Park is a gorgeous destination that stretches over 1,440 acres of woods and Lake Martin shoreline, complete with beautiful hiking trails and endless options for outdoor activities. It also has the largest public access to Lake Martin, offering you the opportunity to spend a fun and memorable day on the lake without having to own a boat or lake house.

There are plenty of options to include family and friends in your special day if you’d like, such as renting a pontoon boat to hit the open water or perhaps planning a mini camping trip.

Plus, there is a historic Silo at Wind Creek State Park – as old as Lake Martin itself. You can actually climb to the top of it and catch stunning sunsets and lake water views from the rooftop, making it a unique and beautiful spot to bring your significant other to wow them before asking the big question.

Check out all of the activities Wind Creek State Park has to offer and see if they spark an idea for your perfect proposal!

7.  The Zipline

girl on zipline

If you are looking for a daring and adventurous proposal, I present to you the zipline at Lake Martin! Within Wind Creek State Park is the Screaming Eagle Adventures Zipline Canopy Tour. You can take your significant other across 11 ziplines and 6 skywalks, making it an exciting and epic date leading up to your big moment.

Something unique about this zipline experience is that your guides actually take pictures at various points during your tour, capturing the most memorable sights along the way.  When booking your appointment, I suggest giving them a heads up that you are planning to propose and ask your tour guide for the locations that they take the souvenir photos.

Imagine, your significant other ziplining up to a platform and you are already there, down on one knee. With their camera ready to capture the special moment, all you need to do is make sure you have steady hands and a safe place to store the ring!

8.  A Dinner Proposal

couple at table at Spring House restaurant

Maybe you have an anniversary coming up or have been planning a romantic getaway to Lake Martin. If you are looking for a table setting to pop the question, the good news is you have endless options. Here are my top two picks:

For an elegant dinner proposal, SpringHouse at Russell Crossroads immediately comes to mind. Nestled on rolling country hills, SpringHouse has one of the most unique settings and menus on the lake. Set the tone with their southern inspired cuisine and a few glasses of wine, then make your way to the beautiful walking path through the woods. As the sun begins to set and fireflies glow in the trees, it makes for a fairytale moment to ask for your other half’s hand in marriage.

If you are looking for a casual dining experience with water views, my top suggestion would be Kowaliga Restaurant. It has a lake lodge feeling to it and pays homage to the great Hank Williams and his famous song, “Kow-liga”. Even better are the sunsets and lake views.  Kowaliga sits on the shoreline of Lake Martin and has a beautiful wrap around porch and small beach area. It would be a great place to have dinner with family and friends or enjoy a sunset together as a couple before making your big ask. Check out all of the lakefront dining options on Lake Martin here.

9. Sunset On The Water

couple on boat at sunset

You can’t go wrong with a classic proposal on the Lake Martin waters. After enjoying a day visiting iconic locations such as Goat Island, Chimney Rock, and Pirate Island, you and your sweetheart can set sail to just about anywhere that there is open water and catch a famous Lake Martin sunset.

As you watch the sun slip beneath the horizon and brilliant colors paint the sky, you can pull out your ring and let it sparkle as you ask your love to marry you. To make sure you get your timing just right, visit Sunrise-Sunset.org for the exact sunset time for that day.

You can also check out our list of Top 10 Things to See and Do at Lake Martin or Renting a Boat on Lake Martin to help get you started on planning your big sunset proposal!

10.  A Meaningful Place You And Your Partner Share On Lake Martin

man and woman on hiking trail

Maybe it’s the location of your first visit to the lake? Or favorite place to catch the sunrise?

From fishing trips, to endless restaurants and adventures- choose a place on Lake Martin that holds a special memory for the two of you. Your significant other will love that you included a personal touch to your proposal and it will be a happy memory to begin your new journey.

It can feel like lot of pressure on making sure you get the proposal right, but the most important thing is to remember to make the moment about the two of you. Hopefully this list gives you some ideas to find the perfect place to start your own Lake Martin memories!

And after your significant other says, “yes,” be sure to check out our upcoming article on Wedding Venues at Lake Martin to say, “I do!”

Celebrating National Plan For Vacation Day

With Christmas and New Year’s behind us, I bet you thought you were finished with the holidays for awhile.  However, one of my favorite annual holidays is coming up, and I wanted to make sure you were aware of it too.  Tuesday, January 25th is National Plan for Vacation Day!  This is a special day started by the U. S. Travel Association several years ago where we are encouraged to plan our time off.  We work hard, and we deserve that vacation time.  Let’s face it though, as we get further into the year, and busy with work, school, and other projects, we often don’t take the time to actually sit down and think or talk about what travels we want to accomplish that year.  As we get busier, and time goes on, it gets much easier to say “Oh, we will do that someday,” or “Maybe next year.”  Let’s break that bad habit now!  If we have learned anything from the past couple of years, it is to appreciate the time that we have with the ones that we love.  It is our duty to make time to make those memories.  It is time to realign our priorities to focus on doing something that makes us happy this year, and experiencing something new. I promise you, work will be there when you return. 

Things to Think About as You Get Ready For National Plan For Vacation Day 

boy on zipline

– What type of experience do you want and need this year?  Do you need a laid back relaxing trip with someone bringing you drinks as you lay by the water?  Or do you want to be hiking mountains and seeing the world from a view you have never seen? 

-Who do you want to make memories with this year?  Your family? Your friends?  Your dog or cat?  Yourself?  There is no right or wrong answer to this.  And solo travel is totally acceptable.  If there is something you want to see or do and it’s not the vibe of the rest of your crew, leave them at home.  You don’t want to someday say you didn’t do that one thing because nobody else wanted to go.

-What destinations offer the type of experience you are seeking?  Maybe you already know the answer to this question because it is something you have been dreaming about for quite some time.  If you don’t though, get online and start exploring! 

-Research what time of year is the best time to experience what you most desire.  When I wanted to see the northern lights in Iceland, I planned my trip down to the very week.  I even based it on the moon phase and amount of light that would be in the sky.  It’s never guaranteed, but I did see those northern lights and it was fantastic!  For most things, you may not have to get that specific on timing, but you do want to know the best time of year to go.  For example, if you are wanting to catch a Striper, the cooler months are really great, and you have several months to choose from.  You may also want to take into consideration weather, peak times, lower travel prices at different times of the year, etc. 

So that gives you a few things to think about as you get ready for National Plan for Vacation Day.  Now, let’s look at a few fun ways to celebrate and start planning.

If you don’t know where you want to go:

chair with pole

-For the very open minded:  Hang a map of the world on the wall, put on a blindfold, walk up with a marker and put an X on your destination.  No cheating-wherever you select is where you go

-For those travelling with others:  Have a get together that night with the family or friends that you intend to travel with.  You can do this even if you aren’t able to be together.  My best friends all live in different locations, but platforms like Zoom bring us all together!  Zoom Happy Hours are definitely a thing, and if you have friends in other places, you have to try it.  You have a couple of options with this whether you are physically together or just virtually together.  You can select one person that gets to make the destination choice for that year, or you can have each person choose a place of interest and you discuss the options.  I have even heard of families having each person put together a fun Powerpoint presentation on where they want to go.  Everyone then votes and that is their vacation for the year.  You can also write the options on pieces of paper and draw from a hat.  There are several ways to do this, but the important thing is to commit to a destination.

-For those travelling alone or with pets:  The world is your oyster, and you can do anything you want to do.  This is a great position to be in.  What is it that your heart most desires to see or do?  This year, you get to do that.  There is nobody that can change your plans and once you commit to that destination or experience, start your planning! 

-For those on a budget:  Vacation does not have to be an expensive thing.  You don’t have to leave the country to have a great time.  You don’t even have to leave the state, or your town for that matter.  Sometimes just grabbing a tent and heading out to camp in your own town is the best getaway.  You are away from home and your daily responsibilities, and you still have a chance to have a completely different experience from your everyday routine.  My favorite trips involve being outdoors.  There is just something about fresh air, trees, and water that rejuvenates my soul.  There are definitely ways to have this experience on a smaller budget. Your vacation can also be a long weekend-you don’t have to be away for weeks at a time.  If you do need a little more money for the experience you are dreaming about, start saving now.  The great thing about planning for vacation in January is that you can start budgeting sooner.  Look at the areas where you can save.  For example, if you are spending $10 to eat out everyday, start making your lunch at home.  That $10 over the course of a year will save you $3,650.  That’s a good amount of money to put toward your next adventure! 

Making the Commitment

 

cover of visitors guide

 

While you don’t have to plan the whole trip on January 25, there are a few commitments that you can make on that day.

-Pick your destination

-Pick your dates

-Put in your PTO for those dates now so that your employer can plan accordingly for you to be absent from work

-Post a picture of your destination on social media and tell the world about your goal.  Once you tell others your goal,  you are more likely to keep it.

-If others are coming along on the trip, delegate tasks of who will plan what parts of the trip.

-Order a vacation guide from the destination of your choice.  If you are interested in visiting the Lake Martin area, you can order one here.  

Now that you have made the commitment of where you are going, when you are going, and who you are going with, the fun really begins!  Aside from the actual trip, the dreaming and planning phases can be pretty exciting too!  If others are going with you, let everyone get involved-even the kids.  Let them pick one thing they want to see or do. Someone can be responsible for picking lodging, activities, meals, etc.  Letting everyone pick at least one small aspect of the trip gets everyone excited and gives them all something to look forward to.

When I have been planning a trip, I have often printed off a picture of where I was going and taped it to the top of my computer monitor.  Whenever I was working, I would frequently gaze at that photo and it gave me instant happiness and motivation.  I truly believe that seeing that made me work harder, because it showed me what I was working toward.   

Get Your Free Zoom Backgrounds To Show Off Your Vacation Choice

zoom screenshot

In honor of National Plan for Vacation Day this year, Lake Martin Tourism Association has created a special little gift for you.  Instead of taping that picture to your computer monitor like me, we have something even better to help you get excited about that trip if your travels happen to be bringing you to Lake Martin.  As a way to show off to others where you are headed, we have chosen some of our favorite spots, and created free virtual backgrounds for you to use on your next virtual meeting, featuring some of the coolest spots on and around the lake.  You can also use them as free downloadable wallpaper for your computer and mobile devices.  We hope this helps you as you get excited about your trip! 

If you want to know more about the Lake Martin area, get some insider tips from some of our locals here

And if you need one on one help, you can reach out to me directly anytime brandy@explorelakemartin.com and I am happy to give you advice on the area. 

Whether your travels bring you to Lake Martin, or someplace else in the world, I just ask one thing of you-make the commitment to make the memories this year.  You deserve it! 

Why We Love Winter At Lake Martin (And Why This Winter Is Extra Special)

Photo Credit:  Harold Banks

 

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ve heard the phrase, “Winter is Coming.” Well, winter is here, and at Lake Martin, that is a good thing! It has brought with it a playground full of fun for us self-proclaimed adventurers and explorers.

It’s no secret that we in Lake Martin live for those summer days on the lake. We love feeling that warm sun on our skin, and whether we are wakeboarding, skiing, boating, catching Friday on the Green at Russell Crossroads, chilling on the beach at Wind Creek State Park, or just hanging out at one of our favorite lakeside places sipping on a cold Bushwacker, summertime at Lake Martin is like no other place. If I was a betting woman, I would bet that most around here would tell you that summer was their favorite time of year. Today though, I speak in defense of one of my favorite seasons. I want to tell you why winter at the lake is so special-and why this winter holds special significance.

The one big change that happens on the lake in the fall/winter is the lowering of the water level. You can read more about that here. Most years, Alabama Power lowers the lake 7 feet, but every 6 years, they lower the water level an additional 3 feet. This year is that special year, and currently, the water level is 10 feet below what it is during the summer. This means that those with lakefront property can do work on their docks and seawalls, but it also lends a little treat to us explorers.

One of my favorite people that I have had the opportunity to do some exploring with is Mr. Harold Banks. You have probably heard that name before, as he is the namesake of the Harold Banks Canoe Trail.  In 2009, he became the first person to solo paddle the entire 258 miles of the Tallapoosa River from its origins in Paulding County, Georgia, to its end at Fort Toulouse near Wetumpka, Alabama. In 2015, the 25 mile stretch located in Tallapoosa and Chambers counties was named in his honor. Paddling that trail is an adventure in itself and you can learn more about that here.

Although Harold is probably most widely known for that paddling voyage in his little red canoe, he is a man of many adventures. When we were on one of those adventures last summer, I remember him telling me of the special significance of this winter. Knowing I am one that loves picking up rocks along my path and seeing the unique formations that can only be found in central Alabama, he explained to me the treasures that we would find as the water level started dropping. I’m not talking about lost treasure chests around Pirate Island, although that is actually a real place on Lake Martin. I’m also not talking about the lost diamond rings that Susie lost while skiing, although with the water level lower, those kinds of treasures exist also. It’s definitely the best time to take out the metal detector or go magnet fishing. The treasures that Harold explained to me are the things that us explorers appreciate most-new trails for us to hike and exposed geologic wonders that are usually hidden beneath the waters of Lake Martin. I couldn’t keep this all to myself, so I wanted to share two of this favorite things about this time of year.

Hike The Island Hop Trail at Smith Mountain

 

driftwood

Smith Mountain hiking trails are maintained by the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association, and are a great place to access the exposed shoreline. You can hike the Lakeshore Trail that hugs pristine, still wild shoreline, until you come to the Island Hop Trail which crosses land bridges to 4 islands that are accessible only during the low winter pool.  The entire exposed lakeshore opens up many miles of walking possibilities to explore nature. You can look for unusual pieces of driftwood, hunt for arrowheads, and find freshwater mussels as big as your hand.

mussel shells

Take advantage of these special trails while you can though, because once the water starts rising in the spring, you won’t be able to access them until the following winter. And don’t forget, it will be another 6 years before you can explore them to the extent you can right this second. And as a bonus, hiking any of the trails at Smith Mountain also counts toward your completion of the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge.

Explore The Geology Of The Lake Martin Area

rocks and driftwood

Collecting pretty rocks is another great activity during the winter months at Lake Martin. Even during the summer, I am one of those people that gets overly fascinated with the geological finds in the area. Every time I get ready for a hike and go to pick up my hiking bag, I wonder why it is so heavy…. until I open it up and remember all of the great finds I found on the previous voyage. While the water is down, you are able to uncover even more great treasures.

Did you know that Tallapoosa County is nationally known as a rockhound super site because of the abundance and diversity of minerals?

minerals within a rock

This area has seen violent geologic upheaval. To oversimplify, the Lake Martin area lies along a line where the ancestral continents to Africa and North America once collided, then split apart. Extensive volcanic activity and massive earthquakes reshaped the earth. Three parallel fault lines still pass right through the Lake Martin area.

stones

Layers of rock have been twisted and folded over to create complexity seen few other places. You must peel back the vegetation and topsoil to reveal this complicated geology, and the receding waters of Lake Martin expose where that occurred. Harold told me he has found garnets bigger than marbles laying on top of the ground. He also says he has found smaller gem quality garnets embedded in schist, large sheets of mica, and quartz crystals. There are some areas where the patterns and colors of exposed rock resemble abstract art masterpieces, and it is hard to fathom that these scenes are natural.

A Few More Cool Things To See During The Winter At Lake Martin

deer swimming in the water

We have hundreds of miles of shoreline surrounding Lake Martin, and Harold says that you will find miracles of nature in every mile. Take it all in and enjoy it. You may even have an opportunity to get a glimpse of migratory waterfowl visiting from far away, see fox squirrels and turkeys, or even catch a deer swimming across a narrow, shallow channel. His advice though is to get out there and just start walking. The water level will start rising on February 17th. It will rise slowly, and you can always keep up with the current water level here. Right now though, while the water level is at the lowest it will be for 6 years, it is absolutely the best time to be out there finding those unique treasures.

I would like to extend a special thanks to Mr. Harold Banks for his input in this article, and for his mentorship in exploring central Alabama.

The Lake Martin Polar Plunge

people running in the water

Ahhh… the Polar Plunge. A classic and entertaining event where hundreds to possibly thousands of people across the globe strip down into their bare nothings and race into a freezing cold body of water. It’s thrilling, it’s daunting… and it’s for a good cause!

Though I have always suspected the Polar Plunge was a decently newer event created by my generation, I couldn’t be more wrong. The concept has actually been around since the early 1900s, with the first one taking place in Boston, MA, in 1904. It has swept the world in popularity, with plunges in countries such as Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and even South Korea. And we can’t forget about the one in Antarctica, where every year scientists plunge into the icy waters as a rite of passage. Yikes!

The annual Lake Martin Polar Plunge that we know today started in January of 2016 and was organized by the Lake Martin Young Professionals, a program of Alexander City Chamber of Commerce. The idea came from a group member as a fun way to host a fundraiser to benefit the local community… and the rest is history.

Lake Martin Polar Plunge 2022-Event Details

ad for polar plunge event

The 2022 Lake Martin Polar Plunge will take place Saturday, January 15th at Kowaliga Restaurant, with doors opening at 10am.

The good news is cocktails will be ready to be served when the doors open for anyone who may need a little liquid courage before the plunge!  All guests will receive 4 tickets for food set up in corresponding stations from Kowaliga Restaurant’s special Polar Plunge menu.

The plunge itself will take place on the beach at noon. In years past, anywhere from 200 to 300 people have attended as spectators to watch as brave souls race into the frigid Lake Martin waters. It is said that typically 100 participants actually take the plunge, which surely makes for good entertainment.

For any newbies like myself, you may be wondering… how far do you actually go in? Typically, plungers will just run a short distance into the water and then run back out. How far in you want to go is completely up to you!

In addition to the main plunge, there will be several contests as well with cash prizes. “Dash For The Cash” is a short race out to a buoy, placed approximately 25 yards out from shore. Participants swim out to the buoy, circle it, and then race back to land. The first swimmer back wins a $100 cash prize.

The second contest is for the best Polar Plunge costume. Dressing up in unique costumes is not required but has become a fun, funky tradition for the event. The Lake Martin Polar Plunge has seen everything from Mary Poppins to nuns to the Statue of Liberty… and even a dinosaur! There is no theme to the costume contest, so you can get as creative and outgoing as you’d like. Anonymous judges will be walking around and sizing up the costumes, and the winner will be walking away with a $100 cash prize.

All events and contests will be wrapped up by 12:30pm. Changing station tents will be set up for participants to quickly get out of their wet clothes and into something a little more comfortable to enjoy the rest of the hangout celebration.

The remaining portion of the Polar Plunge is a family friendly event, with live music, lawn games, s’mores, burn barrels, and much more! This is such a fun day to kick off the new year and support the local Lake Martin community.

Plunging For A Cause

people running in the water at the polar plunge

Even though the Polar Plunge is a fun-filled and silly day, more importantly, it is a great way to give back to the community. Traditionally the Polar Plunge event supports a local charity or nonprofit, and this year the Lake Martin Polar Plunge will benefit the Lake Martin Resource Association, or LMRA. LMRA advocates for the safety and cleanliness of Lake Martin. Not only do they organize multiple trash cleanup initiatives throughout the year, but the organization also oversees the hazard buoys for boaters on the lake, repairing and replacing dozens of damaged, expensive buoys every year.

This year,  LMRA wants to invest raised funds from the Lake Martin Polar Plunge in lighted buoys for the lake.

Tickets for the Lake Martin Polar Plunge are $30, which includes a food ticket, day of entertainment, and funds to  LMRA. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or you can purchase there here ahead of time.

Tips For A Successful Plunge

woman with crown on

If this is your first year taking the plunge, here are some helpful tips from past pros to make sure it is a fun and memorable experience!

Tip #1: Wear Water Shoes or Socks

The shore can be rocky while running in, and you can’t always be sure what will be underneath your feet. Wearing water shoes or a pair of socks will help protect your feet and possibly give you that extra grip to get out of the cold water quickly!

Tip #2: Wear A Smart Plunge Outfit

Although many will be decked out in fun and outrageous costumes, most will be in either a swimsuit or clothing. Be sure your plunge outfit is something without a lot of buttons, zippers, or snaps and is something you can quickly change out of. Remember, the water will be cold, and your fingers will more than likely be pretty numb, making buttons your worst enemy. Loose-fitting clothing is easy to pull off your soaking wet body as well as to change into afterwards.

Tip #3: Bring a Towel and Change of Clothes

After you come racing out of the freezing cold waters, smiling and proud, the first thing you will want to reach for is a towel to dry off and a warm set of clothes. My suggestion would be to have a spare change of clothes close by that are loose-fitting and easy to pull on, such as a t-shirt, sweatshirt, and even sweatpants. You may want to consider bringing a bag to place your wet clothes or swimsuit into afterwards. And no worries about where to change. There will be tents set up at Kowaliga Restaurant for participants to switch into their dry clothes, so we can all enjoy the remainder of the day hanging out warm and dry with fellow plungers.

Tip #4: No Need to Be the First One In

If this is your first time taking the plunge, there is no need to fight to be the first one in the water. There can be 100+ people running into the lake behind you; so if you get into the chilly water and decide you want back out quickly, this could prove to be very difficult. My suggestion would be to hang back and let the pros dive in first- then follow suit so you can comfortably go as deep into the water as you would like.

Tip #5: Enjoy the Experience

Yes, it will be cold. And yes, you may think about chickening out. But participating in the Lake Martin Polar Plunge will not only give you bragging rights for a year; it will also be a fun memory and story to tell your friends and family about for years to come.

The biggest piece of advice I have heard from the Polar Plunge pros is to just run in and “rip it off like a band aid,” so to speak. And once you are there, shivering and numb in the water, enjoy the experience for what it is- for those few precious moments, you are one of the craziest and most daring members of the Lake Martin community.

January 2022-Lake Martin Fishing Report

men and kids holding fish

Water Level:  482 (You can always check the current lake level here.)

Surface Temp:  60

Clarity:  Clear to lightly stained

December was awesome striper fishing.  We were catching them every single day- and lots of them!  Yep it’s cold, but that just turns Lake Martin Stripers on!! The colder it is, the better the bite. Our best day ever so far (quantity wise) was 3 Januarys ago.  I had 5 clients on my boat and they boated 92 in 5 hrs. (And no, we did not keep all of them.)  This month I don’t see any reason we can’t do that again, or possibly even break that record catch. One of the many things our clients like about January fishing is we don’t have to go as early because the bite is good all day long-and it’s not an issue if we aren’t on the water at daylight.  I’ll personally be doing two different types of approaches to catch these beasts.  One is down lining live bait in water approximately 40-60 feet deep.  The other approach is for the clients that want mainly big quality stripe.  For them, I’ll be pulling planer boards with huge shad in shallow water.  Believe me,  there’s some giants waiting for some big baits in that shallow water!  As in many different months here on Lake Martin, January is another month that stripers will be roaming the entire 44,000 acres and 800 miles of shorelines. There isn’t a bad place this time of year to try your luck at the stripers.

As always please wear your PFD, because if you unfortunately end up in the frigid waters here, you will not make it long before you cramp up and find yourself in a world of trouble.  Also this year the lake is down 10 ft + or – and for those not used to these changes in water depth, the shallow and dangerous areas can catch you off guard quick.  One thing I always do is let someone (if not several people) know where I’m launching from, and what area I intend to fish in just in case I have an accident.  That way, they would at least have a starting point to look for me.

-Captain David

Thank you very much to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for providing our monthly fishing report.  

guide service logo

January Fishing Tournaments at Lake Martin

woman and fish

January 8-Wind Creek Bass Trail Event #3-OGS

January 9-Reel Money Team Trail

January 29-Alabama Bass Nation-High School Students

January 30-Alabama Bass Nation-College Students

Planning a Fishing Trip to Lake Martin?  Here’s Some Of Our Most Asked Questions From Anglers

Boy fishing
Photo Credit: Christopher Tate

Q.  Where can I stay while in town for my fishing trip?  

A.  Local accommodations can be found here

Q.  Where can I grab a bite to eat while in town?

A.  Local places to eat can be found here

Q.  Where can I find non-ethanol gas?

A.  Riverbend Gas and Grocery 9120 US-280 Alexander City      

What’s Curb Market 2802 Dadeville Rd. Alexander City

Kowaliga Marina 255 Kowaliga Marina Road Alexander City      

The Ridge Marina 450 Ridge Marina Road Alexander City      

River North Marina 250 River North Road Alexander City      

Patriot on the Corner 6507 AL Hwy 63 South Alexander City    

Q.  Where can I find tackle? 

A.  Riverbend Gas and Grocery 9120 US-280 Alexander City      

Wind Creek State Park Marina 4325 AL-128 Alexander City      

Walmart Supercenter 2643 Hwy. 280 Alexander City    

Q,  Where can I go if my boat is having problems and needs servicing?  

A.   Alex City Marine 2190 Cherokee Road Alexander City      

Russell Marine Boating and Outdoors 19 Russell Marine Road Alexander City      

Kowaliga Marina 255 Kowaliga Marina Road Alexander City      

The Ridge Marina 450 Ridge Marina Road Alexander City      

River North Marina 250 River North Road Alexander City    

Q.  Is there anyplace in town that rents bass boats?

A.  Yes, Wind Creek State Park rents bass boats year round    

Q.  Is there a local fishing guide that can take me out?   A.  Yes, Alex City Guide Service.          

If you need more information in planning your trip, you can order your FREE Lake Martin Vacation Guide here.  

4 Fun Things About The Alexander City Sportplex

Alexander City is home to some of the best local shopping, family entertainment, and events in the Lake Martin community. It is also home to the most diverse Sportplex in the region. Of course, when I hear the word “Sportplex,” athletic activities automatically come to mind. And even though it is a paradise for sports lovers, there are so many different activities you can do in addition to just, well, sports.

If you are looking to pick up a hobby or try something new, here is my list of four fun things that I encourage you to try (that you might not have known existed) at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex!

Join a Sports League or Club Activity 

Baseball Field

The Alexander City Sportplex is the perfect place to pick up a new hobby, activity, or even join a community sports team… no matter what age you are!

It is no question that the Alexander City Sportplex is one of the best community sports facilities around the Southeast. Perhaps what the Sportplex is most known for in the community are its sports fields. There are 20 fields total that are dedicated for hosting youth games, as well as state and regional tournaments. Teams travel to Alexander City from far and wide to hold their sporting events, and they are equally fun for spectators to watch!

When there aren’t games in action, the fields are open for public use… which brings me to the first item on this list: taking up a hobby or joining a league at the Sportplex.

The Alexander City Sportplex is home to a vast variety of adult sports leagues that are led by members in the local community. These leagues cover everything from adult kickball to softball, and even flag football! The Sportplex is always adding new and exciting teams and leagues to their lineup, keeping it new and fresh year after year. You can check in with the Sportplex here for an update on registration and start dates for leagues year-round.

If you’re looking for a hobby that is a little less competitive, the Senior Center hosts a variety of clubs and activities for anyone 50 years and older. This includes bingo, quilting clubs, exercise classes, various games, and social events. My recommendation would be to check out the square-dancing nights hosted every month!

No matter what age you are, the Alexander City Sportplex has an activity waiting for you to join!

Spend Time Outdoors on the Nature Trail or at the Dog Park 

birding trail sign

As an avid hiker and runner myself, I can more than appreciate having such a diverse hiking trail right in our backyard.  The hiking trail at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex is a scenic 3-mile trek throughout the woods where runners and walkers alike can catch fresh air and see various wildlife year round. Because of its beauty and accessibility, the trail has been added to the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge. The cool thing is, just walking a portion of it will get you one step closer to earning your hiking challenge patch.  Another fun fact – the trail is also a part of the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail, which highlights the best public locations for bird watching year round. My recommendation is to wear a comfy pair of tennis shoes and hit the trail with a set of binoculars to try and see how many different types of wildlife you can spot!

If you are bringing a four-legged friend to join you on your walk, I also highly recommend stopping by the newly renovated dog park.  I personally can’t think of a happier place to be. This fenced in area is located just behind the girls softball field and allows for pups to run free, make new friends, and be the “goodest” of boys while playing on the obstacle course designed for dogs. The renovations include brand new fencing, a sitting area, and various dog attractions.

Walking the hiking trail and playing in the dog park sounds like the perfect afternoon outdoors to me!

Make a Splash 

splashpad at the alexander city sportplex

Even with the lake in our back yard, there are some ways to make a splash without hitting the lake.  If your kids have had their fill of swimming, I have an equally fun option for you. Let me introduce you to the Splashplex. This is an incredibly popular play area for parents to bring their little ones to get wet and wild in the sun. Even better, it is also wheelchair accessible with a sidewalk leading right up to the entrance.

The Splashplex is a seasonal adventure and runs by the rule of thumb that it opens when the weather is warm enough to get in, until the days are too cold.

Check Out the Lake Martin Rodeo

man on horse at rodeo

This one may be somewhat of a surprise to a lot of readers, but the Alexander City Sportplex is also home to a couple of the biggest seasonal events around the lake each year. My personal favorite and go to recommendation for this one is the Lake Martin Rodeo!

Thousands of visitors flood into Alexander City for the rodeo weekend every year-and for good reason! Hosted at the horse riding area at the Sportplex, the Rodeo is slam packed with family friendly entertainment, live music, vendors, a petting zoo, rodeo clowns, and even a mechanical bull for anyone brave enough to give it a try.

Something that really intrigued me at the rodeo is an event called “Mutton Busting”. This was a new concept for me, and I absolutely love it. The idea behind the Mutton Busting event is for young kids to get to experience their own “softer” version of a rodeo by riding sheep inside an enclosed arena. The kids try to stay on the sheep as long as possible, and the last child riding wins an award. Of course, all kids are limited to a safe weight for the sheep, and this is designed to be a fun way to engage the youngsters.

But what really has everyone talking are the main acts. In years past, the rodeo has consisted of eight professional events that headline the evening with a series of specialty acts in between. These are pulled in from all across the Southeast and Midwest and include everything from trick riders to Spanish bull fighters. And the good news is all of the acts are rotated every year, so even if you attend back to back rodeos, you’ll never see the same show twice.

The Alexander City Sportplex is a diverse and fun environment for the entire family- even the furry pups! This article is a great introduction to everything the Sportplex has to offer, but there is so much more to discover. From sports to events, and everything in between, I encourage you to check it out for yourself and take full advantage of all the wonderful activities you can find at the Alexander City Sportplex!

Ringing in the New Year at Lake Martin

2022 happy new year

Another wonderful year at Lake Martin is coming to an end and there is excitement as a new one is just around the corner. For everyone who is looking to ring in the new year at the lake, here are my suggestions for an unforgettable time this New Year’s Eve!

For An Early Bird New Year’s Eve 

I have spent many a New Year out celebrating well beyond midnight. But to be honest, some of my favorite ones were spent at home and laying comfortably in bed by the time the ball dropped!

This option is for those who still want to go out and celebrate ringing in the new year, but like me, sometimes prefer to be home early with our own bottle of champagne. For the early bird New Year’s Eve goers, Zazu’s Verandah has you covered!

Zazu’s Verandah is a cozy and newly restored event space located in the Dadeville Town Square. They will be rocking this New Year’s Eve with live music starting at 7pm as well as plenty of wine and beer for sale. The best part is, the ball drops at 10pm at Zazu’s Verandah, so you can call it an early night and still have a great evening of memories to remember New Year’s Eve.

For additional information on Zazu’s Verandah New Year’s celebrations, you can call 256-307-2188.

For A New Year’s Eve With Kids

I remember several years growing up as a kid where my siblings and I would stay up late to watch the ball drop with our parents. It was always an exciting experience to try and keep our eyes open till midnight and finally reach the big countdown! I have also heard hilarious stories of my friends, now grown up and parents themselves, faking a ball drop at 8pm so they could send their kids off to bed early.

Luckily for all of the parents reading this, I found a fun New Year’s Eve option that you can do together with your kids this year. Niffer’s Place is hosting a family-friendly countdown celebration on New Year’s Eve. If you’ve never been to Niffer’s Place on Lake Martin, now is the time to try it out. It is located in Dadeville, and is known to have the best burger menu on the lake as well as a fun, vibrant atmosphere which makes it perfect for the whole family to enjoy.

The New Year’s Eve family-friendly countdown is their most popular event of the year, complete with party hats, great food, and tons of excitement for parents and kiddos.  And if you are looking for an early night, you’re in luck. Niffer’s holds their countdown at 7pm and tops off their event off with a sparkling juice toast!

If a family fun New Year’s Eve is just what you are looking for, then be sure to reserve your table now for December 31st as they go quickly. You can check out more information on their Facebook page.  

For A Casual New Year’s Eve

I have done my fair share of dressing up for New Year’s Eve, but sometimes I just want to leave the heels at home and have a good old-fashion night out. If this is a little more up your alley, I have two perfect places for you to check out.

The first one on my list is Alexander City’s newest bar-The Local at 41 Main. It’s located right in the heart of Downtown Alex City and has a charming, welcoming vibe that makes you feel right at home as soon as you walk through the front door.

I put this one first on my list as they get started early on New Year’s Eve. The Local opens their doors at 2pm and will have all the college football games on television-and they will be serving up plenty of cocktails to get you warmed up for the night. One drink in particular that caught my attention on social media was their “Skrewball Smores” drink – a hot chocolate and peanut butter whiskey cocktail topped with whipped cream and graham cracker crumbles. I could easily have a few of those before starting my New Year’s resolution to lose a few pounds!  Then starting at 8pm on New Year’s Eve, The Local will have live music gearing up with Bo Jones, and will be handing out party favors for guests. And of course, the evening will be topped off with a champagne toast at midnight to ring in the new year! This is the perfect spot to spend your NYE on the Alexander City side of the lake. Check out more about The Local on their Facebook page. 

The second option on my list for a casual New Year’s Eve is spending the evening at Copper’s Grill at Stillwaters.  Copper’s Grill is located at the Stillwaters golf course and is a beautiful venue overlooking the green. They are known for their delicious food menu, great service, and my favorite – live music.

For New Year’s Eve this year, Copper’s Grill is offering an exclusive experience for ticketed guests starting at 6pm. This will include a delicious food buffet as well as an open bar. Then starting at 9pm, Copper’s Grill turns into a come one, come all atmosphere! Everyone is welcome to join in the celebration with lots of dancing, party favors, and DJ Marky Mark rocking the tunes until the ball drops at midnight. And of course, a complimentary champagne toast will have us all cheering, “Happy New Year!”

I may leave my heels at home, but I’ll be sure to bring my boogie shoes! Copper’s Grill attire for the night is casual and comfortable, but they welcome anyone to come dressed in their New Year’s best if they choose!

For more information on their NYE celebrations or to reserve tickets for the exclusive portion of their event, call: 256-373-3536. You can also stay up to date on their Facebook page.

For A Fancy New Year’s Eve

One of the best ways to celebrate December 31st is going all out, dressing to the nines, and completely pampering yourself. And why not? It’s an evening designed to reflect on the year past and celebrate a new beginning.

If this style of celebration is more your speed of things for New Year’s Eve, SpringHouse at Russell Crossroads is my suggestion for you. SpringHouse prides themselves on being a dining experience unlike any other, with foods inspired by the history of the region and flavors locally sourced to create their own masterpieces of southern classical cuisine.  And of course, their New Year’s Eve dinner is no exception.

This year SpringHouse is hosting a lavish eight-course wine dinner to celebrate the New Year, featuring an array of their favorite dishes to date and promising to be their best experience yet! The evening kicks off at 5:30pm with traditional seating for guests to gather and share this elaborate experience together.

If a wine and dine night out is what you are looking for this New Year’s Eve, be sure to secure your seat early by contacting (256) 215-7080. You can also find the New Year’s Eve menu posted on the SpringHouse Facebook page.  

For An Outdoor New Year’s 

There is nothing like kicking off a brand-new year with a refreshing hike and taking in the beautiful views of Lake Martin! And as an avid hiker myself, this is perhaps my favorite option of all.

Wind Creek State Park is hosting hikers of all ages on New Year’s Day to join in the fun of their annual First Day Hike along the Campfire Trail. This is especially exciting, as the Campfire Trail winds not only through the beautiful forest at Wind Creek State Park, but it also peaks around the shorelines of Lake Martin, so hikers are able to take in all the beautiful waterfront views as well.

Speaking from experience, be sure to bring your cameras so you can snap photos of all the wonderful wildlife and stunning views to remember your first day of 2022 by. You can also bring along a pair of binoculars to catch birds and animals at play. You may even spot an eagle or osprey!

On January 1st, 2022, hikers will be meeting at the North Picnic Trailhead at 11am for the 1.8-mile loop. The trail difficulty is moderate and suggested for persons 4 years and older. And of course, leashed pets are welcome! For more information, please call 256-329-0845 or email Scottie.Jackson@dcnr.alabama.gov

And those are my top New Year’s suggestions for you! Hopefully with all of these options, you will surely find the perfect way to celebrate the new year! And as 2021 comes to an end, I want to wish you and your loved ones a very prosperous and happy New Year filled with joy, cheer, and adventure!

5 Must Do’s When Day Hiking Solo

Peacefulness.  Clarity.  Creativeness.   Appreciation for the world around me.  Those are just a few of the things I feel when I experience nature in solitude.  Don’t get me wrong-I love enjoying the great outdoors with my friends and family, and having those experiences with them.  But just like in our everyday lives, we need that balance of companionship and alone time-and we need that in our time in nature as well.  If you hike a trail with others, and go back and hike that same trail alone, and you will notice that you will have a completely different experience-and both bring tremendous value.

When you are alone, you have the ability to really be at one with nature.  You have the time to stop and smell the flowers-literally-if you so choose.  If you want to stop and smell the sweet aroma of those flowers for an hour, you can do so.  You are not on anyone else’s time schedule, and are under no pressure to complete your hike in a certain amount of time.  If you want to sit and listen to the sound of the bluebirds singing their melodic tune, you can do that.  I also notice that when I am alone in nature, with no words to share with others, the clutter of my mind disappears, and I find clarity in my thoughts.  If there are concerns I am experiencing at that time, it’s as if I am able to hear the answers within the winds of the pine trees.  With that freeing feeling also comes a little creativity.   With the things that keep us busy and hold us back in our crazy everyday lives, the solitude and peacefulness of nature allows our minds to open and truly be able to think.  Some of the best ideas I have ever had have been born from one solo walk in nature.

Of course with all of the positive things that come along with this solitary time in the great outdoors, there are still some things that you need to think about in order to make your experience as pleasurable and as safe as possible.  There will always be people who tell you how dangerous the world is.  The truth is, if you aren’t safe and aware of your surroundings in any situation, there can be hazards.  Trust me though, you can do this!  There are definitely ways to prepare for your solo hike, and be safe.  By preparing and taking precautions, you are able to truly allow yourself the comfort level to experience nature as you should.  I have been exploring nature on my own for many years, and whether I am alone or with a friend, I always have pepper spray on one hip and a knife on the other.  I have never needed to use either of those things, but it is something that brings me comfort.  The tips I am going to share with you are certainly not meant to be a comprehensive list of all things to take into consideration when solo hiking.  Different people will swear by the importance of other things, such as hiking poles, a first aid kit, and bug spray.  These are definitely important too.  However, my mission today is simply to give you a place to start.  These are five basic practices that I always try to remember in an effort to make my hikes as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Research Your Journey

screenshot of all trails info on wind creek trail

Before you take on any hike alone, or even with a hiking partner for that matter, I encourage you to learn about the trail you intend to hike.  This is especially true for those newer to hiking, but it is even a good idea for those more experienced.  Every trail is different, and honestly, that is one of the things I like the most about hiking.  However, each one comes with their own challenges and it is good to know which ones have steeper terrain and are most suited for those with more hiking experience.  It is also very important to know the length of the hike, know how well marked the trail is, and know if it is a loop or a trail that you will hike and turn around to come back.  If the trail is a loop, the mileage noted will show the entire length of your hike.  However, for one way hikes where you will have to turn around and come back to your starting point, double check to make sure if the mileage noted is for one way or roundtrip.

There are many places to find information on established trails, and people in the hiking community are some of the friendliest you will ever meet.  There is always someone willing to share their experiences on certain trails and give you information to prepare you for your journey.

No matter where you are heading, you can always check out the local tourism office website.  Here in the Lake Martin area, the website ExploreLakeMartin.com has great info on the local trails-and even has details on a hiking challenge that they do.

AllTrails is a great website to get information on trails all over the world, and be able to see reviews from others.  Wherever you are, it’s also not hard to find local hiking groups on social media.  Here in the Lake Martin area, there is a Facebook group called Lake Martin Hikers.  There is also another great group called Alabama Outdoor Adventurer.  While that particular one caters to trails across the state, you will frequently see people posting about the trails in our area.  I have found people to be very nice and supportive in both, and if you have questions about a certain trail, there is always someone ready to jump in the conversation and tell you everything you need to know.  These also tend to be good places for inspiration and have helped me find new trails to hike.

Let Someone Know Where You Will Be Hiking

screenshot of phone contact sharing

Before I head out on any hike, I always tell someone I am heading out into the woods.  I have never had an issue where anyone has had to come looking for me, but it is better to be safe and at least have someone know where you are.  It’s also great to share your location with a friend or family member.  Modern technology makes this super easy.  I am an iPhone user, but admittedly I am not what you would call a techie.  All I have to do though is click on a contact in my phone, and go down to the area where it says “Share My Location.”  It gives you options to share your location for one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely.  I suggest choosing indefinitely, because you can always go back at the end of your hike and stop sharing.  Again, I have never had an instance where someone has had to come looking for me.  However, I do think it gives me a little more confidence that if I did fall and twist my ankle or something unexpected happened, there is always someone who knows where I am and can easily find me.  We don’t like to think about unforeseen circumstances, and I have had countless solo hikes that have been completely safe, but this is one important thing that I ask that you do before heading out into the woods alone.

Stay Hydrated

camelback backpack

One of the most important things about enjoying the outdoors is hydration.  During the summer months, it is extra critical to watch the temperature and be careful about going out during extreme heat.  Even if it feels fine when you step outside, you don’t know the coverage that awaits you on the trail.   A trail that looks like it has a lot of shade and canopy at the beginning of the journey, may have no coverage at all a mile in.  Being exposed to the direct sun can overheat you quickly.  During the summer there are times that you may want to forgo that hike altogether, or turn around if you see that the terrain and lack of canopy have the capability to expose you to direct sunlight.  Heat stroke is no joke and is not something you want to experience-especially on your own.  Of course you want to make sure you have more than enough water on those summer hikes, but you may not pay as much attention to staying hydrated in the fall and winter.  Don’t get too comfortable and forgo carrying water along though.  Even when you are out in the cooler months, you will still be exerting energy and need to make sure you stay hydrated.  In my opinion, the backpacks with a bladder are by far one of the easiest ways to carry water.  These bags have a removable bladder which you can fill with water, and they have a tube that allows you to drink directly from the bag.  There’s actually several brands to choose from, and they are eco-friendly and super easy to carry around.  I received a CamelBak as a gift several years ago and I love it.  I’ve only had to replace the bladder once, and it has been one of the most used gifts I have ever received.

Have The Right Shoes

hiking boots

I also can’t undermine the importance of having the right shoes.  Cinderella’s whole life changed because of one shoe, and once you hit the trails, you will quickly see how life will change with the right shoes too.  I remember life before the right shoes.  Your typical walking/running shoes are fine for flat paths.  However, the first time I hit a trail with inclines and steep sides, I realized the lack of grip I had.  It wasn’t just a comfort issue, it was a safety issue.  Of course the wrong shoes pose a risk whether you are alone or with others, but that consequences increase if you are alone.  After that hike, I took myself to a local outdoors store that day and started trying on hiking boots.  What I quickly found on that shopping trip is that there are a lot of options.  I tried several on and discovered many were totally uncomfortable.  Maybe there is a breaking in period, I don’t know.  However, it was immediately clear that there were some that were not going to work for me.  Luckily the store I went to had an incline that you could walk up and down to see what they felt like when you were walking in different situations.  That makes a lot of difference.  You don’t want shoes that are too tight, but you also don’t want too much movement when you are going up or down.  I tried them all that day, and I’m so glad I did.  What may be right for me may not be right for you.  I did find that one was a clear winner for me though.  The one that was most comfortable to me, and gave me the most security going up and down that incline, was a high top boot by Merrell.  I knew I wanted something that was waterproof also, and whatever brand and style you decide on, I definitely recommend finding one that has that one feature.  It has come in handy many times and has kept my feet warm and dry.  Mine are so comfy and have made me more confident of being able to hike different terrain.  The pair I have now has lasted for years and they are still going strong.

Stay On The Trail

hiking trail by lake with trail marker

If you have gotten this far, it’s pretty safe to assume you are one with an adventurous spirit.  That is such a great quality in my book, but it’s also important to be smart with your adventurousness and always stay on the trail.  Hiking solo is not the time to take the road less travelled.  While we with that thrill seeking desire want to see all there is to see, it is important to remember to be the trail hiker, and not the trail blazer.  The trails are marked and it is very important to stay on the marked path.  Trust that those that have gone before you have blazed the trail and have made a path that is worthy of all your thrill seeking.  They have marked a path that is safe though, and by going off of the path, you can easily get lost or run into hazardous situations.  You never know what hazards await, and you don’t want to find out.

You CAN Do It

Hiking alone is something you can do-and do safely.  It is a peaceful experience that I hope you find as fulfilling as I do.  Even as a solo hiker though, it is great to take advantage of some of the resources such as your local online hiking groups.  They can provide a wealth of knowledge about the trails, and can be great resources in giving you additional tips to help you on your way.  This is only meant to be a starting point in your journey, and the more you get out there, the more you will learn.  These tips are also meant specifically for day hiking.  Backpacking and multi-day hikes are a whole other ballgame, and while they are something you can aim to pursue as well, there are many more needs required for those.  I would also like to point out that while I did mention a couple of brands, I have no affiliation with them.  These are just simply brands that I have used in my personal hiking that have worked well for me.  I am a big proponent of trying different ones to see what works best for you.  By making sure you have adequate gear and having prepared ahead, I’m confident that you will be doing lots of independent adventures in the near future.  One more thing to remember though-if you are going to be hiking solo……..  you are going to have to up your skills on taking selfies!

Happy Trails!

girl on hiking trail

December 2021-Lake Martin Fishing Report

men holding fish

Water Level:  482 (as of 12/3/21) 

(As the lake level continues to decrease through December, you can always check the current level here.)

Surface Temp: 68

Clarity:  Clear

With December now on us, we look back for a moment on how great the bite in November was. November never fails to produce large stringers of Lake Martin stripers .

Moving forward to the December fishing report, the bite will just continue to be awesome. The striper will be schooled together in huge numbers throughout the lake. I have already been seeing sea gulls gathering here on the lake, which has been a big help in locating bait fish and stripers. Keep a watchful eye out for the gulls diving, and have a Redfin tied on for some top water action.

This month we will be down lining live baits as well as pulling boards with live baits on top, because both approaches work well in December.

Be extra careful this winter here on Lake Martin, due to our lake levels falling 10 feet instead of the normal 7 feet. There will still be lots and lots of great fishing-however there will be more hazards to watch for.

If you are still in search of the right gift to get someone for Christmas, please consider getting a gift certificate from us here at Alex City Guide Service. It’s the only certificate I know of that you can get now and not have to pay for until it is used.

Happy Holidays everyone!

-Captain David

That you to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for providing our monthly fishing report. 

guide service logo

Congrats to Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation’s State Championship Winners

Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation (ABN) held their state tournament at Lake Martin November 5-6.  It was a great weekend, and Lake Martin and Wind Creek State Park were proud to host them.  They even conducted a Fishin’ 4 A Cure (F4AC) competition, where competitors pay an extra fee for F4AC, with money going to fight childhood diseases at Children’s of Alabama. The 2022 ABN season kicks off in February with a return trip to Lake Martin.  Thanks to Greg McCain for sharing a few pictures of the proud winners.  See more pictures and read more about the state tournament and some of the anglers’ strategies  here.  

 

men with plaques

Brent Reaves (R)-Angler of the Year and Richard White (L)-Non-Noater Angler of the Year 

men with plaques

 

Jeff Corley (L) and Will McCree (R)-Winning Team

man with fish

Will Davis- Winning Angler

man holding fish

Phillip Sherrill- Co-Angler Winner 

 

Upcoming Fishing Tournaments at Lake Martin 

 

December 4 Wind Creek Bass Trail Event #2-OGS
December 4 ASABFA-Students
December 5 Reel Money Team Trail
December 11 Russell Marine Winter Bass Clash-OGS
December 18 David Reaser Benefit

You can always check out a complete list of tournaments here.

10 Free Things To Do Around Lake Martin This Christmas Season

sleigh and reindeer decor

It would be such an understatement to just say we love Christmas around here.  Although we have a tendency to go all out on most holidays, Christmas is definitely one of our favorites!  You’ve seen the Hallmark movies with the adorable little Christmas towns-well, that’s us!  Fun activities abound around Lake Martin at Christmas time, and many of them are completely free.  Our goal is to help make your holidays even more special, and below is our list of 10 free things that you can do around Lake Martin this Christmas.  

1. A Walk Through The Trees At Pennington Park

Now-January 3

sign from pennington park

Pennington Park, 360 Real Estate, and Everything’s Art! are excited to offer the opportunity for families and businesses to help celebrate the Christmas season.  Once again, they have turn the park into a Christmas Wonderland with over 50 Christmas displays sponsored by 48 local businesses.  This year the Park will be open and lit from 4:45pm until 10pm nightly until Jan 3rd.  In addition to the displays, there will be a full-size Santa sleigh suitable for photographs and a mailbox for kids of all ages to send letters to the North Pole (Santa WILL respond). 

 

2. Christmas Open House at Creekside Lodge

December 2

Christmas tree

 

The Christmas Open House at Creekside Lodge is a great chance to check out this beautiful lakeside hotel while it is all decorated for Christmas.  They are also partnering with the Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center and will be collecting gifts for children who have endured trauma.  

 

3. It’s A Wonderful Life-Live Radio Play

December 2-5

its a wonderful life play

Alexander City Theatre II will present “It’s a Wonderful Life Live Radio Play” by Joe Landry free to the community at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 on the Betty Carol Graham Center stage at the Alexander City campus of Central Alabama Community College. Set in a 1946 radio studio, the play relates the story of George Bailey, who learns what life would be like for those he loves if he had never been born. In the process, he helps his guardian angel win his wings. Each actor plays up to five parts in the production, changing voices and nuances of appearance with each one. This heartwarming production is a great way to bring out the spirit of Christmas for the whole family!

 

4. Christmas At Stone Ridge

December 5

Christmas decorations

Stone Ridge Baptist Church is hosting their first Stone Ridge Christmas Fest on December 5 and is inviting everyone to attend.  This family event that includes dinner, reindeer games, cookie decorating, a Nativity scene, and more.  You can even have your picture made with Santa!  

 

5. and 6. Christmas Parades

Dadeville:  December 5

Alexander City:  December 13 

grinch on float

Dadeville’s Spirit of a Hometown Christmas Parade will be happening December 5.  Earlier in the day, you can check out arts and crafts, food booths, a bouncy house, and train rides. 

The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce Hometown Christmas Parade will be happening December 6.  The parade winds its way through the streets of Alexander City the first Monday of each December. Spectators are invited to line the parade route to watch bands and dancers perform, see the festively decorated floats, and wait for the much anticipated arrival of Jolly Old St. Nick himself.

 

7. Christmas Music In The Air At Zazu’s Verandah

December 9

man with horn

Christmas Music in the Air at Zazu’s Verandah is a special night with David Jones performing all of our Christmas favorites.  The event will take place inside the Listening Room at Zazu’s Verandah, and there will be beer and wine for sale.  

 

8. Christmas at the Creek

December 10-11

RV with Christmas decorations

Although this one is just for the campers, all of the actual activities are free.  If you are looking for a reason to get out and camp at Wind Creek State Park (as if you needed a reason), Christmas at the Creek is it!  There is so much fun going on for the whole family.  There will be a PJ Parade, a Jingle Bell Hayride, Gingerbread decorating, Ornament making, North Pole Socials, and the annual Campsite Christmas decorating contest.  

 

9. A Downtown Christmas

December 16

horses and carriage

A Downtown Christmas takes place in downtown Alexander City.  Come get in the Christmas spirit in beautiful downtown,  get your picture taken with Santa, decorate ornaments with Mrs. Claus, write letters to Santa, check out the Polar Express train, enjoy food trucks, and more!  

 

10. Live Nativity

December 16

nativity

The Live Nativity is such a beautiful thing to see in downtown Alexander City.  You can walk or drive by, and see the the Live Nativity that is put on by the youth from 1st UMC.  They go all out for this-and it even includes live animals.  While you are downtown, you can also stroll around, enjoy the downtown Christmas decoration, enjoy festive Christmas music, and shop our unique shops for the perfect last minute Christmas gift.

 

The 2021 Lake Martin Christmas Shopping Guide

santa in sleigh

Lake Martin is known for our great outdoors, but did you know that we have some really wonderful Christmas shopping in our area too? We have picked out a little something for everyone here-even that person that is so hard to buy for! Check out some of our own local picks for fabulous Christmas gift ideas!

Local Art

Christmas decorations

Make sure to plan accordingly for the day after Thanksgiving and check out some of the best Christmas shopping at the Holiday Bazaar at Russell Crossroads. You’ll find everything from jewelry, soaps, paintings, pottery, woodwork, lotions, furniture, and much more! We hear Santa will be making a stop that day too! The fun will be happening Friday, November 26th 9am-4pm.

Where to find it:

Russell Crossroads

27 Russell Farms Rd, Alexander City, AL 35010

(256) 397-1019

Anything and Everything YETI

yeti products

Russell Marine has Lake Martin’s largest selection of YETI coolers, drink ware, ramblers and adventure accessories for the whole family.

Where to find it:

Russell Marine Boating & Outdoors

19 Russell Marine Road, Alexander City, AL 35010

256-397-1700

Bad Boy Mowers Maverick Zero-Turn Mower

lawn mower

Head to Russell Do it Center in Alexander City and check out the best mower a homeowner can hope for. Just one in a new line of mowers on display, the Maverick by Bad Boy Mowers will upgrade your lawncare experience.

Where to find it:

Russell Do it Center

1750 AL Hwy 22, Alexander City, AL 35010

256-234-2567

Sound Amplifiers

sound amplifiers

Whether its an old horn from Atwater Kent or an original Model A, they all have an uncommon, amazing sound when your cell phone is inserted into the base – which just so happens to be from an old collection of hat molds. Each one is a conversation piece offering a beautifully unique look but is yet so functional amplifying music or even just a notification of a call or text from your cell phone.

Where to find it:

Off the BEATON Path

21322 US-280, Dadeville, AL 36853

(205) 708-3127

Lake Martin A to Z Children’s Book

lake martin a to z book

Back by popular demand, the book A to Z Lake Martin has been reprinted, and is being sold at Tippy Canoe! Authored by Katie Hines Porterfield, and illustrated by Lila Graves, this cute book is the PERFECT gift for young and old.

Where to find it:

Tippy Canoe

6068 AL-63, Alexander City, AL 35010

256-392-4802

Myra Bags and Game Day Jewelry

purses and jewelry

Myra bags has an exceptional line of quality women’s and men’s travel bags, canvas totes, leather and Hairon bags. These pair great with awesome Game Day jewelry-no matter if you are cheering for Auburn or Alabama.

Where to find it:

Lakeside Mercantile

8246 Co Rd 34, Dadeville, AL 36853

334-850-6357

S’mores Builders

smores builder

The weather is perfect for those nights by the campfire or the fire pit, and what better way to make them better than with everyone’s favorite outdoors treat-S’mores! Tippy Canoe carries a variety of S’mores builder kits including the traditional S’mores builder, animal shapes, and even a S’mores fishing pole.

Where to find it:

Tippy Canoe

6068 AL-63, Alexander City, AL 35010

256-392-4802

Holiday Gift Baskets

Christmas gift basket

Do you have a Christmas party to attend this holiday season? Head on over to Catherine’s Market to grab all your party favor essentials! The Foil Decor serving tray is the perfect way to transport all of your homemade dishes. Throw in some locally sourced snacks and a bottle of wine and your party list is set.

Where to find it:

Catherine’s Market

17 Russell Farms Road, Alexander City, AL 35010

256-215-7070

Seven Angels Bracelet

seven angels bracelet

The Seven Angels bracelet is a design by Ronaldo Jewelry. Handcrafted in the USA, Ronaldo Jewelry is a family-owned, heritage brand founded on the principles of integrity, intention and individuality. Every piece of Ronaldo Jewelry is thoughtfully designed to help tell your story.

Where to find it:

Cloud Nine

26 Main St. Alexander City, AL 35010

256-329-9797

Lake Martin Wood Trays, Coasters, and Cutting Boards

cutting board and trays

Screencraft is a great Lake Martin line that offers different artist renderings of the lake made into wood trays, cutting boards, and coasters.

Where to find it:

Lakeside Mercantile

8246 Co Rd 34, Dadeville, AL 36853

334-850-6357

Cozy Barefoot Dreams Blanket

blanket

Wrap yourself in the irresistible softness of this iconic CozyChic knit-an extra soft and cozy easy-care fabric that won’t shrink, pill, or wrinkle. A celebrity favorite, this blanket is sure to add a dash of simple elegance to anyone’s home décor.

Where to find it:

Cloud Nine

26 Main St. Alexander City, AL 35010

256-329-9797

Locally Made Wine

whippoorwill wine

This local family owned vineyard makes some of the best wines you will ever try-and with the majority of them being made from muscadines, their wines also pack an extra punch of antioxidants, making them even more healthy than most mass produced wines. With 11 wines to choose from, you are sure to find the perfect bottle for the people on your list.

Where to find it:

Whippoorwill Vineyards

4282 Co Rd 31, Notasulga, AL 36866

(334) 257-2711

ABC Select Spirits

3044 Highway 280

(256)-234-3306

Dadeville Bag

dadeville bag

These Dadeville bags are made by a local company-The Clothbag Company. They are made in the USA and a portion of each sale benefits The Dadeville Beautification Board!

Where to find it:

Off the Beaton Path

21322 US-280, Dadeville, AL 36853

(205) 708-3127

And of course, a trip to Lake Martin is always a great gift idea! There are lots of great gift certificates available if you want to have something to put under the tree.

Gift Certificates

woman in kayak

Nothing makes a better gift than memories, so pick up gift certificates to some of our fun adventures like Kayaking with Off The Beaten Path, Fishing with Alex City Guide Service, Ziplining with Screaming Eagle Zipline Adventures, A Boat Tour with Lake Martin Tours, Horseback Riding at The Stables at Russell Crossroads, or Shooting at Lake Martin Machine Gun.

Or if you are looking for a more relaxing experience, you may want to pick up a gift certificate from one of our great Bed and Breakfasts-Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast or Paradise Bed and Breakfast on Lake Martin. These make a great gift for those parents who have everything-or for a couple who needs a get away.

For inspiration on planning your next trip to the area, check out ExploreLakeMartin.com or order your OFFICIAL Lake Martin Visitor’s Guide here.

Geocaching in the Lake Martin Area

geocache container

Lake Martin is home to a variety of outdoors activities including hiking, boating, camping… and even the wildly popular treasure hunt, “geocaching”.  Put on your tennis shoes and get out your thinking cap – this “secret” activity will have you hooked for hours of fun!

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a thrilling worldwide scavenger hunt filled with hiking, tracking, and following clues to find secret containers that are hidden all around you.  There is probably a geocache near you right now and you don’t even know it!

“Geocaches” are containers that are hidden in plain sight.  They range not only in a variety of shapes and sizes, but also in difficulty levels too.  The goal of geocaching is to use your sleuthing skills to track down these hidden containers and sign the paper log inside.  Some geocaches even have little treasures hidden inside!

geocaching box

But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Even though a geocache will never be buried underground, they can be hidden up in trees, under park benches, disguised as fake rocks … they can even hide underwater. They are designed to challenge you to think outside the box and get creative. If you are feeling stumped, you can just check the clues in the app for additional hints or tips in the comments.

Geocaching is fun for all ages, not to mention a great way to be active outdoors and explore new places in your area.

Watch this fun filled video on finding a geocache at the local Church In The Pines on Lake Martin:  Geocaching at Church in The Pines It has step by step directions, helpful hints, and much more to help you get started on finding your first geocache.

Geocaches at Lake Martin

girl by lake with geocache container

There are over 200 geocaches in the Lake Martin area alone.  These hidden containers can be spotted at popular attractions and just about anywhere you enjoy the lake!

A geocaching hotspot we recommend for beginners is Wind Creek State Park.  There are over 30 different geocaches located within the park grounds, all ranging in sizes and difficulty which makes it the perfect place to start out and test your skills.

My personal favorite places to geocache however are the islands of Lake Martin. You will need a boat to access these – and prepare to get wet!  My first island geocache was “Sand Island”.  Over the years the island has been washed away to nothing more than a few trees and does not have a place to pull up a boat.  Needless to say, I ended up taking a quick swim in the lake to find this cache.  But it was worth it!

Check out my video on geocaching Sand Island and Cheeseburger Island:  Geocaching Islands of Lake Martin

Geocaching Tips for Beginners

man sitting on the ground and writing

It can be exciting to hit the road and find your first geocache!  However, you might also be wondering how to get started. Here are helpful tips that will lead you in the right direction to have a fun filled and successful day of geocaching.

Always Bring a Pen
This is the number one tip! Imagine working hard to find that clever geocache… and not having a pen to sign the log. Small geocaches will not have a pen handy and even the larger ones with pens may have run dry. The geocaching app does let you log the geocache virtually, however, there is a certain level of satisfaction in finally signing the log in person after a good hunt.

Download the App (if not compass savvy)
The geocaching app is a great tool for geocachers of all levels, especially if you are not compass savvy enough to use coordinates from the website online. The app allows you to not only see all of the geocaches in your area, it can also give you directions within 20 or so feet of the geocache, bringing you close enough to the location but still not giving the geocache away. It is also a great way to log your find and check cache activity.

You can download the Geocaching app here: Official Geocaching Website

Use Your Sleuth Geo-Senses
When searching for a geocache, you will want to look for things that seem a little “off”.  This could be a rock out of place or an ammo can hidden inside a tree (yes, I have found geocaches in these before!).

Geocaches will be cleverly disguised. Look high, look low, look all around.  If you are feeling stumped, just check the cache activity on the app and make sure that it isn’t missing.  Sometimes people will write additional clues in the comments, as well as the occasional “spoiler” photo for anyone who needs the extra help!

Be Stealthy – Don’t Let “Muggles” Spot You!
The term “Muggle” is official lingo for an individual that does not know about geocaching.  It is important to make sure you are not spotted while looking for your geocache. Someone who is not familiar with the game may become curious and look for it themselves.  If they find the cache too, they may take the geocache with them or move it from its location.  It’s best to be secretive and stay stealthy in your searches.

Leave No Trace – Literally  

One of the most important rules of geocaching that is recognized worldwide is to leave the geocache exactly as you found it.  After signing the log, be sure to place the geocache back in its exact spot and reposition any dirt, leaves, or other items you may have moved to get to it. Not only will you leave it in the best condition for the next geocacher to find, this also helps ensure we are not disrupting the natural habitat around the cache.

One of the worldwide initiatives in the geocaching community is “Cache In, Trash Out” or “CITO”.  These are environmentally friendly geocaching events, where you earn a virtual souvenir by cleaning up litter, planting trees, building trails, and more.

geocache log

Geocaching is endless fun for everyone in your family! So what are you waiting for? Download the app and jump into the game today.  Happy Hunting!

For more information on geocaching, check out the website: Official Geocaching Website

For quick links to Lake Martin geocaching videos:
Geocaching at Church in The Pines
Geocaching Islands of Lake Martin

Wine Tasting at Whippoorwill Vineyards

woman pouring wine into another woman's glass

There’s just so many cool things to do in the Lake Martin area.  I mean, it is an outdoor lover’s paradise.  Boating, fishing, hiking, kayaking, it can all be found here in our area-and if you know anything at all about our lake, it’s islands, and almost 900 miles of shoreline-that should come as no surprise to you.  But one thing that may come as a surprise to you is the award-winning wine that comes from our area.  Who would have thought it, right?  But- it’s true-and whether you are an experienced sommelier or casual wine drinker-wine tasting is something that you have to put on your things to do at Lake Martin list.

One of Southern Living Magazine’s Top Vineyards in the South

picture of southern living magazine article about wine

Southern Living magazine named one of our local farms, Whippoorwill Vineyards, as one of the top vineyards in the south.  I thought that was pretty cool to have someone bestowed with that honor right here in my own backyard.  So what did I do?  My friend Karen and I decided to go and check it out for ourselves.  We took off early on a Wednesday for what I like to call product research (aka happy hour.)  I personally had tried a couple of their wines before, and I liked what I had.  However, I had never gone through the formal sit-down wine tasting there, and I wanted to experience that for myself.

Getting to Whippoorwill Vineyards

whippoorwill vineyards sign

4282 County Road 31
Notasulga, AL  36866
Phone: 334-257-2711

It’s not a bad drive at all from Lake Martin, and GPS will take you right there.  From Dadeville, it takes about 20-30 minutes to get there.  The scenic journey was a part of the experience though.  It’s a gorgeous drive through the country roads, and the anticipation of the personal tasting experience during the beautiful, scenic drive just made it that much better.

Walking the Vineyards

vineyard

When you first pull onto the property, you are welcomed by a feeling that can just be described as pure peacefulness.  The flowers and plants that surround the outside of the tasting room are fascinating, and you can see the rows and rows of vines right there on site.  Every single one of the wines that they make is made from fruit that they have grown themselves, with the exception of one that I will tell you about in my wine run down.  We walked the vineyard with the owner, Vickie, and we may have snagged a couple of the delicious muscadines from the vine to sample ourselves.  I thoroughly enjoyed tasting that sweet taste of the south, but I also was really impressed with the educational lesson that came with that part of our tour.

Why Whippoorwill’s Wine is Healthier Than Many Others

grapes

Most wine drinkers usually have a preference of white vs. red.  I personally like both.  I started out as a white wine drinker, but then jumped on the health bandwagon several years ago when the word had spread about the extra health benefits of red wine.  Why not get a little extra wellness benefit from it?  When we were at the winery, I learned about how their wine is different from wine made in many other parts in the country.

The grapes commonly used in most Alabama wines are Muscadines.  WedMD says that Muscadine wine contains many vitamins and minerals, and is a great source of resveratrol, which is a potent antioxidant. Muscadine grapes contain more antioxidants than other types of grapes, and actually have some of the highest antioxidant levels among all fruits.

Antioxidants like resveratrol are linked to a reduction in free radicals in your body, which appears to reduce the risk of chronic heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

LiveStrong.com also talks about how the thicker skins on the muscadine grapes also contain more fiber than other grapes.  Getting enough fiber helps you maintain a healthy weight and also helps reduce the risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Muscadines are definitely making a mark and starting to be considered one of the “superfoods.”  So you know what that means-even more health benefits!  Who doesn’t want to feel like they are making good healthy choices while enjoying that glass of deliciousness?!

The Tour and Wine Tasting

big storage containers of wine fermenting

Outside of being a good healthy decision, taking a trip to experience Whippoorwill Vineyards is also just a truly fun experience.  You have the option to choose a tasting of 6 wines or all 11 of their wines.  If you are going to do it, go for all 11-you won’t be disappointed, and will be able to taste the diversity offered by all of their wines.  With either tasting option, you will also receive crackers, chocolate, and a Whippoorwill Vineyards glass to take home as a souvenir.  Although reservations are not required, you can make a reservation and pre-order an add on charcuterie board if you like.  In addition to the super interesting tasting, we were also treated to a tour of the facility and had a chance to learn all about their wine making process, which helped us appreciate the wine even more.    You will also want to walk the grounds and say hello to their beautiful horses that reside there at the vineyard.  This was a great girls night out activity, but would also be a really cool experience with your special someone or even your family.  There’s tons of room for the kids to run and play-no matter if your kids have 2 legs or 4.  They are one of the great pet friendly experiences of the Lake Martin area.

The Wines of Whippoorwill Vineyards

Whippoorwill Vineyards has been recognized nationally and internationally for their wines.  The countless awards that they have won are a testament to the high quality of their wines.  I was so impressed with the wide variety of wines that we tried, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on each.

The Dry Wines

Harvest Moon-This was the first one we tried and it was a great way to start the tasting, as it ended up being one of my top 3 favorites.  Karen and I both loved it, and Vickie told us this one paired great with chicken or fish.  It is light and crisp, and can be compared to a Sauvignon Blanc.

Lenoir-This one is also known as the “Black Spanish” because it has been documented that Lenoir wine was used by the Spanish in communion.  Vickie said that this was the one to pair with steak or red meat.  This one has deep purple hues, with a finish that is lingering and smooth.  This ended up being one of Karen’s favorites.

Cynthiana-They call this one the “Cabernet of the South.”  I like my Cab, so I had high hopes for this one, and it certainly did not disappoint.  The flavor was amazing, and this also ended up being a top 3 favorite for me.  I saw some of this in Karen’s to go bag too, so she must have been just as impressed.  It had a really sophisticated, medium bodied taste with a hint of oak and spice.  The Cynthiana is also called the Norton grape, and we’re told that this is the type of grape that Thomas Jefferson used to make wine.  This grape is commonly grown in Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri, but one of Vickie and Tim’s greatest winemaking mentors, Mr. Kelly Bryant, told them this could grow in Alabama.  Spoiler alert-it did, and as it turns out, Whippoorwill Vineyards ended up producing some pretty awesome Cynthiana wine right here in Alabama.

Noble-This was the driest of the red wines that we tried.  It has a full-bodied flavor with moderate acidity that gently spreads raspberry and cherry flavors across the palate.  This was one Karen really liked also.

The Semi-Sweet Wines

Noble-Yep, turns out there is another Noble, and it happens to be beautifully deep in color and slightly sweet, with intense fruit flavors of the south.  While Karen preferred the dry Noble, this one became a quick favorite of mine, and yes, it is the third of my top 3 of the day.  One neat thing that Vickie showed us with this wine is that you can mix it with mulling spice and put it in a crock pot for 3-4 hours.  The end result can be described as nothing less than pure happiness in a glass.  Move over pumpkin spice latte-Mulled Noble Semi Sweet is the new Fall go-to drink.

Saugahatchee Creek-This one is what I call the old school wine.  The Creek Muscadines that it is made from is actually one of the oldest varieties of muscadines.  One special thing about this one is that it is named after an actual creek right here in our area.

Black Pearl-Remember earlier when I said that only one of the wines made at Whippoorwill Vineyards was made with fruit that they didn’t grow?  Well, this is the one.  This one is made from blackberries that they bring in from Florida, but the wine is made right there at Whippoorwill.  This one was really nice when I tasted it after the first sip.  But then Vickie was like….. But wait, there’s more….  She wasn’t kidding!  She had us then take our chocolate and pair with this already sweet and delicious creation and it was definitely a wow factor what we experienced.  This particular wine paired so well with the sweet chocolate and the pairing made such a difference in the taste.  There could not have been a better example of the power of pairing the right foods and wines together to best complement each other.

The Sweet Wines

Tailgate Red- This one takes the noble muscadine, which we learned earlier that we love, and gives it a little something extra.  It is mixed with the perfect amount of strawberry.  What is interesting is that the flavor gives you a double punch of flavor.  At first you taste the noble, and then that sweet strawberry kind of sneaks onto your palate at the end.  If you didn’t know the strawberry was in there, it would be a very welcome surprise.

Sunset Rose-This one is for the indecisive person in your life who can’t decide if they like red or white best, as it is a blend of both.  This blush blend is the perfect combination of the red muscadine and the bronze scuppernong.  One thing that Vickie mentioned about this one is that it is good for cholesterol.  Sweet, delicious cholesterol medicine.

Scuppernong- This is a light golden wine that has a fruity flavor and is made from the Scuppernong grape.  This one is very familiar to a Riesling.  We were told that this is the one that helps you get a restful night’s sleep.

Southern Glory-This one is a smooth blend of three different muscadines-the Regale, the Noble, and the Carlos.  This one was yummy too, and a great finale to our wine tasting at Whippoorwill.

Special Events

cross at vineyards

In addition to the wine tasting and tours, the beautiful landscape of the vineyards also makes it a great event venue.  One thing that will catch your attention when you arrive is the old rugged cross that sits right there in front of the muscadine vines.  I can’t imagine a more beautiful backdrop for a wedding!  Their spacious grounds allow for many different set ups to accommodate a variety of groups, and Vickie is happy to help with the plans for your special occasion.

A Family Affair

photo of a family

A trip to Whippoorwill Vineyards is a truly special experience.  This is not mass-produced wine-it is 100% a family-owned and operated business.  The business was started by Tim Watkins and his family back in 2006, with his father, Bobby,  officially coming on board in 2015.  When it came time to name their vineyard, they struggled coming up with the perfect name.  One evening when they were finishing up their work, Bobby commented on the sounds of the Whippoorwills in the background and instantly that name stuck.  Whippoorwill Vineyards was officially born that evening.  These are some of the hardest working people I have met, and they do everything themselves-from planting, to harvesting, to conducting the wine tastings.  That is the part that makes it even more special-the people that actually created all of these amazing wines are there to take you through the wine tasting process.  This is so much more than just a wine tasting.  We had a special treat that day and were also able to meet the whole family, including the next two generations of winemakers.

A Few More Tips for Your Lake Martin Wine Tasting

wine glass

Our trip to Whippoorwill Vineyards was a unique, personalized experience, and we had a blast.  We tasted great wine, met wonderful people, and learned a lot in the process.  I highly suggest you add wine tasting to your itinerary for your next trip to Lake Martin!  They are open Thursday-Saturday 10am-6pm, and you are welcome to walk in and do an onsite wine tasting.  However, I recommend calling to set up a reservation like we did.  We scheduled a reservation outside of the normal hours, had a very personal wine experience with the owner, and were the only ones there at the time.  As I mentioned before, you will have a choice between trying 6 wines or all 11.  Go for the 11-because I promise- your palate will be awakened to new flavors that you didn’t even know existed.  And before you depart, make sure to stop by the gift shop too.  They have lots of great gifts for wine lovers, including that mulling spice I mentioned earlier for those yummy fall wine drinks.  And if you want to add even more wine tasting fun to your trip, you may also want to check out another of our local wineries, Hodges Winery.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by all of the delicious wine that is being made right here in our area.

Cheers!

The Best View of Lake Martin-Smith Mountain Fire Tower

fire tower

Smith Mountain Fire Tower is easily one of the most iconic attractions at Lake Martin!  Located in Dadeville, AL the tower itself is surrounded by history and epic views, making this one bucket list item you won’t want to miss.

The History

The presence of the Smith Mountain Fire Tower has been a part of the local history of Lake Martin since the lake’s conception.

Smith Mountain itself is the highest point of elevation at Lake Martin. Long before the dam was built or the waters of Lake Martin itself existed, the surrounding area of land where the tower sits had been cleared of its valuable timber and was no more than a desolate region of eroding soil. However, it wasn’t until after 1929 when Lake Martin was filled in, that this became a measurable problem, and Alabama Power took notice. The eroding soil began to dump into the lake waters at a significant rate, thus creating a concern that the additional soil would eventually impact the capacity of the hydroelectric plant and ultimately affect its lifespan altogether.

To battle this erosion, Alabama Power Company partnered with Alabama Extension, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to reforest the land.  During the 1930’s, millions of trees were planted around the lake to control the erosion, thus leading us to the creation of forest fire prevention measures and the Smith Mountain Fire Tower.

Standing at over 90 feet tall, the tower was created by Alabama Power as one of six towers that were designed as a fire detection network to safeguard the millions of newly planted trees. Smith Mountain was the location of the first fire tower as well as the district office of the Alabama Division of Forestry.  Guests can still see the remains of this building at the fire tower site.

The Smith Mountain Fire Tower officially opened in April 1939, and over the next four decades it would serve as a hub for watchmen to stand guard over the forest and signal to fire-fighting crews through a hand-cranked telephone system. In the 1970’s, these methods were replaced with aerial patrols and increased availability of telephone systems, no longer needing fire towers as the main source of fire detection.  In the 1980’s, the Alabama Forestry Service closed the tower, ultimately sealing the fate for the site to become a dumping ground as the tower deteriorated into a hazardous condition.

But that’s not where the story ends.  In 2010, the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association, also known as CRATA, obtained the title to the tower and revived it back to life.  With the help of volunteers and donors, the Smith Mountain Fire Tower has been fully restored into what is now one of Lake Martin’s most prized attractions for all to enjoy.

Getting to the Tower

trail head at smith mountain

The Smith Mountain Fire Tower can be accessed by both boat and car.  If you are driving, there is a parking lot at the base of the mountain with plenty of parking opportunities as well as trail heads to start a hiking adventure.  You can go to CRATA.org for directions to the Smith Mountain trails, as well as all of the other CRATA trails.

If coming by boat, there is a small slough with wooden pillars that you can tie your boat up to near the “Island Hop Trail”.  However, there is really only room enough for two – maybe three – boats to tie up here at a time.  You also need to be willing to jump into the lake and wade through waist deep water to access the steps up onto the trail.  You can see arriving by boat in this video.  Guests will then follow the trails through the woods for a small hike up to the tower.  Come prepared with comfy hiking or tennis shoes – flip flops are not recommended!

Regardless of which method you choose to arrive, all guests wanting to see the fire tower will have to trek a steep driveway leading up to the historic site.  This is the “Walker Bynum Smith Mountain Tower Trail”, a steep 0.4 mile climb up to the base of the tower that is only accessible by foot.  It is at a bit of an incline, but the hike to the top is worth it!

The Hiking Trails

man and woman hiking

“Walker Bynum Smith Mountain Tower Trail”
This is the main trail from the parking lot that leads to the base of the tower.  It is a steep 0.4 mile climb to the top and closed off to vehicles, leaving it only accessible by foot. It is a rugged trek – so come prepared with comfy shoes and a bottle of water.  However, you will be happily rewarded at the top with stunning views and of course, the Tower itself.

“Lakeshore Trail”
This trail is a total of 2.4 miles in length, and winds gently throughout the pines and forest, bringing its hikers for a scenic trip along the shoreline of Lake Martin.

“David M. Forker Island Hop/Boat Dock Trail”
From the Parking Lot, this trail is approximately 1.4 miles to the boat dock.  During the winter months, this trail gets the name “Island Hop Trail”.  This is due to a series of islands that appear as the lake water levels fall during the winter, exposing an additional quarter mile of the trail that cannot be accessed during full pool. As this is only accessible one time a year, we highly recommend taking advantage of this rare opportunity during your visit!

“Little Smith Mountain Loop Trail”
This trail comes with a warning!  Though it is easily the most scenic trail at Smith Mountain with it’s spectacular views and rock formations, this is also the most dangerous trail of all.  Many places along the trail have steep drop offs and sheer cliffs, where a single misstep could have extreme consequences. This trail is reserved for the experienced hikers and not recommended for kids.

That being said, if you are looking for an extreme hike at Lake Martin with big rewards, this is a must do to add to your bucket list!

The Lake Martin Hiking Challenge

hiking patch

The trails surrounding the Smith Mountain Fire Tower are a part of the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge!  Don’t forget to download the hiking log and mark these beautiful trails off your list. Read more about the hiking challenge here: Lake Martin Hiking Challenge.

Climbing the Tower

At the base of the Smith Mountain Fire Tower, guests are welcomed by beautiful wooded views, a picnic area, and educational exhibits located throughout the area.  These stunning exhibits were made possible by a grant from ADECA and designed to help guests better understand the natural history, ecosystems, hiking trails, and historical cultural landscapes surrounding Smith Mountain. Guests can also see the structure remains of the original district office of the Alabama Division of Forestry.

educational displays at smith mountain

The tower itself is a 90-foot, steel structure that is open to the public to climb. As the slender steps wind up to the top, guests have the opportunity to stop every 10 feet or so at a platform to take in the sweeping views and learn an educational fact about the surrounding area.

sign from smith mountain

One of the more iconic sights guests will see during the climb is the mountainous ridge referred to as “The Devil’s Backbone” – a strong, quartzite rock outcropping that looks to be the ridged backbone jutting up from the ground.

devil's backbone rock outcropping

At the top, guests climb up into what’s referred to as the “cabin” of the tower and are met with stunning panoramic views that stretch for miles over the beautiful Lake Martin waters and surrounding areas. The cabin also houses signage that notes significant state landmarks in the distance, including the mountains of the Talladega National Forest.

view from the top of smith mountain fire tower

After taking in the views, don’t forget to sign the register at the base of the tower and mark your incredible experience at the Smith Mountain Fire Tower!

To get the full experience of climbing Smith Mountain Fire Tower, check out this video by Pelican Point Expeditions900 Feet Up: Climbing the Smith Mountain Fire Tower.

November 2021-Lake Martin Fishing Report

Surface Temperature: 71 (as of 11/1/21)

Water Clarity: Very Clear

Water Level: 487.8 feet (as of 11/1/21) The water level continues to drop to winter pool levels, but you can always check the current water level here.

With water temps cooling down and water levels on a downward trend, Lake Martin is the place to be for all types of fish. November is awesome here for crappie, bass, and no doubt for stripers . The stripers will be settled in for the winter and not be as hard to stay on top of. There are several good things about November, but one of my favorite things is that the 8-15 pound stripers will be feeding hot and heavy. In November I like live baiting deep for them (40 ft.) But it’s not only live baiting-I also do a lot of light tackle spinning rod fishing for them. I use a lot hair jigs on spinning rods with 12 pound test line to get the most bites. Also in November, you can find stripers stacked in the main body of the lake, or even in the deeper creek channels. Toward the end of this month, start looking for the gulls to start coming in, and you can follow the gulls to the bait fish- which in return will help you get in the stripers. Some anglers like to go up in the river in November, but you really have to be careful of all the hazards up river. If you are not familiar with upriver winter conditions, I highly recommend staying down on the lake for safety reasons.

Don’t let November slip by with out spending some days on the water here- you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the fish you catch while enjoying some great weather .

If you’d like to book a November trip, or even just buy a early Christmas gift, give me a call- or better yet text me at 256-401-3089.

Tight Lines!

Thank you to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for our monthly fishing report!

guide service logo

FishingBama.com shares tips for catching spotted and largemouth bass on Lake Martin.  Check out their article here.  

Congrats To This Month’s Photo Contest Winner

Congrats to Amanda Shurum for catching this special moment.  Tight lines to even the tiniest of anglers on Lake Martin!  Make sure to submit photos from your favorite times on the lake to be in our monthly photo contest.  

November Fishing Tournaments at Lake Martin 

Alabama Bass Nation-November 5-6

Wind Creek Bass Trail Event #1 (OGS)-November 13

Reel Money Tram Trail-November 14

Smith Station Ruritan Buddy Bass Tournament-November 20 

You can always check out our complete list of tournaments here.  

2021 Fall Festivities at Lake Martin

people in a horse and carriage

Fall is in the air at Lake Martin, Alabama, and we have your ultimate guide to all the must-do fall festivities around the lake! Water levels are dropping, leaves on trees are changing, and the spooky season is just around the corner. Last weekend was Wind Creek State Park’s annual Fall Festival. Guests enjoyed a pumpkin decorating contest, costume parade, trick or treating, and even a campsite decorating contest. It is always the third Saturday of October, and campsites sell out quickly. Reservations have to be made well in advance. There’s still more Fall fun to be had in our area this year though—read on!

 

The Great Pumpkin Patch

Strand Park – Alexander City, AL

October 14-30 

11AM – 6PM

pumpkin

When Fall is in full swing, what better way to celebrate than finding the perfect pumpkin at the downtown Pumpkin Patch! Conveniently located at Strand Park, guests can choose from countless gourds and pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors making the perfect pick for your Fall decorations or spooky jack-o-lantern. The pumpkin patch runs the last two weeks in October and all proceeds benefit Main Street Alexander City.  You can get more information here.  

Holiday Arts and Crafts Market

Pennington Park-Dadeville, AL

October 23

10AM-3PM

People standing by a table at an event at Pennington Park

Everything’s Art and Pennington Park will host Dadeville’s 1st Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Market on October 23, 2021, from 10 am-3 pm in Pennington Park- located at 121 N. Spring Street in downtown Dadeville. The Market will feature local arts and crafts, live music, and food trucks. Pennington Park markets have become known for quality and original hand-made creations to include jewelry, crafts, and art work- and this event promises to deliver nothing less. Music will be provided by Richard Murray.   Get more information here.  

Fabulous Fall Colors Walk

Wind Creek State Park-Alexander City, AL

October 23

11AM-12PM

Flyer for Fabulous Fall Colors

Autumn is a magical time, as Alabama’s forests move from seas of vibrant great to a beautiful quilt of yellows, oranges, and reds.  Join Wind Creek interpreters to discover some of the park’s rich fall colors during a leisurely stroll!  Get more information here.  

Leaf Rubbing Craft

Wind Creek State Park-Alexander City, AL

October 23

3PM-4PM

flyer for craft event

If you take a stroll around Wind Creek State Park, you’ll spy leaves of every shape and size!  Collect fallen leaves from trees and shrubs and make beautiful leaf rubbings to take home!  Get more information here.  

Trunk or Treat

Alexander City Municipal Complex – Alexander City, AL

October 26

5PM – 7PM

trunk of car with halloween candy in back

Get a jump start on Halloween celebrations! The Alexander City Municipal Complex and Area 51 welcome trick or treaters to stop by and show off their costumes, while enjoying live music, food trucks, and more.  Get more information here.  

 

Turpentine Tales 

Russell Crossroads – Alexander City, AL

October 28-30  

6PM – 8PM

kid in costume

Walk the Turpentine Trail and learn about the animals in Russell Forrest! Meet live, creepy critters with Naturalist Marianne Hudson at the Town Green, then take a guided tour along the trail to “meet” the animals. Local student actors dressed in costumes portray the forest animals in their natural habitat and give a glimpse into the life of a hawk, snake, deer, and more!

Turpentine Tales is designed for young children but makes for an entertaining learning experience for groups of any age. The event is free for the public and though walk ups are welcome, reservations are advised.  To make reservations email Karen Kison at: kkison@russelllands.com or get more information here.

 

Russell Crossroads Fall Family Festival 

Russell Crossroads – Alexander City, AL

October 30

10AM – 1PM

people with pumpkins

Join Russell Crossroads for their annual Fall Family Festival this year!  Bring the whole family out to enjoy live demonstrations from a working blacksmith, wagon and pony rides, a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, and much more!
If you’re looking to sweeten up your day, grab your favorite family recipe and enter into the annual Blue-Ribbon Canning and Baking Contest.  Every year bakers bring their best pies, cheesecakes, jams and more… Yum! And the best part?  Your dessert could win you cash prizes at this year’s festival.  

The entrance cost is $25 per family, based on a family of four or $10 per individual.  Get more information here.

Main Street Harvest Festival 

Main Street – Alexander City, AL

October 30

11AM – 2PM

babies in pumpkins

Get into the Fall spirit at the Main Street Harvest Festival.  Located at Strand Park, it is the perfect place for friends and family to gather together and enjoy a day of games, arts & crafts, face painting, bouncy houses, and more! Along with local vendors to enjoy, it is also the final day of the pumpkin patch – making it the perfect time to grab your last-minute pumpkins too for Halloween.  Get more information here.  

Downtown Trick or Treat

Main Street – Alexander City, AL

October 30

11 AM – 1 PM

baby in costume

This trick-or-treating isn’t just for the kids! Dress up the family in your favorite costumes and head downtown for some Halloween fun.  While your little ghouls and goblins trick-or-treat with local businesses, you can enjoy shopping some spooky good sales at the stores.  Get more information here.  

Marvelous Mask Making 

Wind Creek State Park-Alexander City, AL

October 30

3PM – 4PM  

Get in touch with your wild side with Wind Creek State Park’s “Marvelous Mask-Making” event. Join Wind Creek interpreters at the Club House to decorate unique masks, using natural materials such as fallen leaves, tree bark, and more! This event is open to the public, however, day use fees to enter into Wind Creek State Park may apply.  Get more information here.  

Monster Mash Street Bash and Bar Crawl 

Main Street – Alexander City, AL

October 30

7PM – 11PM

people in costumes

It’s a Monster Mash! This one is for those 21 and up.  Dress up in your spookiest costume and hit the downtown scene to catch live music and good times while bar hopping around different restaurants in the downtown square. The bar crawl kicks off at Carlos Mexican Grill, where participants can pay $10 to register and receive their bar crawl Bingo card.  Anyone who completes all six stops on the card will be entered to win a spooky good prize.

In addition, Main Street will be filled with Halloween excitement! A DJ will be dropping the tunes all night long and a mechanical bull will be set up for any dare devils that night.  Plus, your creative costume could also when you cash prizes – which is definitely something to howl about!  Registration for the bar crawl is $10 at Carlos Mexican Grill. Get more information here.  

Epic Fall Fest

Stone Ridge Baptist Church-Alexander City, AL

October 31

6p-8p

Flyer for Epic Fest event

Epic Fall Fest is a family event with amazing Bible stories, creative Trunk or Treat, FREE dinner, and candy! You can also wear your costume if you would like.  Get more information here.  

My Strategy On How To Complete Two Hiking Challenges At One Time

two hiking challenge patches

Why Participate In A Hiking Challenge 

They say the best exercise you can get is the one that you stick with, and for me it is hiking.  There are plenty of people who love the gym, and if that is what is right for you, do it!  Everyone needs physical activity to stay healthy.  For me though, I get no enjoyment or motivation by being on a treadmill in a gym on a literal road to nowhere- and looking at the back of someone’s head on the row in front of me, who is also on that same road that will take us nowhere.  I like for my paths to take me somewhere beautiful. I don’t always know where, or what I will see on the way, but that’s kind of the exciting part about it! By being out in nature, on a path that could be taking me to see beautiful flora and fauna, allowing me to feel the breeze of a fall morning, and hear the sweet sounds of the birds in the distance, I get rejuvenated and motivated.  Nature also tends to bring me a feeling of peacefulness and inspiration.  I feel so much excitement that I don’t even feel like I am working out.  How could I be?  This is actually fun!  Whatever your form of exercise though, it is important that you stay motivated and keep pushing yourself.  That is one thing I like about a challenge.  It pushes me to do more.  While I do go hiking when I can anyway, a challenge keeps me focused on an end goal, and completion of that goal offers a sense of accomplishment.  That feeling of “I DID IT!” is a pretty cool feeling! 

Aside from motivation to stay focused on hiking regularly and stay physically active, another thing I like about the hiking challenge is that it forces you to get out and see new things.  Sometimes I get stuck just going to my favorite trail, but there is a joy that can’t be explained the first time you see something new-maybe it’s that cascading waterfall, or that amazing view from the top of a firetower.  Let’s face it though-we all have so much going on in our lives that sometimes we take for granted what is right there in front of us.  We don’t know the treasures that await us, until something pushes us to get out and explore.  Sometimes those explorations show us things that we are in awe and wonder of, and sometimes they give us transformational experiences that change us as a person.  There is definite value in getting out of the day to day hustle and bustle routine, and seeing new things. 

So yes, this fall I am participating in two hiking challenges-at the same time.  Am I crazy?  Debatable.  But is it possible?  Yes!  I have found a strategic way to do it, and wanted to share it with you.  First, let me tell you about each challenge I am personally participating in. 

The Lake Martin Hiking Challenge 

fire tower

Cost:  Free

Dates:  This started on September 22, 2021 (the first day of Fall) and is an ongoing program-you can take as long as you want to complete it

The hiking trails and the challenge:  There are 10 trails included in this challenge.  The journey of this challenge will take you to a state park, a national park, through beautiful forests with well groomed trails, to a historic firetower, to amazing bluffs with some of the most breathtaking views you will ever see, and up, down, and around scenic cliffs.  There are 5 trails that are trails created by the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association, trails at Wind Creek State Park and Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, a trek through Russell Forest, a hike through an Alabama Power Nature Preserve, and a walk through the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex

What I think is cool about it:  One of the most awesome things about this challenge is that the majority of the trails are a part of the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail.  That means you have a really good shot at meeting some new feathered friends on your journey.  You don’t even have to complete the entire trail.  Many of the trails offer different options within the trail, and one for instance gives you different options for everything from a one mile hike to a seven mile hike.  By just completing even a portion of each trail, you get to count it on your hiking log.  It’s a great way to get out and see new things and stay within your own physical abilities, as some of the trails do have some challenging parts to them.  While it is great to challenge yourself, just please be aware of your own physical abilities and comfort levels.  

Logging your hikes:  There is a log set up here where you just add in the date that you explore each of the trails.  If you can’t download it, you can have one mailed to you.  Once your hiking log is complete, you either email it or mail it to Lake Martin Tourism Association.

Your reward:  As if discovering some cool new natural places wasn’t enough, there is indeed a little something extra you get at the end.  Once you send in your hiking log, you will be mailed a custom patch and certificate. 

How to brag about it on social media:  #LakeMartinHikingChallenge #LakeMartinAlabama #LakeMartinTourism 

Where to get more info:  ExploreLakeMartin.com/Hiking

The Fall 50 Challenge

hiking trail by the water at sunset

Cost:  $19.95 or $29.95 (one package includes a cool T shirt)

Dates:  October 1, 2021-November 30, 2021

The hiking trails and the challenge:  This challenge lets you hike any trails you want to hike!  There are no limitations and you can hike anywhere you like around the world! The goal is to hike 50 miles in a period of 2 months.  However, the hike has to be on an actual trail (not a street or a sidewalk unless it just connects part of the trail), and each hike has to be at least 2 miles long.  That part is nice because it does help you stay focused on the endurance of doing at least 2 miles.  Since this one is mileage based, I downloaded a free phone app to keep up with how many miles I hike on each trek. 

What I think is cool about it:  Well this one does come with a T shirt I liked, so I can literally say, “Been There, Done That, Got the T Shirt!” With this one having no limitations of where you can do it geographically, you can do it with a friend who is out of town, and complete the challenge together, but separately.  You can also include hikes when you go out of town and really diversify the trails that you explore.  They also make a donation to plant a tree once you complete your challenge, so that is awesome too.  It’s just a little extra motivation.  If you finish the challenge, you get to make the world a better place.  Just remember that when you are on mile 48 and trying to push through!  

Logging your hikes:  There is a log sheet that you can download here, and you are asked to email it in once you have completed the challenge. 

Your reward:  Depending on the package you choose, you could get things like a patch (while supplies last), a T shirt, and stickers.    

How to brag about it on social media: #Fall50Challenge #MyAdventureChallenge #AlabamaOutdoorAdventurer

Where to get more info:   https://myadventurechallenge.com/pages/fall-50-challenge

How to be strategic and complete both hiking challenges at the same time

rock bluffs overlooking pine trees

So it may seem like a lot to complete both challenges at one time.  However, by doing both simultaneously, I am actually doing some hikes that I can count toward both.  Am I double dipping-I sure am.  But-I am still following the rules of each.  Each time I complete one of the trails on the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge, I make note of how many miles I hiked on that trail, and for the ones I have hiked after October 1, I am adding those hikes and miles to my log sheet for the Fall 50 Challenge.  So yes, I am getting credit for both in some instances.

The trails that I hiked prior to October 1 or after November 30 will only count toward my Lake Martin Hiking Challenge.  I did start that one on the first day it started because I got so excited and just couldn’t wait.  I knocked out a couple before the beginning of October, but those that I am doing now, I am counting toward the Fall 50 Challenge. 

Since October 1st, I have also taken the opportunity to hike a couple of trails out of town, and for those that are not the specific trails that are a part of the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge, I only count the miles toward my Fall 50 Challenge. 

So, as you can see, the two log sheets aren’t total duplicates, but there is some overlap, and by being strategic, I am confident that I will be finishing both challenges by the end of November.  What I do know is that by that time I will have been to a minimum of 10 awesome places, and hiked at least 50 miles.  When you break it down over a couple of months, that is not that difficult.  Keep in mind too, that while the Fall 50 Challenge ends at the end of November, if you don’t finish the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge by that time, that is totally ok.  That is on ongoing program, and you can make multiple trips to the area to complete that one on your own schedule. 

Now you know my secret of how I am completing two hiking challenges at one time.  And you may ask why?  The physical activity, the beautiful fall weather, and the opportunity to discover and explore new areas is something that excites me.  Having that goal-or in this case-goals-to work toward, is something that is motivating and inspiring to me also.  I like to be able to have that achievement.  The patches are nice, but that feeling of completion and the experience itself means even more.  Hoping that I will see you out on the trails too! 

One Alabama National Park That You Absolutely Have To Visit-Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

horseshoe bend national military park sign

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is an iconic landmark in the state of Alabama.  Located approximately 20 minutes from both the city of Dadeville and the heart of Downtown Alexander City, this 2,040-acre land is home to one of the most influential battles in American history.  Not only was it the final battle of the Creek War, it also ultimately resulted in the United States government obtaining over 23 million acres of land through the signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814.  This land would later create a majority of the state of Alabama and portions of the state of Georgia- and kick off our country’s westward expansion.  It was also the deadliest clash with Native Americans in our country’s history, resulting in over 800 Creek Indians perishing that fatal day.

Today, this battlefield is utilized as an immersive learning experience where guests can walk amongst the historical battle sites as well as tour the commemorative museum. This Park is free for all guests, making it the perfect way to spend a day indulged in one of the most epic events in American history.

History Behind Horseshoe Bend

overlook at horseshoe bend national military park

This historic landmark was originally called “Cholocco Litabixbee” by the Creek Indians, meaning “Horse’s Flat Foot.” It was a description of the way the Tallapoosa River wrapped around the peninsula of land where the temporary Creek Indian village of Tohopeka was built.

In March of 1814, General Andrew Jackson led an army of approximately 3,300 men, including allied Cherokee and Lower Creek Indians, to cross the Tallapoosa River and surround the peninsula of Horseshoe Bend.  He was met with force by opposing Upper Creek Indians, also known as the “Red Sticks”, who held their ground behind a strong barricade made of dirt and pine logs while the women and children sought shelter at their nearby Tohopeka Village. Here started one of the deadliest and most influential battles between indigenous people and US Troops in American history.

General Jackson attacked the barricade with artillery for hours to no avail.  It wasn’t until an allied Cherokee Indian by the name of Tu-qua, or “Whale”, swam across the creek and stole a canoe that the battle began to shift in Jackson’s favor.  Whale used the stolen canoe to shuttle other Cherokee Indians and soldiers across the river, creating an unexpected attack on the Red Sticks village from the rear.  The Cherokee Indians set fire to the Tohopeka Village, burning it to the ground and taking the women and children as prisoners. With the distraction of the burning village and General Jackson’s men overtaking the Red Stick’s second line of defense, the fate was ultimately sealed for the Creek warriors at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. At least 800 of the 1,000 Creek Indians were slain in battle – the highest number of casualties of Native Americans clashing against US Troops in US history.

This was the final battle of the Creek War and in August of 1814 the Treaty of Fort Jackson was signed, with the Creek Nation ceding 23 million acres of land to the United States government.  Viewed as a war hero and ruthless leader, Andrew Jackson was elected the seventh president of the United States in 1828.

Today, we are fortunate enough to have this land to walk and commemorate the lives and events that took place all those years ago.  However, this almost wasn’t the case.  In the 1920s, the land was nearly flooded over when plans were made to build the dam and create Lake Martin.  However, local residents in the area worked tirelessly with Alabama Power to preserve this landmark and ensure Horseshoe Bend would not be affected by the flooding.  In August 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the park’s proclamation, officially recognizing Horseshoe Bend as a National Park.

Plan Your Trip

picture on the wall at horseshoe bend national military park

The Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is 2,040 acres in size so you may need some help planning your day.  Below is our roadmap to the park to ensure you experience everything that it has to offer!

The Visitor’s Center

outside of visitor center at horseshoe bend national military park

The Visitor’s Center is a key stop to enjoying your day at the park.  Located near the main parking lot, visitors can take a trip inside to grab a map of the guided tour stops, take a seat in the theatre to watch the feature film, and even walk through the newly renovated museum before hitting the battlefield sites. While here, don’t forget to grab yourself a souvenir to remember your day at this historical National Park!

Watch The Feature Film

It is highly recommended for first-time visitors to watch “the film”. With an approximate 23-minute run time, it simplifies the complex background of the Creek War and the events leading up to the Battle of Horseshoe Bend into an easy-to-follow storyline. Its purpose is to help visitors fully understand the weight of the history and battleground sites they are about to see. Guests can catch this film in the private theater located inside the Visitor’s Center.

Visit The Museum

Indian museum display at horseshoe bend national military park

Walk through the newly renovated museum featuring dioramas of the Tohopeka Village, life-size Red Stick warriors and American soldiers, and detailed descriptions of the people and lifestyle of the Creek Indian nation.

The museum is filled with realistic replicas including a life-size canoe, turtle shell rattles commonly used in Creek Indian stomp dances, and even a rifle dedicated by U.S. President James Madison to commemorate the Cherokee Indian by the name of “Whale”.  Because of his role in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Whale was viewed as a courageous warrior and two rifles were made to honor him.

Pack A Picnic

Before hitting the hiking trail or touring the grounds, visitors can enjoy lunch outdoors with a picnic at one of the two locations on site. Located directly across from the Visitor’s Center is the larger picnic area, consisting of covered pavilions and tables located throughout the designated site.  Charcoal grills and a trash receptacle are also available at this location.  The second designated picnic area is a smaller section near the Miller Covered Bridge boat ramp.  Picnicking is not permitted on the battlefield or the Tohopeka Village site.

Hike The Trail

cannon

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park boasts a 2.8 mile long nature trail that intertwines throughout the Battlefield and near Tohopeka Village.  This trail is also a part of the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail, giving hikers a great opportunity to see a variety of bird species throughout the year.  The trail at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is also a part of the Lake Martin Hiking Challenge.  The route can be rigorous in some areas, so come prepared with comfortable shoes and hydration.  

Tour The Historic Battle Sites

barricade at horseshoe bend national military park

Perhaps the most popular way to experience Horseshoe Bend National Park is by driving the guided road tour. This 3-mile loop is designated as a commemorative route and takes visitors around the historic sites where the famous battle took place.


Each stopping point is easily spotted by a tour guide marker and consists of either a plaque or exhibit with descriptions of the site.  Each stop also has an interactive cell phone tour, consisting of a phone number that visitors can call to hear an in-depth voice recording and descriptive story of each location. Though most stops are easily accessible by pulling up in your vehicle, some do require taking a footpath to see the full exhibit. 

The guided road tour stops include:

The Overlook


This is the first clearing with informational markers that visitors will see on the road tour. It is not technically a battle site, but rather the location where Andrew Jackson’s army first arrived on the scene. The hill itself is named “Cotton Patch Hill” and is very steep. Here, guests can see an image of General Andrew Jackson’s battle map as well as look down over the field where the famous barricade once stood, and the battle of Horseshoe Bend took place in the distance. Though there is a paved pathway to the top, visitors with disabilities may find it difficult to climb this hill and are encouraged to see the battlefield from Tour Stop 5 labeled on maps as “Newyaucau Town and the Aftermath”. 

The Island


This is the first official stop on the driving tour.  In the distance, the Miller Covered Bridge can be seen where kayakers will often times drop in to paddle the Tallapoosa River, passing by what many refer to as “Bean’s Island”.  This 15-acre island is named after Lt. Jesse Bean, whose Tennessee militia stood post during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend to keep the Red Stick warriors from escaping and seeking refuge from the battle.

The Barricade


Here guests will see white fence posts lining across the field, representing what once was the famous Red Stick warrior barricade.  It was written by Andrew Jackson that the log breastwork was “eighty-poles in length, from five to eight feet high & of remarkable compactness and strength…” The 400-yard long barricade was made of dirt and pine logs, and was designed to protect their temporary village of Tohopeka.  It stood strong against Andrew Jackson’s army of cannonballs by absorbing them almost like a sponge.

At this stop guests can also walk up a small incline to “Gun Hill”, an exhibit where the artillery of General Andrew Jackson’s men once stood.  It is now represented by a light blue cannon and a monument erected by the Congress of the United States, commemorating the battleground.

Cherokee Crossing


Located in the “horseshoe” of the peninsula was the Creek village of Tohopeka.  The Red Sticks were hoping that the surrounding river would protect them from an attack.  However, at this location a Cherokee Indian by the name of Tu-qua, or “Whale”, stole a Creek canoe and helped Jackson’s militia and allied Cherokees cross the river and attack Tohopeka Village.  This stop is marked by two informative plaques, one marking where the Cherokee Indians crossed over in the stolen canoe and the second on the other side of the road, overlooking the field where the Tohopeka Village once stood.

Tohopeka Village


Tohopeka was a temporary village for the Red Stick community, and it was here that the Creek women and children stayed during the battle. This location is also referred to as “The High Ground” and was originally intended to be used as a second line of defense by the Red Sticks. However, because of the stolen canoe, Cherokee Indians were able to cross the river and have access to this village from behind, thus burning it to the ground and creating a distraction from the barricade.  It is thought that the burning of the village may have been a crucial turning point of the battle.

A short trail from the parking area at this stop leads through the woods to an exhibit and clearing where visitors can look down from the high ground to where the village once stood.

Newyaucan Town and the Aftermath


This is the final stop on the road tour.  From here, visitors can see the battlefield and barricade while reflecting on the events that took place here at Horseshoe Bend. Our recommendation is to dial the informative number posted near the tour plaque.  It gives an in-depth conclusion and aftermath of the battle and what all unfolded from these events. This includes the signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson where the Creek Nation had to cede 23 million acres of land to the United States, thus creating the state of Alabama and a large portion of the state of Georgia. In addition, Andrew Jackson was praised for his bravery and war tactics and was eventually elected the seventh President of the United States in 1829.

Download the Phone App

Take the park with you!  Download the National Park Services app and get all the information you need about Horseshoe Bend National Military Park at your fingertips.

Alabama is honored to be home to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.  Be sure to add this to your next day trip bucket list.  

October 2021-Lake Martin Fishing Report

people holding fish

Surface Temp 81

Water Level 490 (The water level will start to drop on 10/15, but you can always keep up with the current water level here)

Clarity / Clear

Lake Martin fall fishing can be amazing, and I see no reason why 2021 will be no different.

This month on 10/15/21 the lake draw down begins, and by end of 2021, Lake Martin will be down 10 feet. This is exactly what it used to be pulled down to every year, but the last 5 years, they held it at 7 feet below full pool. I for one am very excited that the extra 3 feet draw down is happening this year. Why you ask? Well it’s very simple in the eyes of a fisherman, you end up with a lot less acres of surface water to have to search for fish on. That’s right- it narrows down the areas that the fish have to hide from you, and as a professional charter guide, you are always hunting for an edge to help put your clients on fish. So yes, I’m excited!

Based on 2020 striper catches, I plan on live baiting the entire month. I will concentrate searching in water depth of 50 feet and less. I personally think both sides of the lake will produce striper catches. So whether you like the Ridge south area or the Ridge north area, you should have good fishing at both ends .

If you are a trolling person instead of a live bait person, you will be pleasantly surprised on how many fish you should be able to catch. Whether it’s stripers or spotted bass, you will have fun in October.

If you like lots of action, beautiful weather, and beautiful scenery, come spend a day with us here on Lake Martin. You will be glad you did.

Until next time- be safe and catch a big one!

Thank you to David Hare with Alex City Guide Service for our monthly fishing report.  

guide service logo

 

And be sure to check out our tips on How to Catch Catfish on Lake Martin 

 

October 2021 Lake Martin Fishing Tournaments 

October 2-ASABFA

October 9-Anglers for Autism-OGS

October 30-Jim Landers Memorial-OGS

You can always get a complete list of all of our local events, including fishing tournaments, here.  

 

How to Catch Catfish on Lake Martin

When I first moved to Lake Martin last fall, I heard so much about the bass fishing.  If you have ever even heard of Lake Martin in passing, you too have surely heard how well known it is for that.  The lake is home to largemouth, spotted, and striped bass, and anglers come from near and far to fish the waters here in hopes of catching the big one-both recreationally and competitively.  Upon my arrival, I was excited to see how many professional bass fishing tournaments come to Lake Martin for their competitive events.  It is easy to get caught up in the fun of that, and want to catch that big one yourself.  Earlier this year, when the Crank 4 Bank competition was launched, I told you about the opportunity to catch a bass on Lake Martin that was worth a million dollars.  Even though I had never caught a bass, I felt the need to gear up and hit the waters in search of my retirement plan!  While I had a blast trying to catch that elusive bass, the first fish I ended up catching was a catfish. 

girl holding catfish

I was fishing from shore in a little creek that day, and I would not be telling the truth if I said that catch was intentional-or that I had any idea what I was doing.  That was the accidental catfish- but it was fun to catch, and I then wanted to learn more about intentionally fishing for this species.  After asking around, I found the perfect person to teach me all about catfishing-Jerry Bynum.  Jerry has lived here for years fishing these waters, and just mentioning his name to people confirmed I had made the right decision on who to go fishing with-he seemed to be well known around here for his fishing abilities.  We scheduled our day to go fishing, I learned some new skills, caught some fish, and had a wonderful morning on Lake Martin.  Catching catfish is a great way to start the day around here, and I had to share a few of the things I learned in hopes of helping you have as great of a fishing day as I did.  Here are some important things to be aware of when fishing for catfish on Lake Martin. 

Picking the Right Day and Time to go Fishing on Lake Martin 

sunrise on lake

First and foremost, you have to time things appropriately.  When Jerry first invited me to go fishing, he sent me a list of days and times to choose from.  At first, I assumed those were just the times that worked best for his schedule, but little did I know that he had put strategic research into finding the best times for us to be on Lake Martin fishing for catfish.  Jerry told me about a website that he uses called solunarforecast.com.  The Solunar theory is based on the theory of John Alden Knight, and predicts the best times for hunting and fishing based on the Moon and Sun.  This website doesn’t just offer the best days and times for fishing Lake Martin though-you can search by country, state, city, or zip code for places around the world.  Curious if there is truth to this theory?  All I know is that Jerry used this to pick our exact day and time, and spoiler alert-we caught lots of fish.  So yes, I am a strong believer in this method now.  The website told us one of the best times to be out on the lake fishing that week was 7a-9a on a Tuesday morning.  That is exactly when we went, and we ended up with 9!  Not too shabby for a couple of hours on the lake. 

Picking the Right Bait 

One big difference in fishing for catfish and bass on Lake Martin is the bait and/or lures that you will use.  The tackle aisle at Wal-Mart is packed with every type of lure possible for bass, in every color imaginable.  There is a lot to think about.  Bass also are fans of live bait as well, so there are a lot of decisions to make.  Fishing for catfish is a lot different, and you can just leave the tackle box full of artificial lures at home.  They highly prefer live bait.  Even the first accidental catfish I caught was on a live worm.  Jerry confirmed their love of the all-natural bait when he broke out our platter of delicacies that morning-the box of store bought nightcrawlers, the local nightcrawlers that he dug up right in his yard, and the bright and beautiful catalpa worms that he had gotten from a friend. 

earthworms

We all have different foods that we are craving on different days, and why should a catfish be any different?  We were well prepared for whatever they may be in the mood for that day.  As it turns out though, we caught fish on all 3 types of worms, and that particular day, the catfish were interested in sampling all that we had to offer.  I thought it was pretty cool to be out there fishing with bait he had found, and I think that finding your own worms and getting prepped for your day of catfishing can add to the fun as well.  We also had some special appetizers for the catfish-a special concoction of wheat and water that he had been fermenting for several days. 

wheat in bucket

We served this up before our main course of nightcrawlers and catalpa worms, and the catfish loved it. 

Having the Appropriate Rig 

catfish rig

When I caught the accidental catfish, I will admit, I definitely was not rigged up appropriately.  I had a worm on a hook in a creek and was just trying anything to catch that million dollar bass at that time.  When I went out with Jerry, I learned the actual techniques behind catching catfish.  The rig that he had set up had a ¾ ounce weight on the end of the line, and about 18 inches up, was the hook.  There are special hooks used for catfish, so when you hit up that tackle aisle at Wal-Mart, even though you can forgo the artificial lures, you do want to make sure to pick up weights and catfish hooks.  The rig that he had set up allowed us to cast, and drop our lines to the bottom.  Once the weight hits the bottom, you will feel it, and your hook will be about a foot and a half off the bottom.  We used a landmark to see where we had originally dropped the fermented wheat appetizer, and drifted over that awaiting the bite of the fish.  It wasn’t long before it came-again and again and again.  Nine times to be exact! 

girl holding catfish

I may have caught the first fish that day, but Jerry definitely caught the biggest.  He was kind enough to let me pose with it, but I can’t not give credit to him for that awesome catch! 

Finding Your Fishing Spot on Lake Martin 

fishing pier

Like most local anglers, Jerry has his honey hole.  I’ve already revealed too many of his insider fishing tips today, so I won’t give away his special fishing spot on the lake.  I do want to get invited to go fishing again!  If you do come out fishing on Lake Martin, you will find yours too.  Even if you don’t have your own boat, there are many options for renting a boat on Lake Martin.  However, although we were out on the boat, catfish can also be caught from the shore.  Wind Creek State Park has a great fishing pier, and actually has a marina store right there on property too in case you need worms, hooks, weights, etc. 

How to Fry Catfish

catfish, french fries, and hush puppies

In conclusion, I will just say that catfish are one of the most fun fish to catch.  We had such a good time out catching catfish on Lake Martin, and it was such an awesome feeling to be reeling in one after another!  On top of having so much fun catching them, catfish also happen to be one of the most delicious fish in my opinion.  There is no southern food I love more than some good fried catfish-and it is even better if it is fresh!  Jerry makes cooking them seem so easy too.  The one important key is to make sure they are dry. 

catfish not cooked

Pat the filets until they are as dry as you can get them.  Some people think you are supposed to dip them in milk or water, but his secret is to skip that part.  He just batters them in cornmeal, deep fries them, and serves them up with french fries and homemade hush puppies.  So easy, but so delicious!  

catfish and french fries

If you haven’t spent time fishing for catfish on Lake Martin, I highly suggest it.  Even if you are not a pro, these tips will get you on your way, and soon you will be reeling in the big one!  Tight Lines! 

A Visit to The Largest Musclecar Museum in the World

cars at wellborn museum

Located near the heart of Downtown Alexander City is the largest muscle car museum in the world. Here, visitors can take a step back into the 1970’s and walk amongst some of the most iconic and rare American muscle cars ever made.

The Museum

Opening in 2010, the Wellborn Musclecar Museum is a place for preserving and promoting the American muscle car culture. It focuses particularly on muscle cars from the 1969 – 1971 era and is home to some of the rarest muscle cars in the world.  

The museum is a bright and electrifying atmosphere, with black and white checkered floors, neon lights, and authentic signage décor, giving visitors the feeling of walking back into time to a 1970’s car dealership.  This is fitting as the building itself is actually an old Chevrolet dealership – and exactly the place you would have come to buy these cars back in the day.

Owners Tim and Pam Wellborn have worked hard over the years to build the Wellborn name.  From memorabilia displays, to the muscle cars themselves, their precision and passion ensure that all the cars and culture are preserved down to the exact detail. All of the cars in the collection are in excellent running condition and are frequently fired up for a quick spin around the block.  

No matter if you are a first-time guest or long-time collector, this museum is fun and fascinating for everyone to visit.  It is very guest friendly, with displays near each car filled with detailed information on that automobile as well as the unique story of how the car came to be in the museum.

The museum is open to the public on Saturdays.  Private tours are available Tuesday through Friday by appointment only.  Small and large groups are welcome. 

How It All Started 

Owners Tim and Pam Wellborn have been muscle car collectors since their early teenage years. The pair collaborated together to build their museum into one of the most creative and diverse displays in the world.

The current building of the Wellborn Car Museum is a piece of history in itself.  It was an old 1940’s Chevrolet dealership that was slated to be torn down by the city. When Tim learned of this, he decided to buy the building and use it originally as a storage location for cabinets with his dad. It wasn’t until later that his collection was outgrowing his garage that they came up with the idea to start the Wellborn Musclecar Museum.

However, there is one car in particular that is credited to starting the museum, long before the building was even purchased. It was the car that sparked Tim’s passion for muscle cars and is famously known as “Dad’s Car”.  

Dad’s Car 

 

While still in high school, Tim’s father owned a 1971 Dodge Hemi Charger. Tim has often said that back in the day, sons drove what their fathers drove – if he drove a Ford, you drove a Ford.  If he drove a Chevrolet, you drove a Chevrolet. With this in mind, Tim thought for sure when he turned 16 his father would hand down the keys to the 1971 Dodge Hemi Charger to him.  This did not come to pass however, and it wasn’t until many years later – first being given to his mother and then finally to Tim – that the car ended up in his possession. However, all those years ago his father’s car fueled up a passion inside Tim for muscle cars and he hasn’t let up since.  

This car has become a legend and is referred to as “Dad’s Car.” Dad’s Car now finally rests inside the Wellborn Car Museum and is on display in the lobby as the first car guests can see.

K&K-The Most Popular Car 

The muscle car era is thought to have started in or around 1964 with the help of NASCAR’s growing popularity. In order to race certain cars on the NASCAR tracks, it had to qualify as a “stock car” and be made available to the public as well. This was the first and only time in automotive history that a true NASCAR racing engine could be bought in an everyday streetcar. That is until 1971, when the government and insurance cars put an end to it abruptly.  This is what makes these particular cars so wildly popular.

The “K&K” car was actually the K&K Insurance 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona that Bobby Isaac drove to win the 1970 NASCAR championship. This car broke 28 land speed records and still holds some of those to this day. It is also the only Dodge Daytona from that racing era that has never been restored and still holds its original paint. It is famed to be one of the most recognizable cars in the world.

The Paint Chip Cuda-The Most Unique Car 

This 1970 Cuda is literally one of a kind and perhaps one of the wildest paint schemes you’ll ever see. 

“The Paint Chip Cuda” was inspired by an old Plymouth brochure that advertised the ability to offer a variety of 25 different colors for a car. To show off all the different options, a mockup graphic design of a car stripped in every color was included in the ad. It was absolutely unheard of at the time to have so many color options, making the advertisement wildly popular and eventually catching the attention of Tim Wellborn.

Tim reached out to see if this car actually existed – and as you would guess, it did not.  So, Tim went to work designing this bizarre and unique car.  He purchased a 1970 Cuda and began to recreate the advertisement on one side of the car, using color wrappings to ensure that the original paint would not be damaged. The final result is a perfect replica of the original Plymouth brochure – a 1970 Cuda with the original green paint on one side and 25 brightly colored stripes on the other.  

Now it is proudly displayed at the Wellborn Musclecar Museum with the motto: “The most famous Cuda that never existed until now”.

There are over 40 cars on display at a time within the museum and over 80 cars in the collection overall. Visitors are encouraged to come back again and again as the cars on display are often changing, and there is always something new to see.

Tim and Pam often say that every car in their museum has a story of its own and guests are encouraged to come and feel the passion and history for themselves.

The Reunion 

Being home to the largest collection of muscle cars in the world, it also makes sense that the Wellborn Musclecar Museum would also host some of the most exciting reunions as well.

In 2019, the Wellborn Musclecar Museum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Aero automobiles, including the Dodge Charger, Dodge Daytona, Ford Talladega, and Plymouth Superbird.

This year, the celebration is back!  In 2021 the Wellborn Musclecar Museum will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of both the 1970 & 1971 muscle cars. They are expecting over 200 cars to participate again this year and encourage anybody with a Mopar – regardless of the year – to attend.

The 50th Anniversary celebration of 1970 and 1971 Mopars is open to the public on Saturday, October 2nd at the Wellborn Musclecar Museum.  All muscle cars will be on display throughout Downtown Alexander City and participants are encouraged to dress in 1970s attire to match their cars.  It will be a fun filled day for all to meet other Mopar enthusiasts, walk amongst these iconic American muscle cars, and visit the shops downtown.

For additional information and submission forms you can visit the website:
70 + 71 Mopar Reunion

Gift Shop 

No visit is complete without stopping by the gift shop! Shirts, artwork, model cars, and more are available for purchase inside the museum.

And of course, don’t forget to sign the guest book during your visit.  Your name will be among guests from around the world – adding to the continued timeless, passionate, and historical culture that is the Wellborn Musclecar Museum.

The Most Unique Ice Cream Spots Around Lake Martin

ice cream

Life is full of simple pleasures.  Sometimes the little things just bring so much happiness.  We all have those things that just instantly bring a smile to our face.  For myself, one of those things is ice cream.  I love it, and if my waistline would allow it, I would eat it every day.  Seriously-it is that important to me-especially on a hot Alabama day.  We are very lucky here that we have some really great places to eat in Alexander City and Dadeville.  Among those are a few awesome places that allow cool and unique ways to enjoy my favorite tasty treat.  Being the ice cream connoisseur that I am, I thought I would share some of my favorite places to enjoy ice cream in the Lake Martin area.

Carlisle’s

Location:  12 Main Street   Alexander City, AL  35010 

Carlisle’s is one of the oldest soda fountains in the state, and has been in operation since 1914.  Just walking in makes you feel like you have stepped back in time and gives you a nostalgic sense of a simpler time.  They have great sandwiches and wraps, and of course great drink options.  I suggest trying the Cherry Lime-Ade if you go the drink route.  However, today the star of the show is the ice cream.  I love going there because they constantly switch out flavors and you never know what delicious flavor you may be able to try on any given day.  They also have some great specialty ice cream options, like their banana split.  It is big enough to share, but nobody is judging you if you don’t want to.  The deliciousness of their treats, on top of the ambience of the old timey soda fountain, makes this one of my all time favorite ice cream stops.

Lake Martin Creamery

Location:  8212 County Road 34   Dadeville, AL 36853

Lake Martin Creamery is a new addition to our area this year, and I am oh so happy that they chose our area as their home.  What makes them special is that they actually serve frozen custard.  If you have never had frozen custard, that may sound a little weird to you.  I actually discovered it years ago and have had a self-admitted addiction to it since the first time I took a bite of it.  It does look like ice cream, but it is richer and smoother.  If you want to learn more about what frozen custard is, you can learn more here.  But trust me, you will love it.  They have several options I’m sure you will love, but one of the things I really like is their Root Beer Float, made with vanilla soft serve.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Frozen custard is not something you can find everywhere, so I was literally doing a dance of joy when I heard what they would be serving.  Trust me, you need this in your life. 

Yellow Top Ice Cream Shop 

Location:  The open waters of Lake Martin!

Maybe you have seen an ice cream truck driving through your neighborhood.  Everyone gets so happy when they hear that iconic ice cream truck music.  Have you ever seen an ice cream boat though?  Come to Lake Martin and you will.  The Yellow Top Ice Cream Shop floats the waters of Lake Martin bringing ice cream and smiles to all of the lake’s many visitors.  They have so many great packaged options, like Dippin Dots, Fudge Pops, Orange Dreamsicles, Drumsticks, and Choco Tacos-just to name a few!  My personal favorite is the good ole Blue Bell ice cream.  They come in different flavors in little pre packaged cups.  That Blue Bell ice cream is just a classic southern treat. They also have special treats for those lake loving dogs as well.  Next time you are on the water, make sure to keep a look out for the pontoon boat with a yellow top-it is definitely the perfect way to make a great day on Lake Martin even better!

Buck’s

Location:  1171 Tallapoosa Street   Alexander City, AL 35010 

Buck’s was one of the first ice cream establishments I found in the area when I moved here.  Someone in my office building came in with this delicious looking masterpiece of fudge cake topped with ice cream and