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A Day on the Lake: 10 Things to See and Do on Lake Martin

While visiting Lake Martin, Alabama, you may be amazed by the amount of scenic destinations, live entertainment, and incredible dining options the lake has to offer. To help ensure you have an unforgettable experience, here is our list of 10 things you need to see and do on the lake to make the memories of a lifetime!

Kowaliga Restaurant

Poor Ole’ Kaw-liga… Hank Williams fans, this one is for you!  

Located in the Kowaliga Bay near the Highway 63 Bridge, the Kowaliga Restaurant is an iconic staple to Lake Martin.  Known for the delicious food and sweeping waterfront views, the restaurant also pays homage to the great Country music legend, Hank Williams.

It is said that Hank Williams wrote his famous song about the heartbroken Indian, Kaw-liga, while staying at a cabin on Lake Martin.  At this same time, a new restaurant was breaking ground nearby… and the rest is history. Originally opened in 1953, Kowaliga pays tribute to Hank’s song with a massive wooden Indian that greets guests as they enter the lobby. Though the Indian has been replaced several times throughout the years, it is an iconic face of Lake Martin and makes the perfect photo buddy.

The claim to fame items are the catfish tacos and onion rings. They also offer seafood, salads, and “THE Cheeseburger”.  From personal experience, I recommend trying out their appetizer of local Alabama favorites: Conecuh sausage, Wickles Pickles, and pimento cheese.  

Kowaliga Restaurant is also known for its sandy white beach on the shoreline as well as its massive wrap-around porch, offering the perfect place for guests to feed the fish and turtles or catch a stunning Lake Martin sunset. Read more about their story, menu, and hours here.

The Landing at Parker Creek


The Landing at Parker Creek is one of Lake Martin’s hottest waterfront hangouts!  Alabama renowned sportscaster and his wife, Herb and Betty Winches, are the proud owners of this unique destination.  Built entirely from shipping containers, The Landing boasts a full kitchen and bar along with covered tables throughout their lawn and shaded dock canopy. No matter where you sit, every table has a waterfront view! It also offers a white sandy beach area for swimming and cooling off from the hot summer sun.

Along with a lively atmosphere, The Landing offers up a one-of-a-kind menu designed by Hawaiian Chef, Torrey Hall. From seafood to steak and everything in between, The Landing prides itself on a casual, yet unforgettable, open-air dining experience.

For our guests who are 21 and up, there are several specialty drink items on their menu such as “Lake Martin Lemonades”.  However, The Landing is locally famous for their classic Bushwhacker in a souvenir cup.

“All points lead to The Landing at Parker Creek” …. and trust me, you won’t want to miss out on this local hangout hotspot!

For menu options, hours, and entertainment check out their website here.

Goat Island

One of the most popular destinations on Lake Martin is Goat Island!  Dating as far back as the 1960s, the original start to the island is unknown and still remains a mystery to this day.  However, over the decades generations of families have now visited the island, making it one of the oldest traditions and hottest attractions on the lake.

Located near the Lake Martin dam, it is easily spotted by the bright, colorful welcome signs and of course – goats!  Though the island itself is only accessible by boat, visitors can beach right on the sandy banks and hop off, where they are happily greeted by Lake Martin’s famous furry friends. 

The goats live on the island beginning mid-Spring to late Fall, depending on the weather.  Locals will tell you that during your trip, be sure to pack a bag of the goats’ favorite snack – Cheetos! They also love to eat bread and chips, so coming prepared will make you their newest best friend.

The goats are well socialized and photogenic, making a trip to the island a perfect photo op to remember your incredible day on Lake Martin!

Read more about Goat Island at: Tips For Your Visit To Goat Island On Lake Martin

Keep up to date with the goats by visiting the Goat Island Facebook Page.

Chuckwalla’s Pizza at Chuck’s Marina

Chuckwalla’s Marina and Pizzeria is your go-to spot for gourmet pizza on Lake Martin!  Their creative menu options and vibrant atmosphere makes this a top dining destination on the water. Grab the kids a “Goat Island” pizza with triple layers of pepperoni and cheese… or maybe a “Chimney Rock” supreme pizza is more your style? Chuck’s has a flavor for everyone in your crew! Their menu also serves up delicious salads, sandwiches, and even rounds of chicken wings.  Our recommendation is to take a walk on the wild side and order up a serving of the “Raspberry Chipotle Chuckwalla’s Wings”.  You’re welcome.  

You can also catch special guests for live music entertainment. For full menu descriptions and weekly updates visit the Chuck’s Marina Facebook Page.

Peanut Point        


During your day on the lake, be sure to make a pit stop at Peanut Point – home of the best boiled peanuts on Lake Martin since 1988! You can get your choice of classic boiled peanuts or spice things up with an order of their Cajan-style snack.  And of course, no trip to Peanut Point is complete without sporting one of their souvenir hats, T-shirts, or koozies. By boat you can find this local favorite right around the corner from Wind Creek State Park and it can easily be spotted by the popup tents on the shoreline.

Stay up to date on the Peanut Point Facebook Page.

The Social

Come for the food, stay for the live music! If you are looking for great food and entertainment, The Social is quickly becoming one of Lake Martin’s hottest new restaurant additions. Open for breakfast, brunch, and dinner, guests can look forward to great live music while dining with waterfront views.

Located at the Anchor Bay Marina, The Social offers an indoor and outdoor dining experience with a menu that covers everything from chicken and waffles to cheeseburgers and oysters – making it a great option to please everyone in your party. For guests who are 21 or up, the staff recommends trying one of their Strawberry Bushwhackers or a freshly made “Famous K Bloody Mary”, where the mix is made by one of their very own bartenders.

Live music gears up every evening as well as during Sunday brunch hours, featuring local artists from around the area.

And while you are there, don’t forget to top off your visit by snapping a picture on their iconic oversized Adirondack chair! 

Whether you are coming by car or from a day on the water, The Social has plenty of parking spaces and boat slips for easy access to dine in.

For menu options, hours, and weekly musical guests visit their website here.

Chimney Rock

If you are seeking to add a thrill to your day trip on Lake Martin, Chimney Rock should be at the top of your bucket list!

This iconic landmark, located near the Ridge Marina, is a massive rock formation that can be seen protruding from the top of Chimney Rock Island. It gives the appearance of a “chimney” growing from the stony cliffs, hence the name.    

However, the main attraction and famous hangout spot that many now refer to as Chimney Rock is actually named “Acapulco Rock Island”. It is well known in the area for cliff jumping and can easily be spotted by the years of iconic spray paint graffiti.

You will 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, from 20 feet high to a whopping 60 feet above the water. They can only be accessed by a quick swim from your boat to a ledge near Chicken Rock, where jumpers can begin their ascent. If you are feeling brave enough to take the leap, locals will tell you that the jump is higher at the top than it appears from your boat – a helpful tip if you decide to join in on the action!

Pirate Island

Ahoy, maties! Grab your crew and set sail to explore one of Lake Martin’s very own Pirate Island. Decorated with skeletons and treasure chests, it’s a magical and unexpected destination to add to your day trip list. The island is “guarded” by Jolly Rogers and his skeleton crew, who stand watch over the island props of hand-painted signs and Mardi Gras beads.

Originally created over a decade ago by Rick Stark as a personal family tradition, it has since grown to be one of the most unique destinations and photo ops on Lake Martin.

You can find Pirate Island on the Tallapoosa side of the lake, near Madwin Creek. GPS coordinates located the small island at 32.83305 and -85.85845. 

Wind Creek State Park

Wind Creek State Park is one of the largest state-operated campgrounds in the nation! Stretching over 1,444 scenic acres and home to over 580 campsites, Wind Creek State Park offers endless possibilities of outdoor activities and family fun.

Amenities such as archery targets, a putt-putt course, fishing docks, and their scenic hiking trails are open for both day guests and campers alike. You can also make reservations to breeze through the trees on the zipline canopy tour or even take a relaxing horseback ride along the Lake Martin shoreline.  

To add to your Wind Creek experience, our day trip suggestion is to visit the historic silo located near Hospice Point.  The silo itself was said to be owned by a local farmer before the dam was built to create Lake Martin. Since then, it has been restored as a unique sightseeing destination for campers and park guests to enjoy.

Visitors that seek the thrill of the climb to the top of the silo are rewarded with breathtaking views of the lake.  Be sure to add it to your itinerary for stunning photos and fun memories!

See everything Wind Creek State Park has to offer! Visit their website here.

Or check out this blog: Things To Do At Wind Creek State Park

End Your Day With A Sunset on The Big Water

The sky has never looked so big as when you hit the open water on Lake Martin.  As the sun sets and the brilliant colors stretch across the waves, visitors and locals alike soak up the breathtaking views with a different display every evening.  Whether you are watching from the decks of a restaurant, your back porch, or the padded seats of a pontoon, a sunset on the big water is the perfect way to end your unforgettable day on Lake Martin!  

3 Things To Do At Lake Martin On A Rainy Day

The Lake Martin area is well known for its wonderful outdoor activities-probably most notably, the lake itself.  It is the only “Treasured Alabama Lake” and has almost 900 miles of shoreline and more than 40,000 acres of awesome views.  The lake and its parks, marinas, islands, and points of interest are something everyone has to experience in their life. 

Outside of the amazing lake, we also have the equally amazing Tallapoosa River, which is well known for its kayaking.  The moving water of the Tallapoosa will quickly whisk you away to a fun few hours enjoying the scenery and the adventure that makes up the river experience.  Many people also fish the Tallapoosa River for the coveted Tallapoosa Red Eye Bass. 

And outside of our water activities, we have hundreds of miles of wonderful trails in our area.  Whether hiking is your thing, or biking, or horseback riding-we have a trail for you.  Our trails are all very unique and unlike any you have seen elsewhere. 

All of these things sound great, right?  They are.  100% totally awesome greatness.  However, I’m going to let you in on something that I probably shouldn’t.  Sometimes…….every once in awhile….. that gray day comes and rains on your parade-or atleast your boat day/fishing day/hiking day.  Alabama weather can be crazy, so if you see a storm coming, try to get off the water and get to shelter.  Safety comes first.  You don’t need to sit on the lake and look tough while there are Bassnadoes going on around you.  Yes, it’s a bummer when that happens, but you can still enjoy yourself here even with a little rain. 

I know your first instinct is probably to run down to the Dollar General and load up on board games, coloring books, and whatever else you can find to pass the time.  And yes, that’s not a bad idea at all.  I personally like taking board games with me on vacation anyway to have a little fun with friends and family as we relax after an adventurous day.  However, there are still some ways to experience some of the sights and activities in the Lake Martin area- and stay dry.  Here’s my 3 suggestions for things to do in the Lake Martin area on a rainy day. 

1. Wellborn Musclecar Museum

They are technically only open to the public on Saturdays from 10am-3pm.  But-I am going to give you an insider secret…… you can call the museum’s curator for a private tour that can take place during other days and times throughout the week.  In my personal opinion, that is the way to do it anyway-rain or no rain.  His name is Alton, and I will give you his personal cell phone to call and make an appointment-256-496-2155.  Don’t worry-I asked him first-he is expecting your call!  On a personal tour, he walks through the entire museum with you and tells you the background stories behind each of their beautiful cars-and guitars.  Yes, each of the cars has a guitar that has been painted to match.  I’ll let him tell you more about that.  He can also show you the Musclecar Art Gallery.  There’s really a lot to see.  From the outside, you will not be able to tell quite what awaits you inside.  But when you walk through the doors, and walk into the main area, I’m sure your jaw will hit the ground just like mine did.  The retro colors welcome you with the décor of a car dealership from back in the day.  That’s what this building actually was at one time, and they have done a great job of bringing the history of the building into the museum.  People from all over the world come to see the collection there, and each time you go, it is like going to a different museum.  There are so many cars in their collection, that they frequently switch them out.  Whether you are a fan of Musclecars or not, this experience will amaze those of all ages as you see and hear the treasured stories of each of the cars. 

2. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park 

Now let me start with saying that they do have a very beautiful walking trail that goes through the park that is just a little under 3 miles.  Yes, it is beautiful and yes, you need to do it.  But, you are likely reading this because you’ve run in the house cold and soaking wet from the rain and you are trying to find something to keep the family busy today.  So even though you won’t be hiking the trail today, you can still definitely enjoy the park.  Their visitor center has been open since 1964, but they have a newly renovated museum and it is a great place for the history buffs.  They have some really neat artifacts to check out, and the kiddos can earn Jr. Ranger Badges too.  If you have a National Parks Passport, make sure to bring that along also so you can get your stamp showing you visited the park.  And, there is even a way to still enjoy the park from the dryness of your car.  They have a loop road that you can drive along, and set up an audio tour to play from your phone.  The tour will tell you the stories of the exact areas you are in at that exact moment.  It’s pretty cool-and that itself is definitely worth doing at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. 

3. Playhouse Cinemas

Who doesn’t like a day at the movies to check out the latest cinematic masterpieces?   This is a wonderful indoor activity and Playhouse Cinemas is a great movie theater in Alexander City.  They are equipped with the latest technology, including Christie Projectors, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and Real 3D.  They bring in the latest and greatest movies, but let’s also address the other thing that is probably on your mind.  At least it is what is on my mind when someone says it’s movie day!  For me, I can’t go to the movies without eating popcorn.  Slathered in butter.  Don’t judge-it’s my guilty pleasure!  Especially on vacation and especially on a movie day.  You know vacation calories don’t count anyway, right?  And yes, in case you are wondering, Playhouse Cinemas has the best!  The movie theater is locally owned and has been in business over 30 years serving our residents and visitors.  This is a great way to have fun on a rainy day-or any day.

While we greatly cherish our time outdoors around here, there are plenty of  indoor things to do in the Lake Martin area also.  We know you have anxiously awaited your vacation at the lake, and we will do our absolute best to make sure you enjoy it.  Rain or shine, if you are here and need help booking activities,  need reservations for dinner in the Lake Martin area,  or have any questions- we are happy to help.  We want to make sure you have the best vacation at Lake Martin.  You are welcome to call me at 256-414-6099 anytime or drop me an email at brandy@explorelakemartin.com

Renting a Boat on Lake Martin

When it comes to hitting the water, there are countless ways to spend your day on Lake Martin.  But what if you don’t have access to a boat?  Bringing your own watercraft is not always an option, so here is a list of hassle-free places to rent one on the lake!

Russell Marine

(256) 257 – 8635
Four Locations, Listed Below


Russell Marine has four marinas located on Lake Martin, making it a convenient choice no matter where you are staying on the lake. They offer both pontoons and deck boats, both of which are serviced by their professional marine service technicians so you can always hit the water in your rental with confidence!

You can also boost your rental with a variety of add-on accessories including: riding tubes with rope, wakeboards, combo skis, kayaks, paddleboards, wake surfboards, and ZUP boards.

The Ridge Marina

(256) 397 – 1300
Alexander City, AL

River North Marina

(256) 397 – 1500
Alexander City, AL

Kowaliga Marina

256-397-1210
Alexander City, AL

Real Island Marina

(256) 397 – 1200
Equality, AL

Wind Creek State Park – Marina and Boat Rentals

(256) 329 – 0845
Alexander City, AL

Whether you are looking to get some fishing in or just enjoy a day on the lake with the family, the Wind Creek State Park Marina has you covered. They offer a variety of vessels to fit your needs, including Flat Bottom Jon boats, Bass boats, small pontoons, and large party pontoons with many of the vessel options being pet friendly.

All rentals come complete with life jackets, a throw, and paddles as needed so you can just hop on in and enjoy the fun! 

Rentals are on a first-come, first-serve basis so be sure to get to the marina early and secure your boat for the day.  Live bait, tackle, game and fishing licenses, floats, and various other supplies are all available for purchase at the marina store. 

You can also find paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes for rent at the park.  These items are located at the Creem at the Creek outdoor restaurant.

Lakeside Marina

(256) 825-9286
Two Locations, Listed Below

Lakeside Marina has a full fleet of boats ready to go!  Located in the Dadeville and Jackson’s Gap area of Lake Martin, they offer a large selection of ski boats and Bennington pontoons, all of which come ready with life vests and a full tank of gas. 

They are also flexible to your renting needs.  Lakeside Marina offers rental periods ranging from 4 hours to an entire week, so you never have to worry about limiting your time on the water.

And if you are looking to add some additional water toys to your day, Lakeside Marina also offers kayaks, paddleboards, tubes, knee and wakeboards, and skis for an additional $50 per day.

Lakeside Marina

(256) 825 – 9286
Dadeville, AL

Lakeside Marina at Bay Pines

(256) 825 – 0999
Jacksons’ Gap, AL

Harbor Pointe Marina

(256) 825 – 0600
Dadeville, AL

Located inside the Stillwaters Resort, Harbor Pointe Marina is ready to assist you with your pontoon rental needs!  They pride themselves on offering clean, fuel-efficient pontoons that are maintained by their professional marine service technicians.  They also offer the option to rent tubes to take on the boat, a sure way to add fun to your day!

Anchor Bay Marina

(334) 857 – 2654
Eclectic, AL

If you are looking to make a stop at Chimney Rock or Goat Island, Anchor Bay Marina may be the choice for you!  Located on Castaway Island Rd, Anchor Bay can fulfill your pontoon needs. You can also add to your fun with enhancers like paddleboards, kayaks, tubes, and skis – offering an activity fit for everyone in your crew!

Smith Marina on Lake Martin

(256) 444 – 8793
Alexander City, AL

Looking to boost your weekend with a boat rental?  Smith Marina might be just what you are looking for!  Located near Willow Point Golf and Country Club, their operating hours are 11 AM – 6 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  While you are in there, you can also catch a cool treat at “Shipwreck Sam’s Ice Cream & Yogurt,” located inside the marina.

Life at the Max

(334) 538 – 7437
Dadeville, AL

Located at the Maxwell-Gunter Recreational Area, Life at the Max offers US military service members and veterans of all branches access to a large variety of watercraft rentals.  With the option to rent by the hour or for a full day, military personnel have the choice of a pontoon, bass boat, canoe, water tricycle, paddleboard, kayak, or jet ski.

GetMyBoat.com

This site is basically the Airbnb of boats!  Getmyboat.com is an easy way to rent a watercraft from locals on Lake Martin.  There are a variety of vessels to choose from, including open bow powerboats, surf boats, jet skis, and pontoons.  One even comes with a waterslide!

Lake Martin Tours

This one isn’t really a boat rental.  Well, I guess it is.  You are renting a boat with a captain to chauffeur you around.  This option is for those who just want to sit back, soak up the sun rays, and check out the sights of Lake Martin without a care in the world.  I have also heard of people going out on a tour with Captain Art the day prior to renting their own boat just to get the lay of the land-or should I say-water.  It’s a BIG lake! 

Kayak and Canoe Rentals

Off the Beaten Path Kayak and Canoe Rentals

If your idea of getting out on the water is more slow paced, you may be interested in a kayak or canoe rental.  Kayaking and canoeing on Lake Martin is a great experience, and Off the Beaten Path will deliver kayaks and canoes wherever you are staying or wanting to depart from.  

Adventure Center at Russell Crossroads

Another great place to rent kayaks and canoes is the Adventure Center at Russell Crossroads.  They also offer paddleboard rentals and paddleboat rentals. 

Alabama Boating Rules and Regulations
Before you hit the water, it is important to know the Alabama laws about boating.  In the state of Alabama, all boat operators must be at least 12 years of age and have a vessel license to operate a vessel or personal watercraft, and at least 14 years old to operate a vessel alone. A non-resident of Alabama is allowed to operate a vessel for 45 calendar days without a boating license.  Afterwards, non-residents are allowed to use their certification or license acquired from another state.

In addition, all boats must have US Coast Guard approved personal floatation device for each person on board. You can read more about Alabama Boating Rules and Regulations here: ALEA.gov Boating Regulations

Or check out this great, informative blog with rules and tips simplified: Boating Safety 101: Tips for a Safe Day of Boating on Lake Martin

Each rental location may have their own policies regarding age and license requirements for renting a vessel, so be sure to confirm the details ahead of time when making your reservation!


With all these easily accessible rental options, you will be hitting the water in no time.  See you on the lake!

July 2021-Lake Martin Fishing Report

Surface Temp 81

Clarity / Clear

Elevation / Full Pool 491.00

June produced some nice catches for us. Moving into July we should still be catching stripers two different ways- one which is my favorite- live baiting on huge schools, which is fun to do trolling with our Downriggers (Scotty Electric Pro Paks) with 10 lb. weights and a wide variety of artificial lures. I for one like to troll the deeper parts of the lake in search of that trophy bite. If you choose to try your luck trolling, concentrate where you know summer time stripers hang out and troll about 3 mph + or – . Don’t be scared to keep swapping out lures until you find one that you have confidence in- and hopefully you’ve caught stripers on in the past. I troll several different lures at the same time and if I catch 2 or more on one particular lure, then I switch all rods to that lure for the remainder of that day. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch anything the first time you troll because if you go enough, you will have a day that you can’t do anything wrong and you will fill the box. Once you do that you will never doubt the trolling method again!

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

Fish To Catch On Lake Martin:

Lake Martin is one of the best known lakes for catching the Salt Water Stripe Bass.  That’s really the name, and yes, this beast survives and thrives here in our freshwater reservoir.  It’s one of the most exciting fish in fresh water you will ever have on your hook. Fishing on Lake Martin may also land you a Spotted Bass, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Catfish, Bream, or Carp. 

Lake Martin Fishing Tournaments:

Lake Martin is also host to many fishing tournaments, which can be found on our events calendar. This month, you will want to check out the OGS Fishing Tournaments Moonlight Series. It is a total of six events held on Friday nights between June 4th and July 30th out of Dare Park Ramp.

A Stay in the Hank Williams Cabin on Lake Martin

He’s the man, the myth, the legend.  He helped lay the foundation of country music as we know it today-and from the stories floating around, had a lot of fun doing it in the process……of course I’m talking about the one and only Hank Williams. 

The History

Did you know that not only was Hank one of the most talented musicians in history, but it turns out, he had pretty good taste in travel destinations too?  Hank and his girlfriend Bobbie Jett spent time at Lake Martin in the Summer of 1952-and spoiler alert, we do still have a chance for you to experience the area as he experienced it himself.  You don’t have to do everything he did while in town though-we do advise that you stay out of jail on your visit.  Yes-that really happened to him.

A local DJ, Bob McKinnon, was a friend of Hank’s and had known him since early in his career.  He arranged for him to come stay at the cabin on Lake Martin. Hank had just divorced his wife Audry a few months before that, and supposedly needed a little time to himself.  But-he didn’t show up alone.  He showed up in his blue 1952 Cadillac convertible with a pretty, blonde, pregnant woman sitting right beside him.  That’s the same blue Cadillac that he would meet his untimely death in just a few months later. 

He stayed in Alexander City for about four months.  The time he spent here was valuable-because it was the source of inspiration for the hit song “Kaw-Liga.” 

In the song, Hank talks about a wooden Indian named Kaw-Liga, and describes his heart as being made of knotty pine wood.  The cabin where he stayed had knotty pine paneling, so we are assuming that’s how that ended up in the song. 

But-it wasn’t all work, work, work during his time here.  While Hank was making music magic happen during his time at Lake Martin, he was causing a little havoc too.  In August 1952, a month before he turned 29, he was arrested and thrown in the Alexander City Jail for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.  The rumor is that he was bailed out and taken back to the cabin that night, and was left there without his car.  That apparently didn’t stop him though, because he hitchhiked right back into town to keep that crazy night going.  

The Cabin

So now that you know the places to avoid when visiting Lake Martin (jail), let me tell you a little about the one place you must visit if you want to truly experience the Lake Martin that Hank experienced-the Hank Williams Cabin.  The cabin where he stayed during that time is still intact-and you can get a great view of it by boat from the water. While it is not available for tours, you can actually spend the night in it.  It is definitely one of the coolest places to stay on Lake Martin. As a bonus, 100% of the money made from renting the lakeside cabin goes to help fund Children’s Harbor, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that funds camps for children with disabilities.  So yes, you can stay where Hank himself stayed, and you can also do something good for the world at the same time.

When you first walk into the cabin, you will get chills-just knowing that the legend himself spent time there and that it had such a significant impact on one of the awesome musical treasures that he left us with. 

As you look around, you will see that no detail has been left out, as it has been restored to look just like it looked at that time. 

Any music fan will also appreciate the nice touches of the Hank Williams memorabilia that can be found in the cabin.

But don’t come here looking for the luxuries of today.  Hank wanted to get away from it all, and that’s what you will experience when you are here too.  When you are swinging on the glider on the back porch facing Lake Martin, you will feel the peacefulness that Hank must have felt, and you can just imagine the sounds of him there beside you strumming his guitar. You really can’t beat the view- and maybe it will bring you as much inspiration as it did Hank.

When you are in the area, you have to also check out Kowaliga Restaurant, which is just across the road from the cabin.  It is one of the must visit places to eat on Lake Martin, and you can go by car or by boat. Not only do they have some of most scrumptious catfish you have ever tasted, but they also have some really cool Hank memorabilia to check out too. And if you go, make sure you get a selfie with Kowaliga, the wooden Indian at the entrance. 

The original Kowaliga wooden Indian-the one made famous in the Hank Williams song-according to local businessman Fred Dobbs and Charlotte Hodnett-came from Horace Heil who was the Alexander City Pontiac dealer.

But that first Indian was kidnapped! Never to be seen again. His successor, who was found at a Sylacauga Pontiac dealership, also disappeared without a trace. Some forethought was given when the third Kowaliga was created, as he was made of rebar reinforced concrete. Although he managed to not be abducted, he suffered many assaults over the years, including fire and vandals. Although his war club did go missing for a short period of time, the fourth wooden Indian, now resting comfortably inside Kowaliga Restaurant, was created by Cory Worten, a wood carver, of Beneath The Bark Carvings.

The Hank Williams Trail

The Hank Williams cabin on Lake Martin is something you must experience, but-there’s more.  There is actually a whole Hank Williams Trail that runs through Alabama-and this is a must do for any country music fan.  You can see everything from his boyhood home to the site of his grave-and see the places that meant so much to him in between.  

A special thanks to Robert Gunn with Russell Lands for his contribution to this article.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Russell Crossroads

If you are planning a visit to Lake Martin, one thing that absolutely, positively has to be on your to-do list is Russell Crossroads, the unique town center of the Russell Lands community.  It is a really cool place located 3 miles north of Lake Martin’s Kowaliga Bridge on Highway 63.  You will know you have arrived when you see the clock tower next to the Town Green.  As you pull in, you will see the cobblestone streets and handcrafted street lamps.  There is no detail left out.  The best way I can describe it is that it is like stepping back in time, while still experiencing the luxuries of today.  I could talk all day about the things I like about Russell Crossroads, but there are no words to describe the special feeling you feel when you are there.  You really have to experience it for yourself, but here are 10 of my favorite things about Russell Crossroads: 

1.  Free Live Music

Every Friday night during the summer, Russell Lands rocks out with Friday on the Green, the perfect way to wind down after a busy week.  They provide live music from 6:30pm-8:30pm, and it’s free to attend.  You just have to bring yourself, your friends and family, your leashed dog, and a blanket or lawn chairs.  You can also bring your own food and drinks.  Pack a cooler, or if you prefer, just stop in Catherine’s Market that is located next door.  Get a bottle of wine and some snacks, and come claim your spot on the lawn.

2.  Free Yoga

Yoga on the Green happens every Saturday morning during the summer at 7am.  It is so beautiful out there, and this is the perfect spot for your yoga practice.  The natural surroundings add so much to the experience, and trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  Russell Lands provides the teacher and the awesome location to create that perfect zen. You just show up with your yoga mat and water bottle and be ready to take in the good vibes.  And yes, this is free too.

3.  The Stables

Russell Crossroads has entry points leading into Russell Forest, and this is one of the most scenic places to ride horses and take in the beauty of the forest.  While you are able to bring your own horses on designated trails, The Stables offers guided horseback rides perfect for all ages and has horses perfect for any experience level.  The rides take you through the forest, by the lake, and even through shallow creeks.  It is a really magical experience.  They also offer carriage rides, and if you are looking for a unique experience, they can even arrange picnics in the forest. 

4. Biking and Hiking

We talked about why Russell Forest is great for horseback riding, but it is also great for biking and hiking.  Russell Lands has set aside several thousand acres of property that make up Russell Forest, and there are over 100 miles of trails to explore.  But don’t worry-you won’t get lost.  The trails are very well marked and so easy to navigate.  The Russell Lands App is super helpful with a trails map, lake map, and business hours and info and really simple to use.  If you are going to the trails, make sure you download it first, and you will be able to locate where you are at any given time.  You can also share your location and see your friends’ locations on the trail map, record your treks and the distances you travel, post them to social media, etc.  I also like that they have a process by which they ask that you check in with security before embarking on your trek.  You just call 256-329-1511 when you start your venture into the forest.  As a female who often hikes solo, it is refreshing to know that there is someone that knows I am in the forest and is awaiting my call that I have completed my hike.  They truly care about the people that use the forest, and it shows by the extra steps that they take.  On a deeper level, the maintenance of Russell Forest is very important too.  By maintaining Russell Forest as a working forest, it means that Russell Lands will continue to provide filtration of their part of the watershed to keep Lake Martin as one of America’s cleanest lakes.  I think that is pretty cool too! 

5.  The Adventure Center

As the name implies, this is your stop for adventure!  Whether you need a canoe, kayak, paddle boat, paddleboard, or bike, they have what you need to make your most adventurous dreams of Lake Martin come true.  Rentals are available, and lifejackets are included at no charge for canoe, kayak, paddle boat, or paddleboard rentals.  Helmets are included at no charge for bike rentals.  There are also people to chat with there about the adventures that await in our area who will help guide you as you set forth to make memories with your loved ones.

6.  The Dining

Foodies celebrate over a trip to Russell Crossroads, where they can find two great dining experiences-Catherine’s Market and SpringHouse.  Catherine’s Market offers the finest provisions and is also the home to a cafe, where you can find delicious pastries, locally roasted coffees, and a full lunch menu.  And like I mentioned above, it’s a great stop to pick up food and drinks for Friday on the Green.  If you are looking for a fine dining experience in the Lake Martin area, the first thing that any local will tell you is that you have to check out SpringHouse.  You can’t beat the ambience!  It is located on a hilltop with panoramic views, and the exposed stone gives the main dining room a rustic, casual feel. They also have 2 outdoor patios and an upstairs bar and dining area.  If you are looking for a really unique experience, ask about the WellHouse.  This is a private dining experience for up to 12 people, and it is actually a private area connected to the restaurant by an underground tunnel, which also serves as the main wine cellar.  Trust me, you have not had a dining experience quite like this!

7.  On Site Naturalist

If you are as amazed by nature and wildlife as I am, this is a must-do while at Russell Crossroads.  Russell Lands Naturalist Marianne Hudson is a lifelong student of nature and has spent most of her personal and professional life in the woods.  She is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the State of Alabama to raise and release native wildlife.  She will introduce you to the area’s flora and fauna through scheduled guided nature tours and wildlife presentations at the Russell Crossroads Naturalist Cabin.  You can always check the Russell Lands Event Calendar on their website or in the app to know when these tours and presentations are happening.

8.  The Discovery Center

This is a treat for the history buffs!  They say you have to know where you came from to know where you are going, and Russell Crossroads celebrates the history that made our area what it is today.  Lake Martin and the Russell Family have very interesting histories, and this is where you will have the opportunity to learn about it.  In the Discovery Center, you will find a three-dimensional pictorial timeline of the Lake Martin area and a display of artifacts from the region.  When people visit our area, they often do not want to leave.  If you find yourself in this position, you will also find people at the Discovery Center that can help guide you on opportunities for relocation to our area as well.  The Discovery Center also doubles at Russell Lands’ real estate sales center.

9.  Holiday Events

While summers are amazing at Russell Crossroads, and there is always something going on, there are some pretty awesome annual events that happen in the latter part of the year as well.  The Fall Family Festival happens each October and there you will find a pumpkin patch, wagon and pony rides, a petting zoo, scavenger hunt, and more.  This is also the time that they host their Pie and Cake Baking Contest.  The Friday after Thanksgiving is when they host Christmas at Crossroads and the Holiday Bazaar. Santa will be there, so make sure you bring the kiddos for Christmas photos.   There are also arts and crafts activities, games, and some of the best and most unique Black Friday shopping you will find.  Artisans come from all over, and you have a chance to shop a variety of handmade goods like jewelry, soap, lotions, paintings, pottery, woodwork, furniture, and more.

10.  Weddings 

So you now know about many of the wonderful things that make up Russell Crossroads.  It truly is a special place, and it is also a special place to start your life with your special someone.  Russell Lands has been featured in the press and highlighted for their top-notch wedding venues, and it is definitely a place you want to check out if you are tying the knot and want the extra special touches on your wedding day.  SpringHouse and The Stables are beautiful wedding spots, and there are options to accommodate up to 400 people.  Russell Lands has some other beautiful spots outside of Russell Crossroads that are available for weddings as well. 

 

Getting there

Address: 17 Russell Farms Road   Alexander City, AL 35010

You can also come by boat.  Just arrive at Russell Crossroads landing, and you can catch a shuttle to Russell Crossroads. From Sand Island, head east towards the Windermere Water Tower (tower is Sky blue) on the horizon. Bear to the left and at the very back of the cove, you will see new boat slips. Call the Adventure Center at 256-496-3677 for shuttle service.

Kayaking the Tallapoosa River

If you are looking to hit the water for an unforgettable adventure, kayaking the Tallapoosa River in Alabama is a must!

As a part of the Harold Banks Canoe Trail, the Tallapoosa River stretches over 265 miles, flowing from the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia into the heart of foothills in southern Alabama. With sweeping views, the sounds of rushing water, and the vastly diverse wildlife, the Tallapoosa River is remarkably stunning from beginning to end.

Perhaps the most popular spot to kayak on the Tallapoosa River is what is referred to as “Section 3”.  Section 3 is one of five segments on the Harold Banks Canoe Trail along the Tallapoosa River that offers paddlers breathtaking scenic views and unique pit stops along the way.  It is not only great for beginners to “get their feet wet” so to speak, but its rich and diverse landscape also makes it enjoyable for the more experienced kayaker to relax and take in the scenery.

The drop-in point for Section 3 is at the historical Horseshoe Bend public access ramp and ends approximately 6 miles downstream at Jay Bird Landing.  The float is said to take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on experience level and the current speed of the river.  Kayakers are encouraged to check the “flow rate” speeds however before hoping in.  Favorable discharge rates are between 1,500 and 10,000 ft3/second.  You can check the daily Tallapoosa River flow rates here.

The float itself is peaceful and relaxing. It’s the perfect combination of flat water and shoals, which rarely ever reach above Class 1 on the international scale of river difficulty. However, kayakers should expect to get a little wet! Though it is a typically smooth ride, some of the shoals and rapids can provide a fun splash along the way. It is suggested for kayakers to stick to the left of the river for an easier ride, while more adventurous paddlers can take their chances along the right.

Along with stunning rock cliffs and forestry on either side of the banks, paddlers can expect to see a vast array of wildlife and foliage while kayaking this section.  Oftentimes kayakers can catch a bald eagle swooping in for a fish, or blue herons walking amongst the banks.  Turtles, fish, and even an occasional river snake can sometimes be spotted as well.

For our trip, Stephen and I connected with river guides from the local kayaking company Off the Beaten Path.  The owner, Chuck Browne, is an experienced tour guide who travels all over the South, floating rivers and waterways at unique destinations for over 40 years. We met with him and his niece, Phoebe, who was particularly experienced in paddling the Tallapoosa River.

As Stephen and I arrived for our trip, we parked our car at the end of a long, secluded dirt road that dead-ended into the public access at Jay Bird Landing. Here, Chuck and Phoebe were already waiting with their shuttle van and our rental kayaks to bring us to our drop-in point.

As we arrived at the Horseshoe Bend landing, several huge stone pillar structures in the water caught our eye. We learned that these were the reminisce of “Miller Covered Bridge”, once the longest covered bridge in Alabama and one of the longest bridges in the United States back in the early 1900s. It has since been reduced down to just simple, stone columns but is still quite an interesting piece of history to see.

As we popped our kayaks in and began down the river, the views from beginning to end are just simply breathtaking.  The sights change with every bend in the river, with rock formations and woods surrounding either side of the banks. Patches of thick greenery grow within the running water, where the rare aquatic flower called the Cahaba Lily is known to grow.  The flower is a part of the spider lily family and only grows in running water in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of North Carolina. These rare flowers usually only bloom between mid-May and mid-June.  Locals use the dates of “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day” as a rule of thumb for the best time to spot the Cahaba Lilies in full bloom.

There are also a few key points of interest kayakers can see while paddling the Tallapoosa River.

A little over a mile into your paddle from Horseshoe Bend, the first point of interest you come up to is referred to as “Peters Island” – another public access drop-in point into the Tallapoosa River. It is thought that it used to be a place where cotton was farmed back in the 1800s but now is inhabited by Black Walnut trees. The fascinating part about the island is the history behind the name still stays as somewhat of a mystery. 

Just past Peters Island is another well-known spot referred to as “Laura’s Leap”.  It is a small cluster of rock formations that juts out just over the waters.  When the river is high enough, kayakers are known to make the short climb and the leap from the cliffs for a quick splash down into the river waters below.  If you time your trip just right, you can also catch a beautiful display of wildflowers surrounding Laura’s Leap called “Mountain Laurels”.  These beautiful white and pink flowers are known to put on a display beginning in the Spring months through to midsummer. They can be poisonous to animals however, so it is usually best to enjoy them from afar.

You may also notice while paddling Section 3 some of the unique makeshift campsites along the banks of the river. They are simple, small clearings made up of mismatched chairs and various furniture pieces with the occasional fire pit – and even a grill in one instance!  The areas are just big enough for perhaps 2 to 4 people to either post up for a quick break or even tie up a hammock and relax along the riverbank.  It is said that these little areas are in fact on private property but are made available to the occasional kayaker to catch a quick break.

For our trip however, Stephen and I opted for a pit stop at the “beach”.  It’s a small natural sand formation roughly halfway through the float and is the perfect place to stop for a quick swim in the river or even unpack a lunch and take in the incredible views. 

The second half of the trip is where it really starts to pick up the pace.  Kayakers are faced with the fastest rapids yet, some back-to-back.  Though they are not difficult to maneuver, they are sure to get your heart racing and put a little thrill into your trip! And don’t worry – if you find a few waves made their way into your kayak, there are several places to pull off and empty out the water before you are well on your way again!

The trip down Section 3 ends at Jay Bird Landing, just before the Tallapoosa River begins to feed into Lake Martin. It can be spotted by fishing banks and piers, and kayakers can paddle right up to the boat launch to pull out – bringing you full circle to where it all began.  

From beginning to end, kayaking the Tallapoosa River is one of the most beautifully unique and scenic paddles Alabama has to offer. Do yourself a favor and make your paddle plans today – this is a trip you will never forget!

If you go, you may want to also check out the Tallapoosa River Kayak Club . This is a great resource to chat with others who know the river well, ask questions, and find new friends to go paddling with.

Things to Do at Wind Creek State Park

Looking to plan your next outdoor adventure? Wind Creek State Park should be at the top of your list! Stretching over 1,440 acres across the Lake Martin, Alabama shoreline, visitors are greeted with sweeping waterfront views and endless activities. Whether you are planning a family vacation or solo day trip, there is something for everyone to enjoy!

Check out our list of things to do at Wind Creek State Park:

TENT & RV CAMPING, AND LAKESIDE CABINS

One of the largest state-operated campground in the United States, Wind Creek State Park boasts 586 tent and RV campsites along with 20 sites in the Equine Campground. They come in a variety of water, sewer, and amp combinations along with the option to stay at any one of their 157 waterfront campsites or 39 newly renovated RV sites. Bathhouses are located throughout the campground along with 2 laundry facilities. There are also 7 rental camping cabins onsite as well.

Need to entertain the kids? No problem! Along with various playgrounds throughout the park, campers can also enjoy a variety of arts and crafts and educational programs hosted at the clubhouse. And be sure to pack your campsite decorations if you plan to stay in October! Every year Wind Creek State Park hosts their highly anticipated Fall Festival, filled with exciting events like the costume parade, campsite decorating contest, and of course – trick or treating! It is easily one of the most popular weekends on the campground and you usually need to book your site a year in advance.

Specific campsites can be reserved, but if they’re not reserved they’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you are hoping to see Lake Martin under the starry night sky, be sure to book your site well in advance of your trip as sites are known to go quickly during holidays and Summer months. You can make reservations by walk-up, calling the office, or via online here: Wind Creek State Park Online Camping Reservations

RENT A BOAT

Whether you are looking to get some fishing in or just enjoy a day on the lake with the family, the Wind Creek State Park Marina has you covered. They offer a variety of vessels to fit your needs, including Flat Bottom Jon boats, Bass boats, small pontoons, and large party pontoons. All rentals come complete with life jackets, a throw, and paddles as needed so you can just hop on in and enjoy the fun! 

Rentals are on a first-come, first-serve basis so be sure to get to the marina early and secure your boat for the day.  

Paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes are also available for rent at the park.  You can find these items located at the Creem at the Creek outdoor restaurant.

FISHING

Lake Martin is known to have some of the best fishing in the state! And Wind Creek State Park is your public access to the waters.  Crappie, bluegill, and striped bass are among the most popular species of fish anglers can expect to see when hitting the water.

Fishermen can drop their boats in from the Wind Creek boat launch or throw a line from the 210-foot fishing pier, which is open 24 hours.  It is also the site for a number of local fishing tournaments and weigh-ins throughout the year, with stadium seating for family and friends to watch all the fun.

Live bait and tackle are available for purchase in the Country Store located at the marina, as well as Hunting and Fishing Licenses. The cost is $5 to use the Wind Creek State Park boat launch.

PACK A PICNIC ON THE BEACH

The sandy beach is the perfect place to unpack your float and soak up some sun! The private beach is located on Hodnett Drive, just past the Archery Range and Equine Campground. A bathroom facility is located at the main beach entrance and parking, making it easily accessible for guests.

Along with a stretch of soft sand to sink your toes in, the beach also includes a plethora of picnic tables, pavilions, and grills all along the shoreline.  Feeling competitive? You will also find two sand volleyball nets to strike up a game with fellow beachgoers!

The beach is accessible for single-day guests as well as campers, creating the perfect spot for everyone to come and enjoy Lake Martin! Park day-use fees will apply to single-day guests.

CLIMB THE HISTORIC SILO

An iconic figure at Wind Creek State Park is the old, historic silo located near Hospice Point. It is said to have been the grain silo of a local farmer before the dam was built in the 1920s.  Much of the farm was buried underwater when Lake Martin was created- however, the silo remained untouched.  Over the years it has been utilized as a staff office building as well as a gift shop for the state park. It has since been filled in and currently serves as a unique sightseeing destination for campers and park guests to enjoy.

Visitors that seek the thrill of the climb to the top of the silo are rewarded with breathtaking views of the lake.  Be sure to add it to your trip bucket list for stunning photos and fun memories!

HIKE THE SCENIC TRAILS

Wind Creek State Park hiking trails offer guests a variety of beautiful terrain and unforgettable experiences.  There are two main trails for hikers to choose from, the “Alabama Reunion Trail” and the “Campfire Trail.”

The Alabama Reunion Trail is a scenic loop, stretching approximately 3.8 miles long and bisected into two “sides” by highway 128. The North Side is roughly 1.95 miles long and the South Side is 1.8 miles. Hikers can expect to see an abundance of birds and wildlife among the picturesque woodlands, along with an old home site located on the North Side.

The Campfire Trail offers hikers the opportunity to see Lake Martin, with sections of stunning waterfront views as well as beautiful woodland terrain. This trail is approximately 1.8 miles long and rated as a moderate trail with notably steep areas. Three connectors stem from this trail, all approximately 1/5 mile long. Along with views of the lake, hikers can also expect to see a series of rock outcroppings and a small stream.  You may even stumble across a fire pit or two!

Wind Creek State Park is also a part of the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail.  Situated amongst woodlands and Lake Martin waters, it offers visitors the unique opportunity to see Osprey and Bald Eagles throughout the year, as well as seasonal Ring-billed Gulls, Herrings, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and many more.

HORSEBACK RIDING TRAILS AND TOURS

Take a relaxing and scenic ride through the diverse state park trails! Riders can bring their horses for a day trip or camp overnight in one of the 20 sites available at the Equine Campground. These campsites are provided on a walk-up basis, as no reservations are taken at this time. The trails stretch over 30 miles throughout the park, providing each rider with a gorgeous variety of woodlands and lake views. 

Horseback tours are also available through Rockin’ K Guided Trail Rides. They accept all riders from advanced to first-timers and offer 1 to 2 hour trail rides based on your comfort level and ability. Rides can be tailored to cover a variety of terrain, including the scenic Campfire Trail, and even a splash through the lake waters! All riders must be at least 8 years old. You can contact Rockin’ K Guided Trail Rides by phone or email for pricing and to schedule your ride.
Phone: 334-324-3537
Email:  rockinkrides@outlook.com


ZIPLINING

Breeze through the trees on the Screaming Eagle Adventures canopy zipline tour! With a total of 11 ziplines and 6 skywalks, it’s a thrilling adventure for guests of all ages. As zipliners are guided through the course, you can expect to see gorgeous views of the beach, lake waters, and of course – the treetops! 

Beginners can choose Level One, which includes 8 zip lines and 5 aerial bridges while advanced visitors can choose the slightly more vigorous Level Two, which covers the full length of the zipline tour. With heights from 20 to 70 feet in the air and speeds reaching upwards of 35 to 40 mph, it will have you cheering for more as you glide throughout the course. 

To top off your experience, Screaming Eagle Adventures also captures several of your memorable moments with complimentary photos.

Book your zipline adventure today! Find pricing and availability here.

And you can check out video from our ziplining adventure here.

GEOCACHING

Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt filled with hiking, tracking, and following clues to find secret containers that are hidden all around you. These containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and oftentimes include small trinkets that you can swap out with one of your own. All geocaches include a log for you to sign when you find it, so don’t forget to bring your pen! 

Wind Creek State Park is home to over 30 geocaches, which makes for continuous fun throughout your stay for children and adults alike. Download the Geocaching app for free to get started!

ARCHERY RANGE

Practice your shot and sight in your bow at the public Archery Range.  This includes 3 targets in the Youth Range, distanced at 5, 10, and 15 yards; as well as 7 targets in the Adult Range, varying from 20 to 50 yards. Stadium seating is provided for spectators, so invite your family and friends to come and watch all the action!

To use the range you must have either a valid hunting license, Wildlife Management Area License, or a Wildlife Heritage License. Equipment is not provided, so be sure to pack your bow and arrows with practice tips. The archery range is free to use for campers, however, park day-use fees will apply to anyone not staying at the park.

MINIATURE GOLF

Hit 18 holes at the Wind Creek State Park Putt-Putt course! Each hole is creatively designed after local attractions, bringing to life fun characteristics and destinations on Lake Martin. Putters are available onsite for players of all sizes. The cost is $5 per player, or $3 for kids 13 and under. Park day-use fees will also apply to any non-campers.

CREEM AT THE CREEK

Top off your day by indulging in a pizza or treat the family to ice cream at Creem at the Creek! Open during the Summer months, you can catch a quick bite to eat at this outdoor restaurant located inside the park. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are also available to rent at this location.

Whether you are looking for an exciting thrill or relaxing day on the lake, Wind Creek State Park has you covered!  For more park information visit: Wind Creek State Park

Boating Safety 101: Tips for a Safe Day of Boating on Lake Martin

As Summer gets closer, we look forward to being outside, feeling the sun on our skin, and enjoying our fun filled boat days.  But nothing ruins an awesome day on the lake quicker than an accident.  So, while boating safety may not be the most fun topic, it is the most important one.  Our exciting day is instantly ruined when we are faced with a problem out on the lake-and nobody wants that, right?  Instead of being reactive and dealing with a situation when it happens, it’s usually a better idea to be proactive to avoid issues in the first place.

Checklist of Boating Supplies

Start off with making sure you have a few critical supplies on hand.  You will need a life jacket for each person that is on board.  If there are kids on board, make sure they are wearing child size life jackets.  It’s important to have a first aid kit on board too. Even with minor cuts and scrapes, you want to have supplies on hand to handle whatever you face.  You will want to have things like bandages, gauze, alcohol cleaning pads, aspirin, etc.  A signaling device like a horn, bell, or whistle also needs to be available on the boat in case you need to get someone’s attention and let them know that you need assistance.  You also need to have a fire extinguisher on board.  Hopefully you will never have to deal with a fire, but you have to be prepared just in case.  If a fire does ever break out on your boat, turn off the engine right away.  And then break out those life jackets we just talked about.  Have everyone put one on just to be safe.  If you can, turn the boat so that the fire is downwind and then use the fire extinguisher.  It may seem simple, but when you are caught up in the moment, it can be easy to forget how to use the fire extinguisher-especially if you have never used it before.  Try to remember the acronym PASS-Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle, and Sweep from side to side.

Buoys 

One of the most critical things to understand on the lake are the buoys.  Lake Martin Resource Association volunteers work hard all year to put these on the water and maintain them.  They are there to protect you and make your days on the boat more enjoyable.  Right now, there are more than 400 buoys on Lake Martin.  Most of them are floating white buoys that are six feet tall, and have orange diamonds on them.   You might also see some that are poles with similar markings.  When you see those diamonds, be on the lookout, because that means there is something underwater that you want to avoid hitting.  It could be a rock, stump, underwater shoal, or something that has sank in the lake.  You may not see it, but it’s there, and that buoy has been placed to warn you of the hazard.  You will also see buoys with an orange circle.  Those are the Slow-No Wake buoys.  There are also buoys with a diamond and cross in the middle that are used to alert boaters to keep out of a certain area.  To learn more about the different buoys, you can check out LMRA’s buoy safety video here.

When you see the buoys, keep your distance.  Make sure you stay at least 100 feet away so that you can avoid whatever is beneath the surface.  Sometimes you might see buoys that are within 200 feet of each other.  If you see that, don’t try to go between them.  This can be a dangerous situation and it’s something you definitely want to avoid.

If you see a buoy within 100 feet of the shoreline, this could mean two things.  Either the water is really shallow in that area, or there is something underwater between the buoy and the shoreline that you don’t want to hit.  Either way, if you see a buoy that close, don’t try to take your boat between the buoy and the shore.  And regardless of if you see a buoy or not, be super careful if you are within 50 feet of the shoreline, no matter if the water level is high or low.  The water closer to the shoreline is shallow and there are plenty of rocks and stump hazards.

If you don’t know the lake that well, it’s a good idea to just not be out boating after daylight at all.  There are some buoys that have a solar light mounted, and you can see those from a mile away.  Those are limited though, and in the dark, it can be really hard to see things that could be dangerous.  Even the buoys that you can clearly see in the day can be difficult to see at night.

Another time to be extra careful is when the water level is low during the months of October-March.  With lower levels, some hazards that would be deeper during the Summer months, will then be closer to the surface- and could cause major problems if you hit them.  Just to be clear, you can be on the lake during the Fall and Winter months.  That is actually a really great time to fish.  However, if you go, be very careful, especially if you don’t know the lake as well.

Sometimes, you may come across a damaged buoy, or you may notice that it has moved away from the hazard that it was intended to mark.  Things happen-boats could hit them or strong winds could move them from their intended location.  If you notice this, you need to notify Lake Martin Resource Association.  On the buoy you will find a decal with the email address lmra@lmra.info and a telephone number to call. It  also has the buoy’s identifying letter and numbers which tells the LMRA crew the specific GPS location of where the buoy was located.  They need this information so that they can get the buoy back where it is supposed to be.

Docking Lights

We couldn’t have a discussion about boating safety without mentioning docking lights.  The only time that docking lights should be used is when you are…… docking.  They are not supposed to be on when you are out on the open water.  At night, these lights can affect the vision of other boaters and could cause them to not see on-coming boats.  This is a boating respect thing and a safety thing.  It won’t earn you any popularity points with other boaters, and it can be harmful to others.  Just don’t do it.  If you are busted using them out on the open water, you could also end up getting a ticket.  That’s another way to ruin an awesome lake day really quickly.

Weather

It’s also very important to keep an eye on the weather when you are out on the water.  It’s Alabama- and weather can change quickly.  A storm can pop up out of nowhere, and take it from one who has been out in them, it’s a little freaky.  Keep your eye on the sky and watch for temperature changes, changes in wind patterns, and changes in cloud formations.  Those can be signs that a storm is brewing.  If you are out on the lake and get caught in a storm, try to get to the closest safe shelter.  If you have to ride out the storm on the boat, have everyone onboard put on a life jacket and get as close to the centerline as possible.  Keep the bow of the boat to the wind, and ride the waves at a 45 degree angle.

If Something Happens

I hope that you don’t experience anything bad out on the water.  If something does happen though, you can call the Marine Police in Alexander City at 256-329-2268.  Go ahead and put that phone number in your cell phone just in case you need it.  Hopefully you will never use it, but if you are in an emergency, you won’t want to take the time to Google the number at that time.  Another number to put in your phone is TowBoatUS Lake Martin- 256-307-1313.  Sometimes you may not experience an accident, but you may just have mechanical problems like a dead battery or the unthinkable scenario where you run out of gas.  It happens-and you don’t want to be left in the middle of the lake if it does.  They are available 24 hours a day to help.

Boating License, Classes, and Rules

If you are an Alabama resident, you do need to have a boating license.  Residents 12 and older can get a license, but nobody under 14 can operate a boat alone.  If you are not a resident of Alabama, you can operate a boat here for up to 45 days per year with no license.  You can learn more about the boating requirements and processes here.  Regardless of if you are a resident or non-resident, it’s not a bad idea to take a boating class.  There are several options offered online and in person.  Russell Marine even hosts an annual event each Spring just for the ladies called Women on the Water.  It’s a Girls Day Out with a purpose-where women come together to learn about safe boating practices.  Whether you take a class or not though, you should definitely make it a point to be aware of all of the Boating Rules and Regulations for the State of Alabama.

Some of these things may seem elementary to you, but we did tell you this was the Boating Safety 101 class.  It’s never a bad idea for the pros to get a refresher.  Another thing to be aware of is that last year was a record year for boat sales in our area.  There are a lot of new boaters on the water, and not all of them may be aware of the standard safety procedures.  Always be aware of the other boats around you.  For the newbies, it’s important to get the basics down.  Knowing how to be safe can mean the difference between a good day and a bad day out on the lake.  Don’t be that guy or girl taking risks that may hurt yourself or others.  It’s ok to ask questions.  Be informed about the safety basics.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all safety procedures, but rather a place to start in your learning journey.  We want you to have the best day ever while out enjoying beautiful Lake Martin, and part of that is making sure you are safe.

Tips For Your Visit To Goat Island on Lake Martin

Lake Martin is a special place where everyone loves spending time on the lake. And I do mean everyone-both those with two and four legs. You probably think I am talking about dogs-and trust me they love the lake too-but today I’m actually talking about goats. Yes, goats love our lake! There is even one special group of goats that like to spend their Summers on an island at Lake Martin. They get on a pontoon boat and make the trek to their island each Spring, and then go back to their home to spend the Winters with their parents, Ricky and Stacie Baker.

A visit to Lake Martin just isn’t complete without a trip to Goat Island. The island itself is just north of Martin Dam, and is only accessible by boat. The goats love getting visitors though, and this is one thing you absolutely, positively have to add to your day on Lake Martin. Let me be clear though, this is not like a petting zoo. You won’t buy a ticket and be ushered in. These goats are just there chilling and living their best goat life. Think about it…..These are goats, spending their Summer vacation on an island in the middle of a beautiful lake-and you get to go play with them and feed them Cheetos. What could possibly be better than that? Below are a few tips to help you find your way there, and have a great trip to Goat Island.

Location:

Latitude: 32.69082, Longitude: -85.91540

Admission:

FREE. This island is open to the public and anyone is welcome to come visit the goats. However, they do have a bank account set up, and you are welcome to donate anytime if you feel led. This is not a business, and there is one loving family that handles all of their care- including food, medical care, etc.  If you are interested in donating to the care of the goats, you can do so via PayPal: goatislandlakemartin@gmail.com or Venmo: Goat-Island

Things The Goats Love:

-Cheetos (This is their favorite food! Want to make quick friends with the goats? Bring that cheesy, crunchy goodness to them!)

-Chips

-Bread

Things The Goats Do Not Love:

-Corn

-Dog Food

-Meat

-Dogs (There are lots of islands for the dogs to visit on Lake Martin, but because the goats can get a little freaked out by them, please refrain from bringing them here.)

Follow Them On Social Media:

This special crew has their own island-of course they have their own Facebook page as well. The owners update the page with the latest info for visitors, and it is a place where everyone can share their Goat Island selfies and ask questions. Whether you visit or not, just following them on Facebook is sure to put some happiness in your newsfeed. You can follow them here.

Get to Know the Goats of Goat Island

BUG

My name is Bug.  I was born on March 12, 2016.  I was named by Bailey and we have the same birthday.  Her nickname is Bug, so that’s how I got my name. 

LAKEY

My name is Lakey.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Rosie and I have a twin brother.  His name is Smalls.  

SMALLS

My name is Smalls.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Rosie and I have a twin brother.  His name is Lakey. 

MARLEY

My name is Marley.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Sweetie Pie and I have a twin brother.  His name is Moe.  I am just like my mom-I am very loud and like to talk alot. 

SISSY

My name is Sissy.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Bug and I am one of the triplets.  My sister is Sassy and my brother is Skoot.

MOE

My name is Moe.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Sweetie Pie and I have a twin sister.  Her name is Marley.

SWEETIE PIE

My name is Sweetie Pie.  I was born on March 13, 2016.  I was named by Britney.  I am the LOUDEST one on the Island and I talk ALL the time!

KOWALIGA

My name is Kowaliga.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Bug and I have a twin brother.  His name is Brownie.  

ROSIE

My name is Rosie.  I was born on March 18, 2016.  I was named by Blaire.  I am the most gentle one of all my family.  

SCOOT

My name is Skoot.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Bug and I am one of the triplets.  My sisters are Sissy and Sassy. 

SASSY

My name is Sassy.  I was born on February 5, 2020.  My mom is Bug and I am one of the triplets.  My sister is Sissy and my brother is Scoot.  

BROWNIE

My name is Brownie.  I was born on March 2, 2019.  My mom is Bug and I have a twin brother.  His name is Kowaliga.  

Lake Martin’s Message in a Bottle

One of the things that I am proudest of in our community is our desire and effort to keep it clean and pristine for our visitors and residents, while also protecting our environment.  I recently saw a picture online of a bird in England tangled up in a used face mask that had been thrown out.  Those kinds of things bother me, and it’s why I personally choose to do my part to not let it happen.  And let’s face it-trash on the roads or on the lake is just not cute.  Nobody wants to see that.  In my mind, I’ve always thought all trash is bad.  Until…….. I heard a story about one special piece of trash-that actually turned out not to be trash.  It was an item disguised as trash, that would bring back memories for a group of siblings and cousins decades later.    

As we were getting ready for our Tourism Gives Back Earth Day Clean-Up that is happening this weekend, I was chatting with some participants and a special story was shared with me.  It was heartwarming and inspiring, and if I wasn’t already motivated to go picking up trash before, I certainly am now.  I want to find my own special piece of trash!

The story goes back to 2018.  Adams Beverages was participating in a clean-up on Lake Martin with Lake Martin Resource Association.  One of the people in the group that day was Lee Pitchford.  As he went to grab one bottle caught in a stump across from Peanut Point, he saw that it was different.  At that moment, he had no idea how different though, or how the story of that bottle would go back almost 40 years.  Upon looking closer, he noticed that there was something inside of it, and he carefully pulled out pieces of paper.  Cue the Police song….. yes… this was indeed….. a Message in a Bottle!  It turns out a group of kids from Roanoke and Wadley placed this message in the bottle on June 15, 1981-and he found it almost a week to the day, 37 years later.  How crazy! 

DeLane Hodges Vansandt was 16 at the time, and said her two brothers, Russ and Rick Hodges, and two cousins, Troy Hodges and Tera Hodges-Ogilvie, decided to create their own message in a bottle.  DeLane told me that they were out camping on the Tallapoosa River near Wadley with her parents, Jerrell and Royann Hodges, and aunt and uncle, Waymon and Linda Hodges. There were messages from all 5 kids, and they all put their age, address, and the date.  All of the messages were then put in a glass RC Cola bottle that they had ripped the paper off of.  She said that she remembers her dad tightening the lid so that it would be securely closed.  

Lee had no idea of any of these happenings though, and didn’t realize quite the treasure that he had found that day.  He was set on finding those people who had their names in the bottle, so he took his mission to Facebook.  And what do you know, he was able to locate all 5 of them! 

Lee returned the bottle to it’s rightful owners, and took the bottle and messages to the home of DeLane’s parents.  DeLane’s mom, Royann, told The Randolph Leader that there was a deeper message behind the story of the bottle.  She said “What we toss out, literally and figuratively, eventually comes back to us.  We’ll treasure this bottle and the memories of a wonderful childhood filled with love and good family time together.”

I’ve read that it takes anywhere from 4,000-1,000,000 years for glass to decompose.  That’s a wide range, but even on the shorter end of that range, a glass bottle will definitely outlast all of us.  The fact that the glass lasted that long is not surprising to me.  However, the fact that it remained perfectly intact with the messages dry inside for almost 40 years is surprising.  DeLane said another interesting fact is that the bottle was found near the lake house of another of her aunt and uncles, Don and Lynn Hodges.  Who knows how long that bottle had been stuck on that stump waiting to make it’s way back to this family? 

As we get ready for the clean up this weekend, I am excited to see what my finds bring me.  Will it be a message from the past?  Will I be able to have the ability to bring back fond memories from decades ago like Lee did?  I’m not sure, and probably won’t hold my breath on that.  However, this charming story that was told to me does give me extra motivation to get out and give back to my community.  It also reminds me to look closely-as things are not always what they seem.  At first, Lee saw trash.  What that ended up being was a cherished memory that he will forever get to be a part of.  I will definitely look closely at whatever I pick up this weekend! 

The Million Dollar Fish in Lake Martin

So the million dollar question is……. What does a million dollar fish look like?  And the next question is obviously-where do I find that fish? 

That million dollar fish looks just like any other bass-he/she may be a largemouth or spotted bass.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the fish will be wearing a special fashion accessory that sets it apart. And to answer the second question-that fish is in Lake Martin!  I have no idea where on Lake Martin (if I did I would be shopping for the new boat I would be buying with my winnings), but that special fish is swimming around the lake right this second.  There are actually 200 tagged fish released in different locations from up the river beyond Highway 280, to Parker Creek near Kowaliga. 

While we don’t have a lottery here in Alabama, we do have this special game of chance that also includes a little fun time on the lake as a bonus.  In my opinion, that’s much more fun than scratching off a lotto ticket anyway. This little game of chance is called Crank 4 Bank and it is put on by OGS Tournaments.  It’s kind of like a fishing tournament, but……. not really.  If you are looking for fishing tournaments, they do those too-and have some great ones to participate in.  They even do some nighttime tournaments during the summer.  But-that’s not what Crank 4 Bank is about.  See, this is not about catching the biggest fish, or the most fish-it’s just about catching the RIGHT fish.  If you have registered ahead of time, and are lucky enough to catch one of them between April 1-July 4, you could win $1,500.  It gets better though-the fish you catch may be one of the extra special fish.  Those guys could score you a boat, a truck, or a million dollars.  Yes-your fish might be worth $1 million.  Can we say best lake day ever??? 

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.  Think of it as a way to even the playing field for everyone.  I don’t have a fancy bass boat (at least I don’t until I catch that special fish that wins me one), and I’m still learning a lot about bass fishing.  I may catch a fish, but it may not be the biggest.  That’s ok though, because even if it’s not, there are still ways for me to win.  In this game, I could even be fishing off of my dock and have a chance to compete against the pros and win. 

I can’t stress enough though that the key to this is registering ahead of time.  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.  That’s not even an option, and is not going to work for you.  You have to do it ahead of time-at least 2 hours before you catch your winning fish.  You also have to have a current Alabama fishing license.  Make sure you check out the rules and know the process before you go out on your mission to find the prize winning fish.  You can check those out here.  

Another thing I really like is that a portion of the proceeds from the 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.

I’m not a professional angler by any means, but I do enjoy fishing.  I know I am going to be grabbing my pole and hitting the lake this Summer anyway, and I also know I would be kicking myself if I caught one of these tagged fish, and then got nothing…..zero…..zilch.  I’ve heard the tales of those this has happened to-and I refuse to let that be me.  Can you even imagine that feeling?  Reeling in that fish, and seeing that special tag that means at minimum, you would be $1,500 richer-IF you had registered ahead of time?  Because I don’t want to experience that gut wrenching feeling, and because I think it just puts a little extra excitement in a day out on the water fishing, I am going to get registered.  Why not?  It’s my first summer on the lake, so maybe I will have some beginner’s luck.  Worst care scenario, it encourages me to get out and do a little more fishing.  That’s not too bad either, and a great way to spend a summer day. 

The Real Meaning Behind “Treasured Lake Martin”

Photo credit: @daleeburns

There are so many adjectives people use to describe Lake Martin-beautiful Lake Martin, amazing Lake Martin, breathtaking Lake Martin, fun Lake Martin….. the list goes on and on.  You may have even heard the term “Treasured” Lake Martin thrown around and thought that was just a great descriptive word for our wonderful lake as well.  While we do treasure it dearly, there is a lot more to this term.  We know how special our lake is, but this one phrase-Treasured Lake Martin-is one of many examples of just how special we are. 

You see, treasured is not just a nice descriptive word used to characterize our lake, but is an actual designation bestowed upon Lake Martin.  Not only is it pretty impressive that we have this designation, but what’s also cool is that we are the only lake to have this designation.  Yep-our lake really is that special.  We are Alabama’s only treasured lake.  So, let’s talk about what makes us special and how we earned the right to call ourselves Alabama’s only treasured lake. 

It all goes back over 10 years ago when Governor Bob Riley signed Executive Order #54 and established the Treasured Alabama Lakes designation in a special ceremony at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin.  The goal was for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to have a designation for lakes that met high water quality standards and have low nutrient enrichment.  Lake Martin was chosen as the first lake to receive the designation-and to this day, it is still the only lake to receive this very special designation.  Lake Watch of Lake Martin, and more specifically President Dick Bronson, was the catalyst for getting the designation passed.  Dick stated during the dedication ceremony, “We’ve always known that Lake Martin was the cleanest lake in Alabama and this designation is verification of that belief. It’s also a testament to nearly 18 years of water quality monitoring by Lake Watch volunteers who were trained by Alabama Water Watch personnel at Auburn University.”

ADEM Director Lance LeFleur, Governor Bob Riley, Alabama Department of Tourism’s Lee Sentell, and Lake Watch members met on December 6, 2010 to discuss the proposed new designation that would be called “Treasured Alabama Lake.”  This wasn’t a designation that would be handed out easily though-there were strict criteria that had to be met and this special designation would only be for lakes that have high water quality, exceptional recreational significance, state parks and wildlife refuges, and exceptional ecological significance.  Lake Martin checked all of those boxes and excelled in each of those things.  During that meeting, Governor Riley decided that Lake Martin should be designated as a “Treasured Alabama Lake” and he said that he would issue an Executive Order stating that. He did that on December 28, 2010.   

Photo Provided By: Eric Reutebuch- Pictured are: Lee Sentell- Alabama Department of Tourism, Lance LeFleur-Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Dick Bronson-Lake Watch, M. Barnett Lawley-Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Ben Russell-Russell Lands On Lake Martin, and Governor Bob Riley

At that time, Governor Riley said that the water in Lake Martin would never be degraded from where it was on that day.  To this day, groups such as Lake Watch, Lake Martin HOBO, and Lake Martin Resource Association work tirelessly to keep our “Treasured Lake Martin” clean and pristine for generations to come. 

Plug Day-Lake Martin’s Own Special Holiday

I remember my first trip to Alexander City last February.  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.  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 few weeks.  The water level keeps rising for 50 days.  During those 50 days, 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.  And even though there is not an actual plug that goes in the lake, there is an actual plug that you may see out and about around town during these 50 days to commemorate this special time. 

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.  March 1st at midnight is when the water level starts it’s rise to Summer Pool levels.  At that time, it is 484 msl feet.  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. While the Plug Day excitement does continue for the full 50 days, most of us can’t contain ourselves that long, and if weather allows, we are already enjoying the lake fully by that time. 

Lake Martin Machine Gun: The Thrilling, Hidden Gem You Are Missing Out On

It was a crisp December afternoon as Stephen and I packed our bags and made our way down to our lake house, Pelican Point, eager to set out on our next big adventure. As many already know, winter time at Lake Martin is its own unique season.  With the water level down and boats stored away until the return of warmer days, this is the perfect opportunity to explore some of the more “off-the-beaten-path” attractions that the lake has to offer. And today, that sense of adventure was bringing us to Lake Martin Machine Gun.

Stephen himself is an experienced firearm shooter, growing up hunting from a young age and an owner of several guns himself.  I, on the other hand, had never really actually held a gun before – much less shot one.  The idea of going straight from a beginning shooter to firing a machine gun was quite an intimidating thought I have to admit. However, I rarely turn down the opportunity to try something new, especially something this intriguing. As we continued our trip onward towards Eclectic, I really had no idea what to expect on this expedition.

The Arrival

It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to the gravel driveway of our destination. The location was easily spottable from the road, marked by an oversized sign with “Lake Martin Machine Gun” printed clearly across the front. We had passed this sign several times before, usually on our way to the old Harbor Docks restaurant or on a day trip out towards Stillwater.  Every time we passed by it however, the sign continuously peaked our interest, more and more. 

What is this place?  What do they do here?  Can you really shoot a machine gun?

Finally, our curiosity had gotten the better of us.  We thought, what the heck…we’ll give it a shot. We didn’t know it yet, but as we turned down that gravel driveway, we were about to have one of the most memorable afternoons we had this year.

The driveway wound back through woods, revealing a clearing, parking lot, and a simple building.  There was a sense of excitement in the air as we exited our car.  Gunshots could be heard in the distance and the suspense was rising. This was it. We had arrived! 

As Stephen and I made our way inside, we were instantly greeted with warm welcomes from the Lake Martin Machine Gun owners, David and Jodie McGirt.  David enthusiastically gave us a detailed briefing on what we could expect during our trip that day, and what he referred to as the “Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience”. 

The Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience

The Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience we learned is all about bringing history back to life. Established in 2016, the McGirts were on a mission to set themselves apart from other shooting ranges by creating a fun, safe environment where people can learn and experience history behind these firearms, reconnect with it, and most importantly – have a good time.

David furthered explained the rarity of the guns at LMMG that visitors are able to shoot. Machine guns are highly regulated in the United States, with only a limited amount available to the public. He went on to say many of the firearms in their collection normally would only be available to be viewed from behind a glass case or on a movie screen, but we would have the opportunity to see and handle them first hand.  This immediately got our attention! This was already turning out to be so much more than we could have imagined.  

The Facility

The Lake Martin Machine Gun facility is made up of multiple shooting bays, including one specifically for pistols and rifles. The main range itself has a roof covering overhead to shelter visitors from any form of weather.  It is also temperature controlled with heating and air conditioning – which I’m told is not always available at other shooting ranges.

Jodie also took us to tour a separate building outside, specifically designed for long range shooting.  Here visitors have access to a different set of targets as well as the opportunity to sight in rifles, which especially comes in handy for hunters.  However, to access the Long Range a visitor must sign in and out inside the facility, as well as be a known shooter to the staff. 

As David and Jodie continued the tour around the facility, I immediately began to feel comfortable with my surroundings.  It was growingly apparent that safety is their number one priority. 

Machine Gun History 101

If there is one thing that separates this establishment from any other shooting range, it would be the history portion of the experience.  David really came to life while he was teaching us about the different types of firearms and the evolution of each of them throughout time.

Listening to David speak was like walking through history itself. He gave the perfect blend of technical knowledge along with vibrant storytelling and historical depictions of the firearms and their uses, such as demonstrating the famous “Tommy Gun” that was commonly known to be used by Bonnie and Clyde. Interestingly enough, we learned that the Tommy Gun was what inspired many of the gun laws that we see still implemented today.

In total, David did an overview of approximately 15 different firearms, including a “British Bren”, the breakaway “PDW” used by Secret Service members, and the “Israeli Uzi” that Chuck Norris was famous for. He even showed us an MP44 from World War II, which is so rare that they are hardly available to even be seen in the world today.  The best part? Visitors to Lake Martin Machine Gun have the opportunity to shoot some of these firearms themselves!

The historical aspect of our tour, and knowledge behind the guns we were about to shoot, was definitely a much appreciated addition to our visit. It created a unique twist that added value and awareness of just how cool this experience was that Lake Martin Machine Gun makes available to the public.

Shooting the Machine Guns: Fire Away!

At Lake Martin Machine Gun, the firearms themselves are handled by trained staff members. It seems like common sense, but that was actually quite a relief for me since I had never been to a shooting range before and I didn’t exactly know how all this worked.

The staff does what David referred to as all the “heavy lifting”, as they are all trained and knowledgeable in the handling of each of these firearms and can in turn insure a safe environment. David and one of his staff members loaded in all the ammo, set up the guns, and stood right beside us while we got into position to shoot.  All we had to do was relax and have fun!

The first gun we shot was the MP5SD.  This was incredibly exciting, as this is the type of gun that Navy Seals and Special Forces use.  Very few people in the world actually get to shoot these… and yet here we are!  David set the MP5SD up on a wooden platform that was made up of several different levels, with the purpose of stabilizing the gun and to keep us from having to hold up the firearm up ourselves, as some of them proved to actually be really heavy. It sure did give us a new appreciation for all the veterans who had to carry these during their service!   

Stephen was up first to shoot. As he approached the firearm, David began to walk him through step by step of the process and what to expect next.  Stephen’s first shot was a single bullet, allowing him to get the feel of the gun. Once comfortable, David gave Stephen the go ahead to fire away.

That’s when the fun set it. Bullets flew through the air as Stephen held down the trigger and really let loose! Afterwards he turned around, belly laughing and grinning from ear to ear.  David said, “now that’s what we call the machine gun smile!”

After watching the blast Stephen was having, my excitement and adrenaline were running for sure! 

David readjusted the firearm and propped the gun up on a level that was comfortable for my height.  He continued to instruct me as I placed the gun against my shoulder and got into shooting position.  Knowing I was new to all of this, he showed me where to place my hands on the gun and how to look through the scope, as well as coached me on my stance. His continuous instruction definitely made me feel confident and ready for this moment!  As I prepared to take my first shot, I could feel my heart begin to race.

I put my finger on the trigger, peered through the scope, pulled back… and BAM! I laughed as I realized I had just shot my first bullet. And believe it or not, I actually  hit a target.  I was ecstatic. David switched me into position to actually fire off the machine gun and really “let loose”.

Words cannot describe how thrilling those next few seconds were as I shot through my round. It felt a bit like being in the movies.  Stepping back, I was laughing just as hard – if not harder- than Stephen.  The actual experience was simply exhilarating!

The Ma Deuce

We continued down the line of firearms, shooting several different ones including the famous Tommy Gun and the M60, which is what the troops carried all throughout Vietnam.  And then we got to the grand finale and mother of them all – the Ma Deuce.

This iconic Browning .50 caliber machine gun was designed toward the end of World War I, with the official name of M2HB. ”HB” we learned stands for ”heavy barrel” and” M2” is referring to the model of the gun. 

David joked, “as all things in the military with numbers, we had to give it a nickname.  So this became The Ma Deuce.”  

As much fun as we were having with the other firearms, I felt like it was building up to this moment. This one was hands down my favorite to shoot! This particular machine gun is mounted firmly to the ground with a wide open lane to shoot through to specialty targets, specifically designed to handle this caliber of ammo.  If you come and only shoot one machine gun, I cannot emphasize enough the rush you will feel while shooting this one.  There was no need to get fancy.  It was all about letting loose, having fun, and tearing up some targets.

And as you can see, it made for a pretty cool light show too.

Memberships and Corporate Events

Lake Martin Machine Gun is a membership shooting range. David said there are only two rules to being a member at Lake Martin Machine Gun.  “Be Safe and Be Nice,” he said in our interview.  “If you can do those two things, you’re always going to be welcome here.  It gives a nice, safe environment for people to practice and shoot in addition to the Machine Gun Experience – which is what we are most known for.”

The space is also available to rent for things such as corporate events and private parties.  The owners said it is always a hoot for bachelors and bachelorettes to come cut loose as well as corporate outings, birthday parties, and everything in between. 

Final Thoughts

The takeaway from all this is that Lake Martin Machine Gun is an experience for everyone. Also, shooting machine guns is an absolute BLAST.

The McGirts go above and beyond to create a safe, fun environment for people of every experience level to come in and confidently enjoy themselves, all while learning some neat history and shooting off rare firearms. Sounds awesome, right?

If you are as curious as we were, do not keep putting this one off. Ladies, grab your friends for a Girls Night Out. Fellas, bring your wife for a spicy date.  Go grab Grandpa and bring him to have the time of his life! Simply put, it is a thrilling and unforgettable experience that we cannot recommend enough.

So, what are you waiting for?

Want to see more? Watch the exciting video of our trip to Lake Martin Machine Gun on the Pelican Point Expeditions YouTube channel!

Safety Tips On How To Prevent Spider Bites

Brown Recluse Spider


Black Widow Spider

No, it’s not Halloween. Many people shiver at the thought of spiders. In Alabama, there are five species that are harmful including the black widow, the northern black widow, the brown recluse, the Chilean recluse and the Mediterranean recluse. While most spiders produce venom to subdue their prey, few spiders have venom that presents a threat to humans. The brown recluse spider, the size of a quarter and identified by the violin shape on its back are native throughout the United States, including Lake Martin. They like to hide in dark secluded spaces that are dry and warm. When looking in your home, look for webbing around cardboard boxes, in shoes or drawers of clothes. Outside, they reside in wood piles and brush. Black Widows also reside in our community. Females feature a red hourglass on their abdomen and weave a thick tangled web. Widows dwell in quiet areas such as stumps, water meter boxes, sheds and lawn mowers. To avoid being bitten, reduce clutter in dark spaces, inspect and shake out linens, boots and clothes. When working outside, wear gloves and inspect equipment with a flashlight. Our team treated a gentleman who was bitten by a black widow when he sat on his tractor seat where a black widow was nesting. Spiders are not typically aggressive but if bitten, the toxins from the spider can trigger an inflammatory response and cause the tissue to die. People may have different reactions to the bite. Symptoms usually develop 2-8 hours after a bite. Initially the bite is mildly red but on closer inspection, may reveal fang marks. Within a few hours, it may blister, become more painful and develop a ring surrounding the area or have a “bull’s-eye” appearance. The best practice is to immediately use a marker to draw a circle around the perimeter of the wound to see if the redness or swelling continues to expand.

It is important to indentify the spider and understand its bite must be treated by a medical professional in a timely manner. The skin is your fortress. Waiting for a bite to “heal on its own” may only delay the painful healing process. Taking appropriate action is key. If you are extremely brave, bring the “slightly squashed,” dead spider in a bag with you to the doctor for proper identification.. If you are bitten, call the Russell Medical Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine clinic at 256-215-7450 so that our specialized wound care team can help start the healing process. There are effective treatment plans available to advance the healing process.

The biodiversity of species on Alabama’s Freshwater Coast is what makes our community incredibly rich in beauty. Many spiders are harmless. Because of their broad appetite, spiders prey on mosquitoes, flies and cockroaches thus reducing the numbers of other pests. One of the most exciting ways to learn more about species identification and wildlife in the lLake Martin area is to take an energetic guided tour with Russell Lands On Lake Martin Naturalist Marianne Hudson on the Russell Forest Trails. Marianne was recently awarded the Conservation Communicator of the Year by the Alabama Wildlife Federation. She served as the Assistant Director of the Southeastern Raptor Center and in 2017 joined the Alabama Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division as a Conservation Outreach Specialist. She leads highly educational tours in which she identifies a variety of plant and animal life, including the beautiful Golden Silk Orb Weaver Spider. To learn more about here nature hikes, go here.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver

Being vigilant can help keep your family safe and healthy!

Thank you to Russell Medical Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine for sharing this helpful information!

Lake Martin Businesses Are Taking a Pledge to Keep You Safe When You Travel

2020 has been quite the year, to say the least.  We understand if you are not ready to travel yet, and we will be here ready to welcome you when you are.  However, if you are ready to get out and explore, we want to help you find ways to do that in the safest way possible.  Your health and safety is important to us, and we want you to be able to enjoy our great outdoors, attractions, restaurants, lodging, and everything else the Lake Martin area has to offer.  The Alabama Tourism Department has put together information to help you Take It All In Responsibly.  They have worked with local businesses and attractions around the state and asked them to take a pledge to make a commitment to keep YOU safe.

Some of the ones in our area that have signed the pledge are:

Adventure Center at Russell Crossroads

Creekside Lodge

Harold Banks Canoe Trail

Lake Martin Machine Gun

Smith Mountain Fire Tower

Whippoorwill Vineyards

Wind Creek State Park

Their pledge to you:

  • To train staff in proper cleaning and sanitization specific to our industry.
  • To post extensive signage on health policies.
  • To wear face coverings.
  • To facilitate and enforce social distancing and capacity guidelines.
  • To regularly sanitize public areas and frequently touched surfaces.
  • To conduct wellness screenings of employees.
  • To follow CDC guidelines and those of our industry for health safety policies in their establishment.
  • To provide contactless reservations, payments, and communications whenever possible.

The Alabama Tourism Department is also asking you to make a pledge as well when visiting Sweet Home Alabama.

Your pledge to us:

  • To plan ahead but be flexible and patient with staff and other patrons.
  • To refrain from physical contact with staff and other patrons.
  • To wear face coverings in public as required.
  • To maintain a safe social distance from others in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • To wash and sanitize hands frequently.
  • To limit the size of travel parties or gatherings to the location-specific maximum.
  • To stay home if you have a cough, fever, or other symptoms.
  • To use a credit or debit card and contactless registration as much as possible.

Choosing a Place to Stay at Lake Martin

Enjoy an awesome view of Lake Martin from the Hank Williams Cabin. Yes-you can actually stay where Hank himself stayed!

What does your ideal trip to Lake Martin look like?  Ask anyone, and the answers you get could be completely different.  For some, travelling with their close family members could equal perfection, while some prefer to bring the whole extended family along for the fun.  Others may choose to leave the family at home, and make it a Girls Trip or Guys Getaway.  Some may take an opportunity to have a romantic weekend with their special someone.  But still there are those that just want to have peaceful, quiet alone time, surrounded by the tranquility of nature.  There is no right or wrong answer to the question, but how you answer that question determines how you will pick out the perfect lodging option for your trip.  It’s important to put some thought into this question to make sure you have the best trip ever when you visit Lake Martin.  No worries though-there are plenty of great options of places to stay in the Lake Martin area-and there is an option for every possible travelling situation that you can think up.

Here are five things to think about before making a decision on where to stay on your next trip to Lake Martin:

  1. Who all is coming along?
  2. How long is your trip?
  3. Will you be eating out or do you prefer to have the amenities of home and be able to prepare your own meals?
  4. Does your dream trip involve waking up to the lake outside your door, or are you ok with driving a few minutes to see water?
  5. Do you prefer a more luxurious or rustic experience, or are you looking for something unique?

The Hank Williams Cabin

If you answered unique on #5, this one is for you.  You can experience a great spot in country music history, and stay at the Hank Williams Cabin. The music legend stayed in the cabin and composed the song “Kaw-liga” in August 1952, reaching #1 on the country music charts in 1953. The cabin was built in 1946 and was restored to it’s original condition in 2001 as a tribute to Hank Williams and his music. It looks just the way it did when Hank himself was there. The cabin is on the property of Children’s Harbor, a non-profit that provides free camps to seriously ill children. Money raised from rentals of the Hank Williams Cabin goes to help keep funding their mission of providing these opportunities for children.

Hank Williams Cabin-Alexander City

Hotels

Hampton Inn-Alexander City, Alabama

 

Creekside Lodge and Conference Center-Dadeville, Alabama

There are a variety of hotels in the area-some even offering free breakfast.  You probably won’t be doing a lot of cooking in your room, but there are plenty of great restaurants in Alexander City and Dadeville, and you could definitely eat out someplace different for every meal.  If you want to explore our culinary diversity, a hotel is a great option for your trip no matter how many people are in your party, or who you are travelling with. Our hotels provide a comfortable stay and are frequently used by solo travelers, those traveling for business, sports teams, fishermen, families, and groups of friends.   You can reach out directly to the properties to set up room blocks if you need more space for more people.  With the exception of Creekside Lodge, most of our hotels are located in town, and are just a few minutes away from the lake.  Really, here a few minutes means just that.  You are never too far from water when you are here.  You will also be just a couple of minutes away from Alexander City’s historic downtown, which is also something you are going to want to add to your list of things to do.

Hampton Inn-Alexander City

Super 8- Alexander City

Quality Inn- Alexander City

Days Inn- Alexander City

Bob White Motel- Alexander City

American Inn Hotel-Alexander City

Creekside Lodge at Lake Martin-Dadeville

Vacation Rentals

Lake Martin VRBO rental

 

Lake Martin Airbnb Rental

Do you prefer to have all of the luxuries of home available to you during your stay, and do you prefer to be able to prepare your meals at home?  If so, a vacation rental in Lake Martin could be a good option for you.  Houses and condos are available in all shapes and sizes, and many have lake access.  While all are unique and offer different amenities, most offer all the things needed to prepare and serve any meal you would at home.  Many also include washers and dryers so you can wash clothes if needed while on your trip.  Some even include fishing equipment, car seats, strollers, games and toys, etc.  These are really great for longer term stays since you will feel like you are at home, but can also be used for a weekend getaway.  Just make sure you check to see if there is a minimum stay involved, as some may require that you stay 2 or more nights.  Since they are all different, each will be able to accommodate a different amount of people.  However, if you are travelling with others, and want to be able to all be together in a communal area, while still maintaining your own privacy, you will like the vacation rental atmosphere that usually offers a traditional living room and dining room, but separate bedrooms and often separate bathrooms.  By using the online booking platforms, you have the ability to communicate directly with the owners.  You can message back and forth and ask questions about the house or condo before you even book.

Airbnb Lake Martin

VRBO Lake Martin

Bed and Breakfasts

Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast-Alexander City, Alabama

 

Paradise Bed and Breakfast on Lake Martin-Dadeville, Alabama

If you enjoy a unique travel experience or a romantic getaway, you may want to check out one of our beautiful Bed and Breakfasts in Lake Martin.  Each of our bed and breakfasts offer a wonderful homemade breakfast to start your day.  Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast is located in downtown Alexander City.  If you are a history buff, you will love this place-this Queen Anne mansion was built in 1895 and is on the National Historic Register.  It has been restored to the feeling of that era, and is a beautiful step back in time.  If you prefer to be on the water, Paradise Inn Bed and Breakfast on Lake Martin is a great option.  They are located right on the lake, and offer complimentary use of a paddle boat, kayaks, floats, and fishing equipment.  You can even bring your own boat and tie up to their private dock.  If you are planning a romantic getaway, you would certainly make your sweetie’s day by choosing one of these.  If you are travelling with more people though, talk to the management from either house about the possibility of renting multiple rooms.

Mistletoe Bough Bed and Breakfast

Paradise Bed and Breakfast on Lake Martin

Camping 

RV and camping spots at Wind Creek State Park

 

Cabins at Wind Creek State Park

With our area being known for the outdoors, we could not talk about places to stay at Lake Martin and not mention camping.  Wind Creek State Park offers some of the best camping in the south.  But let’s be honest, the term camping means different things to different people.  RVing has become a favorite American pastime.  RVers travel the land to find the coolest places to visit and camp, and we are so blessed that we have such wonderful camping in Alexander City.  Wind Creek State Park is home to one of the largest state-operated campgrounds in the United States, having 586 campsites.  157 of those are waterfront and overlook the shores of Lake Martin. All campsites have water and electrical hook ups, and 268 sites have sewer hook ups. This is a great stop to put on your RV bucket list.  If you like camping, but want to really experience the great outdoors by sleeping outside in it, you can do that, as tent camping is also allowed at Wind Creek State Park.  However, there are some that don’t have an RV, and aren’t comfortable sleeping on the ground in a tent.  That’s ok-for those of us who want to enjoy the outdoors, but in a more comfortable way, there are also cabins available for rent.  The cabins overlook the water and are great for a family or friends getaway, as they have two queen beds and a sleeper sofa.  Some of the cabins are also pet friendly, so you can bring the entire family-even the furry members of your crew.  They allow you to have the waterside views and access, with the comforts of central heat and air, a microwave, toaster, refrigerator, and yes, a coffee maker.  You will need that for those early mornings out on the water fishing.  The one thing to know about the cabins before you go though is that you will need to bring your own bed linens, pillows, bath linens, and cooking and eating utensils. 

Wind Creek State Park RV and Camping

Wind Creek State Park Cabin Rentals

The Best Hiking Trails Around Lake Martin

Lake Martin is known for fun on the water, but did you know the area boasts some of the best hiking in Alabama as well? With the cooler weather, and the beautiful color palettes being displayed on the trees, now is a great time to hit the trails. Here are a few of our favorites!

Russell Forest

In this living forest, over 100 miles of trails weave through the lush pines and hardwoods that surround Lake Martin. Five trailheads serve as a starting point for multiple trails that can be used not only for hiking, but also for biking and equestrian recreation. Download the trail map and explore the trails on your own, or take advantage of a guided hike with Russell Lands On Lake Martin’s own naturalist.
Learn more here


Wind Creek State Park

The Alabama Reunion Trail is about 3.8 miles in length, and is rated moderate to difficult. It traverses both hardwood bottoms and pine forest. The trail is actually a loop with its beginning and end in close proximity. Several natural features can be noted, which include an old home site on the northern half, picturesque hardwood bottoms, stands of pine, beds of fern and an abundance of bird and animal life. The Campfire Trail is about 1.8 miles in length and is rated primarily moderate with several steep areas. This trail traverses both mixed hardwood forest and intermittent pine. Midway up the trail, a series of rock outcroppings occurs bordered by an abundance of ferns. Toward the end of the trail, a small stream bisects the path leading south. Stay longer and have a chance to check out these and other trails in the area-camping options, including lakeside cabins, are available at the park.
Learn more here

The James M. Scott Deadening Alpine Trail

This 4.2 mile loop trail is the most challenging of the trails created by the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association, but it is also the most rewarding. You also have the option to take the crossover route and hike only 3.1 miles. In addition to spectacular views of Lake Martin, the cliffs of the Tallapoosa River, the Needles Eye, and Jasmine Bluff are just a few of the unique rock formations that await the hiker. 
Learn more here

Smith Mountain Fire Tower

The trails at Smith Mountain Fire Tower lead you to a historic, restored fired tower that you can climb and have the best views in the area. Walker Bynum Smith Mountain Tower Trail is a steep 0.4 mile climb to the base of the tower. The total length is 1 mile roundtrip, but it will seem further due to rugged terrain. The Lakeshore Trail is 2.4 miles long, and makes a steep descent before winding gently along undeveloped shores of Lake Martin, returning to the parking lot through mixed hardwood/pine forest. The David M. Forker Island Hop/Boat Dock Trail is approximately 1.4 miles to the boat dock. When Lake Martin is lowered to winter pool levels, it is possible to walk another quarter mile, where you will cross a series of islands that are inaccessible at full pool. The return trail from the boat dock to the parking lot is approximately 1.2 miles. The Little Smith Mountain Loop Trail is 2.6 miles and is known for it’s view and rock formations. However, it is also the most difficult, as it goes along sheer cliffs.
Learn more here

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