SUNNY BEACHES // AND OTHER RECREATION ON A BUDGET

Nine miles from Tuscaloosa/Northport cities is Lake Lurleen State Park, named after Alabama’s only female governor, who was the wife of George Wallace, and instrumental in renovations of our state parks that were begun in 1939. 1,625 acres comprise the park with 250 acres forming Lake Lurleen. Camp sites with accommodations of water, electricity, and sewer are located around the lake for those camping. Day use for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and bike trails is offered from 7 am until dark.
To get to this lovely park, where one may be closer to nature and enjoy the experience, from the Tuscaloosa area travel Highway 82 west toward Gordo. Look for signs to Lake Lurleen State Park shortly after leaving Northport city limit. Turn right on to Upper Columbus Road. After a short drive a sign will direct the traveler to turn right again onto Lake Lurleen Road. This scenic and short, two lane road will branch. Turn left to a small building that is the entrance facility where fees are collected for the particular use desired.
Three dollars per adult is charged for day-use that includes picnicking, fishing, boat launching, hiking/bike trails and swimming at a wide, sandy beach. Children under 6 are free, 6-11 one dollar, and for those 62 or older the fee is also one dollar. Off season rates from December through February are somewhat different. Additionally, since Tuscaloosa is the site of the University of Alabama, football games at home affect rates and rules for camping. For more information online consult www.alapark.com/LakeLureen/Camping or call 339.1555.
For those wanting an outing for the day such as a picnic, many tables are around the lake. some are close to the lake and others a little more remote. Restroom facilities are numerous and easily located and accessed. The grounds and facilities are well maintained and cleaned. Slides, monkey bars, and other playground equipment offer entertainment for younger and older children. Open areas may be used for games such as kickball. Shade is plentiful with very scenic views of the lake. Several of the picnic tables are on platforms.
Pavilions are available for rent for $50 offering inexpensive sites for gatherings such as receptions and other get-to-gethers. Paddle boats and canoes are available for rent.
Lake Lurleen State Park offers much recreation and entertainment in a natural setting for a very small price. Additionally, a short drive is all that is required to get there. A trip to this lovely natural environmental park is educational, safe, well maintained and a very good use of our tax money. Explore Alabama with a trip to find out for yourself.
Another beach that is certainly worth mentioning is the one about 250 miles south of Tuscaloosa. Though the size of the coastline on the Gulf of Mexico for Alabama is not impressive when compared with Florida, it is much closer and very beautiful. Many of us have been to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach etc. and dream of returning.
The Gulf State Park is near, and is actually part of Gulf Shores. Best of all, it offers a much less expensive way to enjoy this scenic attribute of our state. A camper or tent stay is hundreds of dollars less expensive compared with a condo.
From Gulf State Park one may access the beach in several ways. Where State Park Road (County Road 2) intersects with Highway 182 that parallels the Gulf of Mexico, a button can activate the traffic light allowing a pedestrian to cross in relative safety. A well-made board walk across the dunes takes one to a very wide stretch of beach. Other ways of accessing the beach can be found as well.
On the third Saturday of September an annual public service event will be held called Coastal Cleanup. All along the coastline of the USA groups and individuals take part in an organized collection of beach litter left by users and washed in from boaters. Participants sign up at one of the locations such as Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion and pick up trash. Kinds and amounts are recorded on a chart and turned in at the end of the exercise which is noon. A light lunch is served to participants and each person gets a T shirt commemorating the event.
This event offers a way of Exploring Alabama and performing a volunteer service as well as having the afternoon to have some great fun. Alabama offers beaches inland and on the shore for our use in relatively inexpensive ways, so consider one of the ways described. Gulf State Park information can be found online with the following: www.alapark.com/gulfstate or by calling 1.800.252.7275.

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