Birdwatching – The northwest loop of the North Alabama Birding Trail boasts more than a dozen sites located primarily in the Shoals area. Winding back and forth across three major sporting lakes along the Tennessee River, Wheeler, Wilson, Pickwick, these sites offer fantastic birding opportunities. Several sites are noted for their impressive congregations of winter birds – waterfowl, eagles, gulls – as well as a long list of rare or vagrant species to the state. Leighton Ponds, with its assemblage of flooded sinkholes, is one of Alabama’s best interior sites for shorebird migration. The Natchez Trace Parkway with its wooded, scenic byway offers Barred Owls and Wild Turkey. Another site on the historic Trace, Rock Springs, is renowned for its concentration of fall migrating hummingbirds. These sites and more make for great birding in the Shoals area. (256) 383-0783. www.northalabamabirdingtrail
Take a driving tour past 18 cherished churches of Colbert County. These church buildings are at least 100 years old with the congregations in most cases being even older. The architecture ranges from simple log, to primitive wooden, to rock and brick. Of varied denominations, a brochure presents these churches as the “Rock of Ages Trail.” (256) 383-0783 www.colbertcountytourism.org
Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club, 1211 E 6th St., Muscle Shoals, AL 35661. Challenging 18-hole golf course, bentgrass greens, overseeded tee boxes and fairways. Exercise room, pro shop, restaurant, call for tee times. (256) 381- 1232. cypresslakescountryclub.com
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals, 990 Sunbelt Parkway, Muscle Shoals, AL 35661. Two, 18-hole, championship courses overlooking Wilson Lake and the Tennessee River are included on Alabama’s RTJ Golf Trail. The links-style Fighting Joe measures an astounding 8,092 yards, offering simple, straight-forward golf that challenges both the amateur and the PGA pro. The treelined Schoolmaster is traditional golf with every hole keeping with the natural topography along the river. Wooded, rolling, spectacular. Club house, dining, pro shop. (256) 446-5111; (800) 949-4444. www.rtjgolf.com
PICKWICK LAKE, Pickwick impounds 30,175 acres of water along the Tennessee River, stretching 46 miles between Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Pickwick Landing, Tenn. Fishing conditions include shallow stump flats, well-defined channels, active feeder creeks, steeply falling bluffs, rocky ledges and long grassbeds. www.FishPickwickLake.com
WILSON LAKE, Wilson impounds 15,930 acres of water along the Tennessee River, stretching 15 miles between Wilson Dam at Muscle Shoals, Ala. and Rogersville’s Wheeler Dam. Fishing conditions include rocky points, grassbeds, deep dropoffs with many ideal shallow water areas, and great night fishing in the summer. www.FishWilsonLake.com
LICENSE, Fishing licenses are available at the Colbert County Courthouse and at many bait and tackle shops in the area. State fishing licenses may also be purchased online at www.OutdoorAlabama.com, which also contains the latest information on license fees, creel limits and lake records.
Wilson Lock and Dam, 3985 Reservation Rd., Muscle Shoals, AL 35661. The cornerstone of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Wilson Dam boasts one of the highest, single-lift locks in the world. Construction on the dam began during World War I. TVA was created in 1933. (800) 882-5263. www.tva.gov/sites/wilson.htm
The Pillow Factory Outlet, 298 River Road, Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Enjoy shopping in the outlet of this locally-owned manufacturer of quality European down pillows, comforters and featherbeds. Enhancing overnight stays at luxury hotel chains across the country, these items may be purchased onsite at discounted prices. (256) 383-8507; (888) 834-0613. www.pillowmaker.com Hours: M – F 10 am – 5pm; Sa 10 am – 4 pm.
Jack-O-Lantern Farms, 334 Garage Rd., Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 A year-round market, located at the greenhouses on the TVA Reservation in Muscle Shoals, it offers hydroponically grown and local, “Naturally Certified” fruits and vegetables, imported and domestic cheeses, along with specialty food products from the Shoals Culinary Center. (256) 386-2335. www.JackOLanternFarm.com . Hours: Year Round. Tu & Th 3 – 7 pm; Sa 9 am – 2 pm
FAME Recording Studios, Inc. “Where it All Began” 603 East Avalon Avenue, Muscle Shoals, AL 35661. FAME, established in 1959, was the first successful professional recording studio in Alabama. Arthur Alexander’s 1961 hit, “You Better Move On,” cut here, launched the famous Muscle Shoals sound. R&B classics by Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding, Etta James and others drew world-wide attention to FAME. Pop artists Liza Minelli, Tom Jones, Little Richard, and the Osmonds then brought their talents to studio owner/producer Rick Hall, who also produced some of the nation’s best Country artists, including Shenandoah, Mac Davis, Jerry Reid, and Darryl Worley. During the studio’s half-century history, releases from FAME have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. Current sessions produce some of the best new pop, rock and country music, including Dylan LeBlanc, Band of Horses, Angela Hacker, Jason Isbell, Drive-by Truckers, Jamey Johnson, Gary Nichols and Ugli Stick. (256) 381-0801. www.fame2.com. Public Tours offered M – F, 9-10 am. Admission
Pathways: Walk through the History of Muscle Shoals, 2010 E Avalon Ave. Muscle Shoals, AL 35661. The early history of the City of Muscle Shoals, including Wilson Lock and Dam and Muscle Shoals Music, is showcased through visual displays and exhibits located along a special corridor within City Hall. (256) 383-5675. www.VisitMuscleShoalsAL.com. Hours: 8 am – 4:30 pm. Free.