Tucked away in northern Baldwin County, near the town of Perdido, you’ll find the Ruth McClellan Abronski Splinter Hill Bog, a remarkable, 2,100-acre property known for its abundance of pitcher plants.
Managed by the Nature Conservancy, Splinter Hill is considered one of the most visually impressive pitcher plant bogs in the world, teeming with thousands of the amazing green and white tubular plants, plus an amazing array of other wildflowers. If you’re into wildflower photography, or you’re looking for a unique place to explore, add the Splinter Hill Bog to your spring or summer itinerary.
The White Top Pitcher Plant
In July and August, pitcher plants hit full bloom in Splinter Hill Bog, and you can walk among acres of the elegant plants, with long green tubes that are narrow at the base and flare at the top, where a flap covers the tube. Much like the Venus fly trap, the pitcher plant is carnivorous. It exudes a sweet nectar that draws bugs and insects into its main tube, and the top flap prevents them from escaping.
While a bog sounds like something very similar to a swamp, it’s actually different. Swamps appear to be covered in water, while a bog appears to be dry. It’s only when you walk in a bog that you realize the ground is very wet and mushy. Splinter Hill is a pine-seepage bog, where longleaf pines grow in the sandy soil on the tops of hills, and rain water flows freely down the slopes to land that’s level. Since the underlying aquifer, or water holding bedrock, is close to the surface, the water collects there, just below ground level, and a bog is born.
At Splinter Hill, the white-topped pitcher plants are the primary feature, but the bog is actually home to five different types of pitcher plants and at least seven other documented carnivorous plants.
As you explore the complex you’ll traverse short hills dominated by longleaf pines, and then encounter a swamp forest, a wetland, and a feeder creek of the Perdido River that forms the border between Florida and Alabama. In spring you’ll come across many different types of wildflowers like the pineland bog bottom, sundews, a wide variety of butterworts and orchids, and milkworts.
For birders, the site is a phenomenal location to check a few species off your list. A popular stop along the coastal section of the Alabama Birding Trail, Splinter Hill is home to indigo bunting, crested flycatchers, and pine warblers, to name only a few.
And other interesting wildlife inhabits the bog, including the endangered gopher tortoise, which makes its home in longleaf pine forests and burrows a home in the sandy soil. As you walk, be on the lookout for crawfish, which mightily defend their territory when hikers pass by despite their small size.
Visiting the Splinter Hill Bog
On Splinter Hill's George W. Folkerts Bog Trail you can do a 3.1-mile out-and-and-back hike that visits a forest of towering pines, a wetland full of wildflowers, and the banks of Dyas Creek.
If you don’t want to hike and explore the entire bog, you won’t have to travel very far from the trailhead to see the acres of pitcher plants. The field is less than a tenth of a mile from the parking lot. Here you will see several "unofficial" trails that sprout off from the main Folkerts Bog Trail. These are trails that were made by people doing a little bushwhacking, which you shouldn't do. If you do want to take a closer look at the plants, please use one of these trails and don’t make new ones. And be sure to watch your step so you don’t disturb these fragile plants.
If you continue down the trail, you will be treated to an amazing array of beautiful wildflowers that fill the air with a marvelous fragrance. A little less than a mile into the hike, the trail comes to a dirt road. If you turn to the left onto the road you’ll head through the pines to Dyas Creek.
For those who don’t mind getting down, dirty, and plenty wet, turn right onto the road and in a few yards the trail splits off back into the woods and heads downhill to a dark swamp and another bog. Along this route you’ll see more pitcher plants, but be forewarned. In some spots you can sink down to your ankles or knees in the bog. Just be sure to keep looking up to see the trail markers high in the trees to keep on track, and also keep an eye out for snakes and the thick webs of golden orb spiders. This walk through the bog soon rejoins the dirt road.
A Bonus Hike
While you’re in the area, take time to visit a second Splinter Hill Bog, which is located just a short half-mile south on County Road 47. Owned and protected by Alabama’s Forever Wild program, this land is also home to thousands of white-topped pitcher plants. Cyclists and hikers can explore the area on the 4-mile Pitcher Plant Loop trail, which follows old logging roads to take you to the plants and a wetland area.
Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.