On the Mobile Delta

September 7, 2016


Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Leslie Anne TarabellaAs children grow older, it’s harder to impress them, but I was determined before Harrison returned for his Junior year in college, I’d spend a memorable, fun day with both boys. My husband does lots of he-man things with them, but I wanted a “Mom/boys” day that didn’t involve a trip to Dillard’s. I finally came up with the idea of taking them on an eco tour of the Mobile Delta.

Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Leslie Anne TarabellaI found 17 Turtles Outfitters who rent kayaks and paddle boards on Mobile Bay. They also provide excursions up into the deep reaching fingers of the Delta where five rivers converge. I was thrilled to realize local environmental expert Jimbo Meador would be our guide. I’d met Jimbo before when he appeared with his childhood friend and author, Winston Groom to celebrate the anniversary of Forrest Gump, and Jimbo was there to deflect (strong) rumors that many of the characteristics of Forrest were based on him. (Open your copy of Forrest Gump I know you have on your bookshelf, and you’ll see the book is dedicated to Jimbo).


Watt Key and Jimbo Meader - Mobile Bay MonthlyThis photo is from Mobile Bay Monthly and shows Jimbo with author Watt Key. Click HERE to read Watt’s story about Jimbo’s incredible experiences. One of my favorite things about Jimbo is that Paramount Studios sent a dialect coach to record him speaking to teach Tom Hanks how to sound like . . . Forrest Gump. It’s officially known in Hollywood now as the, “Point Clear Alabama dialect.”


Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Harrison TarabellaBeing avid photographers, both boys were anxious to capture the day. Harrison is in a “dark” phase and his photos, like this one above, turned out to have a dream-like quality.


Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Leslie Anne TarabellaHe thought this was a hilarious photo of me using my iphone to snap a picture when I had two very capable photographers aboard with me.


Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Leslie Anne TarabellaJimbo asked the boys if they wanted a check list to keep track of the birds they saw, but it sounded too much like school work for them. This was the quietest I’ve seen the two of them in a long time. They were taking it all in and observing every last detail.


Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Leslie Anne TarabellaAt one point, we moved beneath the I-10 bridge, or “Bayway” as locals call it. (The boys always called the Causeway the, “Cars-way” – I know, they were adorable!).  There was a slow moving, mean looking alligator that crossed right in front of us but didn’t seem to care a thing about us at all.


Mobile Delta - Joseph TarabellaJoseph snapped this photo of the only wildlife that ventured inside the boat.


Mobile Delta by Joseph TarabellaThe Mobile Delta is the second largest delta in the United States and has been referred to by many biologists and ecologist the most biodiverse area in the world. The largest alligator on record was captured here two years ago and Jimbo said he’s recorded nearly 500 different species of birds.


Mobile Delta by Joseph Tarabella

The noise of the interstate faded quickly as we made our way further into the rivers. Hidden waterways, familiar only to Jimbo were the paths we took to move deeper into the hidden world of the Delta. Every now and then, Jimbo would cut the boat motor for a few minutes, and the silence was incredible. I wanted to sit still and listen all day to the hum of an insect, chirp of a bird, splash of a jumping fish . . . it was so different than my normal world and completely spellbinding.


Mobile Delta by Joseph TarabellaJimbo pointed out invasive grasses and plants that are choking the waterways. He showed us where Civil War cannons were pushed off a cliff and soldiers had built fortresses to guard the path from the Gulf of Mexico, up Mobile Bay and into the rivers. He showed us where his childhood friend’s family kept a houseboat where he spent many nights. We heard a story about how Jimbo won a nutria  hunting contest and the part about Miss Nutria wearing nothing but a full length nutria coat cracked us up.


Wild rice from the Mobile Delta - Leslie Anne TarabellaI was fascinated at the sight of wild rice growing in the Delta. To think the Delta hadn’t changed at all since the days when Native Americans floated along and gathered the grains, berries and fish. Jimbo pulled the boat up close to some rice and loaned me his pocketknife (which is a great honor and sign of trust) so I could lean over the bow and cut a stalk.


Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Leslie Anne TarabellaI generally have a good sense of direction, but after a while, I was totally turned around. I don’t see how Indians of long ago navigated these waterways with dugout canoes without getting lost. I guess that’s where all the navigating by the sun and moon came in. No matter which way we turned, I felt completely safe with Jimbo.


Mobile Delta Eco Tour - Leslie Anne TarabellaAs quiet as the boys were on the boat, they were just as talkative on the way home. Not only were they impressed with Jimbo’s knowledge and stories, but they were truly impressed with the beauty of the Mobile Delta. It was the perfect end to a wonderful summer and an exiting start to the new school year.



  • Carol Willis says:

    Absolutely loved my virtual trip of the Delta with you and your boys! Building memories is life’s greatest joy!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Thanks Carol. It was definitely a joyful day.

  • Savan Wilson says:

    Loved this story about Jimbo. You picked a winner idea for your time with your boys. The Indian mound trip is also worth a visit. The Delta is one of our best attractions.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      The Indian mound is a great idea I’ll add to the growing list. Thanks for the good idea!

  • Sounds like a wonderful adventure for you and your boys. I’m glad you shared your time with us. Thank you!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Thanks Hope. I hope with the weather getting cooler (fingers crossed) others will get out and explore!

  • Such a great mother/son idea, and lots of knowledge gleaned as well. I know exactly where you were at the I-10 “carsway” or Bayway, or whatever it’s called. 🙂 We’ve driven over that bay many times and I even drove our motorhome over it on one occasion. It was coming a storm on that particular day, with gusting winds, and it was my first time to drive it. I had prayed plumb through by the time we reached the other side.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      I think there’s been lots o praying on that bridge! For those that don’t know, it ends in Mobile by sweeping you through a tunnel with a sharp turn at the end. It’s been called one of the worst engineering projects in the USA. Plans are underway for a replacement bridge that is supposed to rival the Golden Gate Bridge! More fun for those pulling campers!

  • Leslie Anne, I think you won Mom of the Year with this Delta trip for your guys! I know it was better than Dillard’s! It sounds so interesting with Jimbo as your guide, I might have to check into the Delta! I am so glad you made lasting memories! Pam @ Everyday Living

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Thanks Pam. Jimbo’s input definitely made the trip twice as fun!

  • I went kayaking on the Delta a couple weeks ago and it was so pretty and peaceful. Definitely a great experience and I’m glad I did it. Helped me get over the fear of the gators out there a little bit. ha! 🙂

    • Leslie Anne says:

      You are a brave and beautiful soul! There’s tranquility to be found in these waters, alligators be damned!

  • There really is nothing more beautiful and interesting than nature. It’s the perfect subject for photographers. I’m glad that the alligator left you alone!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      I guess because I grew up on the Gulf Coast hearing about and seeing alligators, I have a GREAT respect (and total fear) of them. As much as I love to kayak, I rarely do because we have so many of them I’ve seen lurking in the bay.

  • What a great time together! So great that you planned this.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Thanks Lori. Now I’ve got to think of something fun for next summer!

  • You are such a smart mama, what a memorable day for all of you! I love the shot of you taking the iphone pic, your hat contrasting with the dark waters of the delta, very cool!!!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Oh thanks Jenna. Harrison’s photos can make me look cool. A sign of a skilled artist!

  • I assure you that you impressed those boys! They will aways remember this.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Their silence spoke volumes.
      Thanks Ellen.

  • That sounds like a an absolute wonderful mom/sons day. The pictures are all great too.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Thanks Sandy. It was truly great.

  • Bonnie McNie Gulsby says:

    I would love to take my grandchildren on this type I’d day trip. How do I get in touch with Jimbo?
    I so enjoy your articles. Thank you so much!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Thanks Bonnie. Just click on the link of 17 Turtles at the top of the story and it will take you to their web site where there’s a phone number. You’re sure to have a wonderful day you’ll all remember forever!

  • What a great idea and way for you to spend time with your boys while learning about the area. You certainly did luck out with your guide! I enjoy the scenery when we cross the “causeway” and out my “window with a view” from the chain hotel room on the bay. Sounds like the boys enjoyed this outing as much as mom. Great post. One question, wasn’t is hot as blazes out there?

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Good question and something I worried about, but honestly, there was a breeze over the water and even the boys commented afterwards how nice the temperature had been. I guess that’s one reason why the original Native Americans made their camps deep in the Delta. Natural air conditioning!

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