Dauphin Island is a town in Mobile County, Alabama (U.S.), on a barrier island also named Dauphin Island (split by the Katrina Cut), at the Gulf of Mexico. The population was 1,371 at the 2000 census. The town is included in the Mobile metropolitan statistical area. The island (originally named "Massacre Island") was renamed for Louis XIV's great-grandson and heir, the Dauphin.
The Gulf of Mexico is to the south of the island; the Mississippi Sound andMobile Bay are to the north. The island's eastern end helps to define the mouth of Mobile Bay. The eastern, wider portion of the island, is shaded by thick stands of pine trees, but the narrow, western part of the island features scrub growth and few trees.
Dauphin Island is home to Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Estuarium public aquarium, the Dauphin Island Airport, boat ramps, a large public pier (that sits on dry land), historic sites, several restaurants, new condominium developments, and numerous private homes. Beaches attract tourism, and fishing is a popular activity in the waters around the island. The island is connected to the mainland by the Gordon Persons Bridge.
Although the island has several bird sanctuaries, the main one is the 164-acre (66 ha) Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Dauphin Island is the first landfall encountered by many birds as they migrate north from South America, and as a consequence many species can be found resting there before continuing their journey.
In May 2012, the central public beach began charging for access. This marked the second beach on the island to charge the public following the creation of the privately owned West End Beach.
|Town of Dauphin Island|
Fort Gaines on the eastern end of Dauphin Island
Serpentine shell middens, perhaps 1500 years old, attest to at least seasonal occupation by the Native American Mound Builder culture. Shell Mound Park, along the Island's northern shore, is administered by Alabama Marine Resources Division.
In 1519, the Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda was the first documented European to visit, staying long enough to map the island with remarkable accuracy.
The island's French history began on January 31, 1699, when the explorer Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, one of the founders of French Louisiana, arrived at Mobile Bay, and anchored near the island on his way to explore the mouth of the Mississippi River. D'Iberville named it "Isle Du Massacre" (Massacre Island) because of a large pile of human skeletons discovered there. The gruesome site turned out to be a simple burial mound which had been broken open by a hurricane, not a massacre site, but the name stuck.
D'Iberville later decided to locate a port for Fort Louis de La Louisiane on the island due to abundant timber, reliable supply of fresh water, and a deep-water harbor. The settlement consisted of a fort, a chapel, government-owned warehouses, and residences.
The island served as a major trading depot, unloading goods from Saint-Domingue(Haiti), Mexico, Cuba and France, and collecting furs in a short-lived fur trade. Mobile Bay itself, before a channel was dredged, was too shallow, and its sand bars too shifting and treacherous, for ocean-going vessels to travel up the bay andMobile River to Fort Louis de La Louisiane. So, smaller boats carried cargo within Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island.
Fort Gaines on the eastern tip of the island was built between 1821 and 1848. It was occupied by Confederate forces in 1861, and captured by Federal troops during theBattle of Mobile Bay. The phrase, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead," was spoken by U. S. Admiral David Farragut just a few hundred yards from Dauphin Island's shore.
The first Sand Island Light, authorized in 1834, was replaced by a structure 150 feet (46 m) high, at a cost of $35,000, that was dynamited by Confederate forces. The present lighthouse (1873; in use until 1970), has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its ownership was recently transferred from the Department of Interior to the Town of Dauphin Island.
On the top is the historic Ft Gaines with two cannons (one facing North and one facing South) which represents Dauphin Island's part in America's Civil War of the 1860s. The boat is a shrimping vessel which represents the livelihood of many of the residents of the island and the Dolphin is a mammal seen quite often in the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile bay waters surrounding the Island. The birds are Pelicans which are numerous around the island and the entire Gulf coast. The Fleur de Lis represents France (1699–1764). The sailing ship is a Spanish Galleon (1781–1813). Both countries were very influential in settling the area.
The old walled Fort Gaines is on the east end of Dauphin Island. A ferry from nearby Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores brings both vehicles and pedestrians to the island. One of the closest attractions to the ferry dock is The Estuarium, a fresh- and saltwater aquarium highlighting species native to Alabama.