Secret places in Shelby County

Dr. Mike Hardig looks out onto Ebeneezer Swamp, which contains a variety of plant and animal species. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Dr. Mike Hardig looks out onto Ebeneezer Swamp, which contains a variety of plant and animal species. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By Ginny Cooper McCarley

A few weeks ago, I meandered through the shaded boardwalks of Ebenezer Swamp in Montevallo with Dr. Mike Hardig, a University of Montevallo professor who was instrumental in the preservation of the swamp.

Though the day was blistering, the swamp was surprisingly cool thanks to the shade of sycamore and Tupelo gum trees, which line the path. A number of interesting plants also grow in the area—the eared coneflower, which is considered “critically impaired” in Alabama by the Fish and Wildlife Service flourishes in the swamp—and beavers, otters, wild turkeys and owls can be seen there as well.

I grew up in the area, but there were so many interesting places in Shelby County I never visited before I started writing for the Shelby County Reporter.

The Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington, nestled inconspicuously next to the public library in Columbiana, houses more than 1,000 artifacts belonging to the nation’s first president and his descendants, including letters from four of the first six presidents of the United States, including John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe and Quincy Adams.

The Ice and Coal Gallery in Old Town Helena and the Blue Phrog Gallery in downtown Montevallo both host interesting exhibits and are great places to see local art.

The Shelby County Arts Council in Columbiana also offers a plethora of local art exhibits, classes and events. On Sept. 26, the council will host Gumbo, Blues and Brews. The event will be an evening featuring gumbo prepared by a New Orleans native, with a craft beer tasting and music from Danny Brooks as well as 2Blu and the Lucky Stiffs.

And, if art isn’t your thing, Stone Hollow Farm and Old Baker Farm are both local gems as well, offering a variety of outdoor entertainment such as farm tours and festivals.

On Sept. 27, the 2014 Fall Harvest Hours will commence at Old Baker Farm, opening the farm to the public so that kids can pick pumpkins, ride hayrides, visit farm animals and clamber over haystacks.

Though summer days on the lake are coming to an end, there is still a lot to do and many places to explore in Shelby County.