History of Perdido Pass: From man-made channel to federal waterway

July 26, 2018
Aerial photo of Perdido Pass as it appeared in 1958

By Alex Wilkerson for City of Orange Beach

Did you know that Perdido Pass was originally man-made? Prior to 1906, there was only one way to enter the Gulf of Mexico from Perdido Bay - and the back bays of present-day Orange Beach - and that was a very narrow channel, located where the Flora-Bama sits today.

In early 1906, Herman Callaway along with members of his family and the Walkers dug a channel by hand connecting Perdido Bay to the Gulf.

The hurricane of September 27, 1906 blew open the channel with its tidal surge and finished the construction of what would become known as Perdido Pass.

In the early days, the pass was extremely dangerous, shifting tides and fast-forming sand bars made navigation difficult, resulting in regular accidents. Many times, fishermen were forced to use Pensacola Pass to the east, which added many extra hours to their trips.

In 1951 Roland Walker Sr. along with other members of the Orange Beach Fishing Association began working toward regular dredging of the pass to contribute to safety. In 1953 the Alabama Department of Conservation agreed to regularly dredge Perdido Pass, however, the pass did not receive federal funding for improvements until the mid-1960s.  This change came after members of the OBFA, including Roland Walker Sr., testified to Congress’ Public Work Subcommittee, addressing the need for more work on the pass to make it safer.

The first bridge across Perdido Pass was dedicated on May 12, 1962. This bridge was a small, two-lane concrete structure. The bridge suffered damage after Hurricane Fredric and was ultimately replaced by a larger four-lane bridge, which was finished in 1989 and still stands today.

In 2012 part of the popular seawall park, a fishing spot located on the west side of the bridge, was closed due to erosion. In 2016 the City of Orange Beach spent $275,000 to fix the infrastructure of the park. It again became a gathering place for fisherman and those craving beautiful views.

Learn more about the history of Orange Beach at the Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum. The museum is at 25850 John M. Snook Drive across from City Hall. It is open Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m to 4 p.m.