Spotting a rainbow can be enough to spark joy in your heart, as well as offer a little reminder that even in bleak times there is beauty to be found all around us. And while we usually see these colorful phenomena in the sky, they can be found in many other places — and sometimes where you least expect it. Of all the places to visit in Alabama, this rainbow swamp swirling with colors might need to find its way onto your road trip bucket list!

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge sits as a sanctuary for migratory birds, wildlife, and nature lovers alike, encompassing 35,000 acres of rivers, creeks, swamps, woodlands, and fields.

While the natural wonders of Alabama flora and fauna can be found all over, it’s the refuge’s swamps that are truly something special.

You can wander the nearly 2,000 acres of swampland via wooden boardwalks that will wind you through the flooded forest, and it’s there you’ll find it. Across the surface of the swamp's waters, an array of colors shimmer in the sun's rays as if the whole swamp were a giant rainbow.

According to Jeff Ripple, a former Florida swamp walk leader, the rainbows are caused by naturally occurring oils. He told BBC in an interview that the oils are released from decaying vegetation. While the rainbow swamp effect isn’t exclusive to Alabama, it is a very special occurrence.

Jeff went on to explain in his BBC interview that the water needs to be still for a while for the rainbows to shine through, so on windy days, the swirling technicolor waters may appear more plainly in hue.

The swamp rainbows are more common in smaller areas and are also more likely to appear brighter in color if it hasn’t rained for a while.

While there may not be a pot of gold to be found around here, you should still count yourself lucky to come across these special swamp rainbows!

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Address: 3121 Visitor Center Road, Decatur, AL

Why You Need To Go: Explore Alabam's wildlife, and maybe even catch a special swamp rainbow!


We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.


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