U.S. Postal Service carrier Mark Lipscomb cruises along the Magnolia River in his 15 foot aluminum boat while delivering mail along the only water delivery route in the country around Magnolia Springs, Ala. The water route serves about 180 homes and Lipsomb has worked the water for the past nine years. The water delivery service started around 1915 because of poor road conditions. Now it is a rare tradition that Lipscomb hopes to keep alive.
MAGNOLIA SPRINGS, Ala. (PNJ) -- Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night - or even alligators - stays this appointed courier from his rounds.
OK, the odd hurricane may delay delivery for a day or two.
Lipscomb has been delivering mail to people who live along Week's Bay
and the Magnolia and Fish rivers for nine years. His mode of
transportation isn't the usual white U.S. Postal Service vehicle. It's a
15-foot-long Alumacraft boat with a semi-V hull.
"It's a unique job. It's a very special job," Lipscomb said. "It has its share of challenges."
works the only water delivery mail route in the country, said Debbie
Fetterly, spokeswoman in Alabama for the U.S Postal Service. The route
started in 1915. While budget troubles have forced the closure of
several post offices the last couple of years, there are no plans to
close this route, which serves about 180 homes along its 31 mile length,
takes Lipscomb about two hours each day to sort the mail at the
Magnolia Springs post office, located about 35 miles west of Pensacola
in Baldwin County. Boating the route usually takes about four hours a
day. The craft rarely comes to a complete stop and residents sometimes
leave their mailboxes open for speedy insertion.
see alligators all the time when it's warm. Snakes, bobcats, deer, a
lot of hawks. Sometimes you see bald eagles," he said. "This part of
Baldwin County is very populated, but once you get on the river, it's
Holk has lived along Magnolia River for 35 years. He and his wife,
Lolly, have raised three children on the river. He serves as mayor
pro-tem for Magnolia Springs.
your mail delivered by boat is a lot like getting it delivered the
regular way," he said. "You get bills you don't want and you get junk
mail you don't want. The difference is our mailboxes face the water, not
But there is a downside to water delivery, Holk said.
mailbox is a little too low," he said. "I went out to get the mail
recently and it was a little damp. We had an especially high tide that
day. So if you don't mind damping mail occasionally, there are no real
Holk serves on the board of directors for the Week's Bay Foundation,
an educational organization that works in conjunction with the Week's
Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Having the only water mail
delivery route in the country works well with his advocacy efforts.
mail route gets a lot of publicity and attention," Holk said. "That's
good because it also brings attention to the reserve and the river. One
of the reasons Magnolia Springs was incorporated was to protect the
along the route changes from civilization to pristine beauty quickly.
There are long stretches where the quiet is pierced by the drone of the
boat's engine and the slap of water against the hull.
can be 16 piers in a row, then you go around a curve in the river and
it's like it was in the old days," Lipscomb said. "Then it's another
mile or so of just wilderness and you come into a stretch and have four
piers in that part of the river. The river changes all the time. It's
not unusual for me to see things I've never seen before."
are also times when he has to hit terra firma. This time of year,
because of the holidays, he always sees a spike in package deliveries.
there are a lot of packages, or one or two heavy boxes, I can leave a
slip in the mailbox, and the customers come by the post office to pick
them up," he said. "Most of the customers know that if it's a small
package, I'll put it in the boat in their boathouse to keep it out of
the weather. I delivered a guitar recently. I took it up to the house
and put it out of the weather."
Folks along the route have their mailboxes in the backyards, usually attached to docks or piers.
on the water tend to be a little more laid back than people on the
usual routes," he said. "I took over this job from my cousin, who had it
for 15 years. I'm fifth generation in this community and know just
about everybody. I was a customer on the route before I took this job."
Phillips, 63, has been getting his mail through the water mail delivery
system for the past six years. The retired businessman says the mail is
"always on time."
"It's been excellent. I'll be out on the dock, and (Lipscomb) is very
friendly. We live at the bridge, and tourists and people from out of
town come to the house and ask us if we mind that they go down to our
dock and take a picture of the mail box and (the mailman)," Phillips
Should the water mail delivery system be cut, Phillips said the community would quickly come to its rescue.
it did, you would see the community come together and pitch in for the
salary to keep it going," Phillips said. "That's one thing we are very
Weather is the big concern, especially when thunderstorms blow up.
just go into somebody's boathouse and take shelter until the storm
blows over," Lipscomb said. "My customers take very good care of me. If
they are home, they ask me into their house to ride out any bad weather.
When it's hot, they'll meet me on a pier and give me water or a cool
drink. I've been invited to birthday parties several times.
couple of years ago, we had a hurricane. We couldn't deliver for a day
or two. But most of the time, the letters and packages go through."
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