Orange Beach was named for the oranges that were grown here and exported until the hard-freezes of 1916. The orange groves are gone, but the name remained. Drawn here by the game they hunted, the early Indians discovered the seafood bounty of the Gulf of Mexico. The shell mounds and archeological digs give evidence of thousands of years of Indian visits. The Spanish land grants of Samuel Suarez and William Kee were the beginnings of area development. Logging and pine sap collection (turpentine/naval stores) were early industries. This sparsely populated wilderness was sustained by farming and fishing until the mid 1800s. Area battles during the Civil War brought a large influx of troops, many stayed or later returned causing the population to grow. Over the next 70 years, the community grew with commercial and sports fishing becoming its main industries. The completion of the Intra-Coastal Canal in 1932 brought more development. Travel to Pensacola was made easier in 1962 by a bridge from Alabama Point to Perdido Key.
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Area population steadily expanded through the years until Hurricane Frederic in September 1979. After the national media coverage following Hurricane Frederic, Orange Beach was "discovered" by major developers and the condominium-building boom began in full swing. That growth caused the need for controls and better infrastructure, prompting the incorporation of the City of Orange Beach in 1984. Since incorporation, new bridges and roads have been built, along with additional marinas, navigational improvements and expansion of other infrastructures. Charter fishing (now a year-round recreation) has remained a mainstay of the city's economy. Orange Beach host fishermen from around the world who come here to compete in world championship tournaments. Today, with its bays and bayous and sugar-white sand beaches set against the azure waters of the Gulf, the city has grown into a modern resort.