Russell Cave :: Bridgeport, Alabama
In a small corner of northeastern Alabama, just a breath south of Tennessee is a nondescript cave that played home to human kind for ten millennia. Russell Cave, named after Revolutionary War hero Thomas Russell who owned the land when the area was first mapped, is one of the more historically fascinating and underappreciated national parks in the United States. Averaging just a little over 20,000 visitors a year, this natural wonder is rife with ancient archeological treasures. The first official excavations of Russell Cave were begun in 1953 and since then thousands of pounds of artifacts have been unearthed revealing an extremely detailed timeline of human history. Layer by layer, scientists have revealed the evolution of tool usage, weaponry, fishing gear, the birth of pottery, and secrets of the day to day lives of America’s earliest inhabitants.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places you will find Russell Cave surrounded by 310 pristine acres of forest, streams, mountains, and lots and lots of wildlife. This served the ancient cave dwellers well as there was an unlimited supply of natural resources. Though the porcupine and peccary are now extinct in the area due to over hunting by European settlers, it is still quite common to see bats, deer, turkeys, black bears, birds and abundant plant life. The birds in the area are of particular interest to visitors due to the numerous variety of species. With over 115 different species of bird, it is clear why it is one of the favorite stops on the North Alabama Birding Trail. Some of the frequently spotted winged wonders include whippoorwills, indigo buntings, goldfinches, vireos, and many more.
The clear highlight of any trip to Russell Cave is the ranger led tours of the cave shelter itself. Fully handicap accessible it’s a perfect and spectacular vacation destination for any age. If you want some extra excitement, come by the first weekend of May for the Native American Festival. With free admission (same for the park itself) experience storytelling, dancing, pottery making, wood carving, music, and plenty of activities for the kiddies. The rest of the year check out the museum, see prehistoric weapon demonstrations, go on glorious day hikes, and simply enjoy the beauty and the splendor that the park has to offer. And you don’t even have to leave Spot or Fluffy behind as pets on a leash are welcome. Alabama’s only national monument, Russell Cave is truly the experience of a life time.
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