Location: Bridgeport, Alabama
Website: National Park Service
Description: Russell Cave is an archeological site of one of the most complete records of the southeastern Indian culture from prehistoric to European colonization, from 10,000 B.C. to 1650 A.D. The cave is part of an extensive cave system in the limestone mountains of the region. The mapped length of Russell Cave is 7.2 miles, making it the third longest mapped caves in Alabama. The cave starts from a very large mouth that has been used by the Indians as a wintering shelter, although there is no evidence of any long term habitation. Due to silting by the creek that can flood the cave in the spring and roof collapses over the centuries, the archeological evidence extends over 30 feet below the current ground level. This provides a chronological history to the artifacts that have been found.
1) The small visitor center exhibits and film are essential for understanding the importance of this national monument. There is not much to see in the cave itself except for a couple of signs and life size statues of native Indians using the cave entrance.
2) Once again our visit coincided with a grade school field trip. While this meant there were a number of young children running around, it also meant a demonstration of using an atlatl. As we had seen and have practiced with one ourselves we skipped the demonstration.
3) We had the opportunity to talk with one the NPS employees as she was suiting up to collect some measurements of water flow after the recent rains. She was putting on essentially a hasmat outfit to reduce the chances of spreading the white fungus infections that is becoming a serious problem for native bat populations.
4) The nature hike is less than 2 miles long, but it is very steep as it climbs up the mountainside and back down with multiple switchbacks. It is paved which greatly improves the footing.