Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, 9518 Cahaba Road, is located off of Old Country Road 40 in Selma Alabama.
Because of this, it is one of the top Alabama backroads destinations.
While this park is best known as a biking paradise with over 5 miles of smooth level roads, there are some facts not as well known about it.
However, Old Cahawba Archaeological Park became a ghost town shortly after the civil war and now, in addition to a biking paradise, it is one of the best-known ghost towns in the state.
While Mother Nature has taken over most of it, Alabama historians and archaeologists are working hard to uncover its true historic past and make it a full-time interpretive park.
Right after the civil war ended, it also became a destination point for emancipated African Americans seeking both new freedom as well as political power.
However, by the year 1870 the population of Old Cahawba Archaeological Park had dwindled down to less than 300.
Then, by the turn of the century, most of the town was lost to dismantlement, decay, and fire.
The History As early as 4,000 years ago, Native American Indians occupied the entire area now known as Old Cahawba Archaeological Park.
Because of this, it has another very distinctive fact; the explorer Hernando DeSoto “may” have visited the area.
While it has been rumored for over a hundred years that this famous explorer visited a large Indian village located in this area in 1540, this has never been fully documented.
When it was named the state capital in 1819, it was literally carved out of the wilderness.
This was a gift to the new state by the President of the United States at the time, James Monroe.
Because of this development, the newly formed state legislature in Alabama was forced to find temporary accommodations.
Because the area was so new and underdeveloped, they were literally forced to make accommodations way up north in Huntsville.
However, Old Cahawba Archaeological Park finally had a statehouse built in 1820, and for years it was the functioning capital of Alabama.
However, there was one major problem: low elevation. Because of this low evaluation it very quickly developed a reputation for two things: constant flooding and worse yet, a very unhealthy atmosphere.
It was not long before the numerous politicians that opposed this site as the state capital forced its move to Tuscaloosa.
The reason they stated for the move; it was very dirty, wet, and unhealthy. In 1826 the move was made to Tuscaloosa, and as a result,
Old Cahawba Archaeological Park was nearly abandoned.
However, there was one key and overlooked fact; the flooding and unsanitary conditions where greatly exaggerated.
Because of this, the town slowly began to recover from the quick move, and soon became a distribution point for the fast-growing Alabama cotton industry.
There was a railroad line built through the area in 1859 and because of the fertile” black belt” of cotton located nearby,
Old Cahawba Archaeological Park started to grow again.
When the civil war started, it had a population that was back near 3,000 people.
However, the civil war and Mother Nature brought chaos to the area.
In the later part of 1865, a major flood hit the town, and this was followed by lice infected prisons for Union soldiers being built in the town.
(It was these prisons where most of the haunting's are believed to come from).
However, the final blow came when the country seat was moved to the nearby town of Selma and within 10 years 99% of the population followed.
Today Old Cahawba Archaeological Park is best known as a biking paradise as well as an active ghost town.
With over 5 miles of extremely smooth roads, a limited number of “free” cruiser bikes are available on a first come, first served basis.
However, in order to “borrow” a bike you must have a current driver’s license.
While visiting Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, you can visit the ruins, relics, gravestones, and the majestic old columns.
You can also, in addition to biking, hike the nature trail, which is fully accessible, as well as picnic overlooking the beautiful Alabama River.
You can also fish, bird watch, launch a canoe and go canoeing, as well as simply take pictures of nature at its finest.
The visitor center has information and exhibits, as well as a well-stocked gift shop with souvenirs and snacks.
The park hours are 9 AM to 5 PM daily and the visitor center is open from 12 to 5 PM Thursday thru Monday.
If you are going to visit, make sure you bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and bug spray as well as a good camera.
Because it is an archaeological preserve no metal detecting and no night visitors are allowed.
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