The Russell Cave is one of the most famous in the entire Southeast for two very important reasons; it’s extremely rich history and its massive entrance.
It is believed that because of this large entrance, this is what attracted humans to settle in this natural structure for thousands of years.
It is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites not only in the southeast, but the entire country.
Because of this, it has become one of the most visited caverns in the United States.
The site where it sets in known as the Russell Cave National Monument and is located the northeastern part of Alabama.
Located near the town of Bridgeport, it was named as a national Monument in the year 1961.
Because of its significance as an archaeological site, it was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the year 1966.
There are several main attractions that are near the area or happen in the area, making it one of the best of the Alabama Backroads Day trips.
It is named after the Russell family, who has owned the land surrounding the Russell Cave for several generations.
One of the major things that make it stand out among other like structures in the area is its extremely large entrance.
Because of this large entrance, experts have confirmed that there have been numerous per-historic as well as modern Indian tribes that utilized it.
Most experts believe that these early Native Americans used Russell Cave as their major sheltering area during the winter months in Alabama.
These same pre-historic and more modern-day Native Americans also used the land that surround it to survive.
They are believed to have used the surrounding forest to both hunt and fish, as well as utilizing it for wood fuel and to make tools.
There is also something else that is unique about Russell Cave other than its large entrance; it is very long.
Its actual mapped length on record is just over 7 miles, which makes it the third longest mapped cave in the State of Alabama.
It is part of what is referred to as the “TAG” area, which is made up of areas located in Southeastern Tennessee, Northern Alabama, as well as Southeastern Georgia.
The geography in this area is well known for producing caves, because of what is referred to as “karst topography”.
This type of topography is best described as limestone or dolomite rock that has eroded over time by the effects of water.
It is believed that thousands of years ago its very large entrance was the result of a large sinkhole that developed.
The Russell Cave location is also very close to an abundant water supply, known as Doran Cove, which also made it extremely attractive to the early Native Americans.
There are numerous archaeologists’ findings that show that it was used for thousands of years by humans.
They have found the remains of mammals, as well as birds, fish, deer, and wild turkey in Russell Cave, and these are still very common in the area today.
There have also been several areas that have been tested and confirmed as being “fire pits’, where the pre-historic Americans Indians would have cooked their kills.
There have also been remains of what is called an “atlatl”, which is an ancient tool that would have been used by these very early cave dwellers to hunt.
It is a stick that is carved and then curved, and then is hallowed out at the end, and it is this part that actually held the end of the spear.
This allowed for this device to be thrown not only for greater distances, but with a lot more accuracy.
As of the most recent date, teams of archaeologists have excavated about thirty feet down in the cave.
Because of these excavations, it is no longer opened to “cavers”, and is only open to scheduled public tours.
There are other attractions at Russell Cave other than just the caverns, and they include the following.
The Visitor Center
Russell Cave is open to the public seven day a week and is open year around except for major holidays.
The Visitor Center located near the site is named after a famous editor of the National Geographic Magazine, Gilbert Grosvenor.
It includes a museum that shows the pubic several displays of the artifacts that have been found near the site, as well as in the Cavern itself.
The Park Rangers at the center will also show visitors how the Native Americans used the weapons that they built to hunt.
In addition to the exhibits, there are documented films that show the lifestyles of these pre-historic cave dwellers.
There are also picnic grounds, a gift shop, and a bookstore located at the visitor center.
The Cave Shelter
This attraction at the Russell Cave is a guided tour by the Park Service that shows the areas that were occupied by these pre-historic dwellers.
The shelter area includes a diorama, which is a three-dimensional full-size model that shows representations of these early occupants.
There are two walking trails available to the public at this site, and they include the Nature Trail and the Back-country Trail.
The easier of the two is the Nature Trail that is that is just a shade over one-half mile long and is paved.
The Back-country trail is just over one mile long and is a dirt trail.
Both of the trails will show you the natural beauty in the area.
The Native American Festival
The Native America Festival is held the first weekend in May at the park, and it includes several Native American traditions.
These include dancing, storytelling, music by pre-historic instruments, as well as a historic reenactment.
It also includes a demonstration of the early weapons that they used to hunt, fish, and protect themselves.
The North Alabama Birding Trail
The best known of all the attractions at Russell Cave, is the North Alabama Birding Trail, as it is technically site number 44 on this famous bird watching series of trails.
It is not really a trail, but instead is a series of roadside stops that have been carefully selected as the best sites to watch unique birds in the area.
Some of the breeds you might see on these sites are species such as the tanager, yellow -billed cuckoo, as well as a myriad of songbirds.
Because of the rich history of the Russell Cave and these additional attractions, this is one of the most popular of the Alabama backroads day trips
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