Located just outside the beautiful and historic city limits of Bridgeport, Alabama is “Russell Cave”, known for having the longest and most thorough archeological records of any known cave within the Eastern United States.
Visitors to “Russell Cave National Monument” can partake of a free, informative, ranger guided tour of the cave. The tour guide will explain in great detail the history of the cave.
Believed to have been formed from Mississippian period seas “Russell Cave” was the site of human inhabitation since the end of the last Ice Age.
“Russell Cave” is considered a limestone cave and still has an underground stream running through it.
The underground stream is assumed to have originated from the nearby “Ormh Mountain” and despite being within the cave, the stream still teams with fish and other aquatic life.
Scientists have found a bevy of well-preserved artifacts within the cave that indicate it was used by Native Americans as a form of housing for at least 10,000 years. Many of the man made and used items found within the cave are from 7,000 B.C.
It is estimated that various tribes consisting of 15 to 30 people used the cave as a hunting shelter, seasonal housing or year round housing.
During the archeological digging at least 24 human burials have been unearthed with human remains that span all age spectrums. The youngest skeleton found was that of an infant with the oldest being a skeleton of a 50 year old female.
Demonstrations and Annual Native American Event
In addition to the free, guided tours park rangers offer live demonstrations of early tool and weaponry use. Visitors are even allowed to try their own hand at using such implements.
Demonstrations include but are not limited to; atlatl use, tanning, basket weaving, corn grinding, fire starting, cookery and archery.
Each year in early May the park hosts a free “Native American Festival” that includes all of the demonstrations available throughout the year as well as food vendors, flute music and children’s activities.
Details on the annual “Native American Festival” can be found on the “Russell Cave National Monument” website.
The museum at the “Russell Cave National Monument” contains a variety of relics taken from the cave during numerous excavations that have occurred throughout the years.
Highlights of the exhibits include ancient pottery, jewelry, tools, and hunting implements. As a matter of fact the cave was the site of a bone fishhook that through carbon 14 dating was determined to be one of the oldest of its kind found within the Southeastern United States to date.
The “Russell Cave National Monument” has a large assortment of educational videos that center on both the cave’s geology and the Native peoples that resided within the region. Video viewing is complimentary and most videos range in length from 8 minutes to 60 minutes respectively.
Hike the Bird Trail
The “Russell Cave National Monument” is the home of over 115 species of birds and has been designated as a stop on the birding trail.
Novice and experienced bird watchers alike will thrill to the sightings of such birds as kinglets, kingfishers, finches, tangers, warblers, woodpeckers, owls, nut hatchers, vireos, wood ducks, vultures, turkeys, gnatcatchers and more.
Would-be watchers should note that the 1.2 miles long “Russell Cave National Monument” birding trail is very steep and is only partially paved. Therefore, those that attempt it should dress accordingly, and be prepared for some strenuous exercise.
It is also imperative to note that the 310 acres surrounding the cave is known for housing rattlesnakes, copperheads, king snakes and poison ivy. Those that hike the trail should remain on the trail and keep their eyes peeled for such dangers.
In addition to the birding trail, avid bird watchers should be on the lookout for nesting Barn Swallows which are known to make their home just inside the mouth of the cave.
A much shorter nature trail is also available for those who want to enjoy the area’s serene beauty without the strenuous exercise.
Hours of Operation and Admission
The “Russell Cave National Monument” is open daily year round except for major holidays. The “Gilbert H. Grosvenor Visitor’s Center” located within the grounds is open from 8:00 am until 4:30 pm CST.
There is no admission, parking, museum or guided tour fees related to “Russell National Monument.”
Things to Know Before Your Go
“Russell Cave National Monument” is a limited service area in that there is no camping, sundry or eating establishments within it’s’ limits.
As such visitors to the area are encouraged to bring in their own edibles and sundries. Picnic tables are available near the visitor’s center and there is a large field where one can spread out a picnic blanket as well.
A drink vending machine, water fountain and clean rest rooms are available at the visitor’s center as well.
Family pets are welcome within the “Russell Cave National Monument” as long as they are leashed. Parts of the area are also accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
Visitors are also encouraged to wear proper footwear and bring along both sunscreen and bug spray just in case.
Russell Cave National Monument
3729 County Road 98
Bridgeport, AL 35740
Those that are visiting Bridgeport during the fourth weekend in March may want to stop by the uber popular 17th Annual “Siege at Bridgeport” Civil War Re-Enactment. It is one of the best Civil War Re-enactments in the state and always draws a large crowd from all across the county.