Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 to provide a safe habitat for ducks, geese, and other migratory birds that winter along the banks of the Tennessee River. The 34,500-acre (13,961-hectare) refuge attracts thousands of waterfowl each winter. In addition, 285 species of birds, 115 species of fish, 74 species of reptiles, and 47 species of mammals have been recorded on the refuge. In just a short visit, I was able to see 24 species of birds, including cranes, geese, and seven species of ducks.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge contains many types of habitats, including bottomland hardwoods, wetlands, baldcypress swamps, pine uplands, shoreline or riparian woodlands, agricultural fields, and backwater embayments. The diversity of habitat types provides excellent feeding and roosting sites for waterfowl, as well as food and shelter for many of the other species of wildlife found on the refuge.
One of the most distinctive habitat types of the American South are the bald cypress swamps. A member of the redwood family, the bald cypress is one of the few firs that is deciduous. They are aquatic trees, growing in the very wet swampy soil of river systems, flood-plain lakes, and deep swamps.
The trunks of bald cypress are enlarged at the base, spreading into ridges and buttresses. Another unique feature of the trees is the cone-shaped "knees" that protrude from submerged root systems to allow the trees to get oxygen.
Called "wood eternal" because of the heartwood's resistance to decay, bald cypress is used for heavy construction, including docks, warehouses, boats, bridges, and general millwork.
There are some bald cypress swamps in the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, including the one pictured above.
For more than 9,000 years there is a record of human habitation in this cave which is in the mountains of North Alabama, near the Tennessee border. It is one of the oldest and best preserved archeological sites in the eastern United States.
Russell Cave National Mounument was established on May 11, 1961, on 310 acres of land donated by the National Geographic Society to the American people. This photo was taken on are earlier visit to Russell Cave with my son, Jeromy, before restrictions were placed on entering the lower part of the cave. The fog is caused by the cool water of the stream meeting the hot humid outside air. Today an upper entrance has a boardwalk and visitors are allowed to take either self-guided or ranger conducted tours.
Russell Cave is reached via I-24, about 38 miles west of Chattanooga, TN. Take the South Pittsburg exit, turn south on US-72 and follow to Bridgeport, AL. Turn west on County Road 75-N, follow one mile and take County Road 98-N. From there it is four miles to the Monument.
Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
April - October: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
November - March: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Note: Alabama is on Central Time, whereas nearby Chattanooga is in the Eastern Time Zone.
No Admission Fee
Once the territorial capital of Alabama, Saint Stephens today is a ghost town. It is on the Banks of the Tombigbee River and situated on a high bluff which the Choctaw Indians called Hobucakintopa.
In 1803 the Choctaw Trading House was established at Saint Stephens and the Choctaw Agency in 1805. The post was active in the deerskin trade, back when a "buck" was worth a dollar. Saint Stephens became the territorial capital in 1817, before Alabama was a state. A 200 acre park preserves the site.
There are three National Forests in Alabama: William B. Bankhead National Forest in the North, Conecuh National Forest in the South, and Talladega National Forest in the East and Central portions of the state. The Talladega is divided into two divisions, Oakmulgee Division in the central part of the state and the Talladega Division in the eastern Appalachian area. Of these the Talladega Division of the Talladega National Forest is definitely my favorite because it contains the highest mountains and the largest wilderness areas in the state.
An extraordinarily beautiful roadway is the Talladega Scenic Drive, which follows the crest of Horseblock Mountain for 23 miles of the Talladega National Forest on Highways 49 and 281. This drive reminds me of the better known Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, although the Alabama road is shorter, and much less crowded.
Several hiking trails criss-cross the Talladega, including the Pinhoti, designated a National Recreation Trail and stretching for 102 miles. I took a 24-mile backpacking trip on this trail several years ago in November and did not encounter another hiker for the entire distance, although I saw whitetail deer and wild turkey. Views from the rocky cliffs and overlooks were spectacular. Some trails in the Talladega lead to waterfalls at Devils Den, Cheaha Falls and High Falls.
These beautiful ridges and peaks are the southernmost reach of the Appalachian mountain chain which has its northern terminus 1,600 miles away in Newfoundland.
While I lived here in Alabama, the Lake had been completely washed out. Now, as I return after nearly 13 years, we found the lake and activity at it's busiest! Rent equipment for water activities, and there's a safe (roped off) area for children also. Plan for a picnic and stay all day.
For those seeking peace and quite, the secluded Blandon Springs State Park in Southwestern Alabama's Choctaw County may be just your cup of tea. When I was there I didn't see another living soul. The 357 acre Park centers around four mineral springs which are shaded by towering trees draped with spanish moss.
Park facilities include about ten campsites with water and electrical hook-ups, picnic shelters, tables, grills, restrooms and a children's playground.
Admission is free.
3921 Blandon Road
Blandon Springs, AL 36919
This is easy to miss, so look for it! Right in Oak Mountain State Park. By the way, it's right across the street from parking lot at the beach on the Lake.
You can stroll along a broad, elevated boardwalk that winds through the trees in a secluded woodland valley. We found this boardwalk a pretty nice idea to keep you off the ground and the possible encounter with a snake. Nope, you don't want to meet a snake!
The birds here are living in spacious, naturally-furnished cages in the treetops, along the elevated boardwalk, so that you can see them as they should be seen-in the wild.
Each bird has a special reason for being there. The Alabama Wildlife Center have cared for these birds that were brought to the Center with serious injuries and which would have prevented them from surviving in the wild. Now healthy, though physically imparied, the birds live a sheltered existence in a natural setting at the Treetop Nature Trail.
There is much more to see, so stop by and visit!
Had to show you my best picture taken of a Hawk at the Treetop Nature Trail. The others were not as clear because of their ability to blend into their surroundings. We enjoyed seeing each resident from afar anyway and reading about them. This is a really nice place to take children to learn to understand and appreciate these magnificent wild predators. They had Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Great Horned Owl, Black Vulture and Barred Owls.
Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman was an interesting stop located on the grounds of a Benedictine Abbey. There are over 125 miniature reproductions of famous churches, shrines and buildings from all over the world. Take Exit 308 off Interstate 65 and drive 4 miles east to St Bernard Abbey.
A small yet informative museum located in the center of the Moundsville park, this museum and giftshop is bound to have something to teach you or for you to take home with you.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was born during the turmoil of the Great Depression. Hundreds of thousands of young men were out of work, and wasteful exploitation of the environment had devoured millions of acres across America. In 1933, as part of his "New Deal" program, President Franklin D Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps in an effort to save these "two wasted resources, the young men and the land." The CCC's contribution to Moundsville were immense. They helped archaeologists excavate over 45,000 square feet of the site, unearthing more than 1,000 whole ceramic vessels. They cleaned, cleared, and restored the badly deteriorating mounds. The CCC also brought erosion under control at the site, contouring the landscape and building dams to check the runoff of water and soil. The CCC's most visible accomplishment at Moundville was the Jones Archaeological Museum. Hand-cast of reinforced concrete, the museum took over 6,000 man-days of labor and over two years to complete. Construction began in February of 1937, and the museum was dedicated May 16, 1939. Regarding the CCC, Walter B Jones, for whose family the museum is named after, declared, "It is to their everlasting credit that there is no better concrete job anywhere".
South on Hwy 69 from I-20, entering the small country town of "Moundsville", most famous for its Mississippian Pyramid/mound culture ceremonial and ritual complex also called the same as the town - "Moundsville". This is the home to one of the best preserved archaeological sites of its kind in North America. At the height of its empire, Moundsville was the largest and most powerful political and religious center in the Southeast. Nobles at Moundville ruled over thousands of people, harnessing their manpower to build these mounds and fostering a thriving economy based on corn agriculture. With the rise of large scale corn agriculture around AD 800, however, Southeastern Indians began settling in large villages and a rich and complex culture arose. Archaeologists call these people Mississippians because their culture originated in the Mississippi River Valley, spreading outward to sites like Moundville.
800 years ago, Moundville was an impressive site. More than 1,000 people lived within mud-plastered, wooden wall studded with guard towers that surrounded the city on three sides. A high bluff on the Black Warrior River formed the site's northern boundary. Between AD 1200 and 1250, the Moundville people erected at least 29 earthen pyramidial mounds in roughly rectangular pattern around a large central plaza. Ruling families used the mounds in pairs - a larger mound served as the platform for a noble's residence while a smaller mound beside it was used for religious rituals. With a population of about 10,000 people over a 60 mile stretch up and down the Black Warrior river valley from Tuscaloosa to Demopolis - Moundville is the remains of a mysterious vanished civilization.
Driving through Montgomery, Alabama one time we remembered that the country singer Hank Williams was buried there. We stopped and asked for directions to the cemetery and drove to it. There are beautiful monuments there at the graves of Hank and his wife, Audrey.
SEE PICTURES IN MY TRAVELOGUE
The Natchez Trace Parkway takes you through the northwest corner of the state of Alabama and is a very scenic drive. I enjoy traveling on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which goes from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. The Trace only goes through a small part of Alabama, but I think it is one of the most scenic.
Get off the Trace before it gets dark because there are no street lights along the roads and when it gets dark you can't see your hand in front of your face. The speed limit is slower on the Trace than on the Interstates, but it is worth going slower to enjoy the scenery and historical stops along the way.
Check out Alabama diaries online at http://www.freeopendiary.com/diarylist.asp?statecode=AL&statename=Alabama&list=5 start=1 This will give you everything you didn't want to know about people in Alabama!
the original battle house hotel was built on the site of general andrew jackson's headquarters...more
This is a nice hotel in a very nice part of town. I originally planned to stay at an airport hotel...more
the drury inn & suites is a very good moderately priced hotel located south of downtown. the drury...more