3729 CR-98, Bridgeport, Alabama
Discovered by amateur archaeologists in 1953, this ballroom-size cavern is one of the oldest sites of human habitation in North America. The excavations done here have revealed much about ancient Native American life and culture in the Southeast. A boardwalk allows visitors to experience what it must have been like to enter the cave thousands of years ago.
A small band of nomadic Native Americans discovered the cave about 8,500 years ago and took shelter in it. For about 6,000 years after that it was used almost continuously as a winter refuge by the Native Americans who survived by hunting and foraging. Later, people who had evolved a more complex lifestyle used the cave as a winter hunting camp. From about a.d. 1000, however, when Native Americans had begun to practice agriculture and live in villages, the cave was used only occasionally as a shelter.
A small museum at the visitors center displays weapon points and other tools found at the site.
A short, easily walked trail takes you through the oak-hickory forest. The adjacent cave system has several miles of passageways and caverns, including such attractions as Waterfall Passage. The park’s 310 acres of natural terrain offer trails for hikers. The cavern no longer allows spelunkers.
–Open daily except major winter holidays.