Ultimate Guide to Russell Cave, Alabama (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
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Located near the town of Bridgeport, Russell Cave is an important archaeological site that has records of thousands of years of human use. The cave was described as a National Monument in 1961 and was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
The cave is now an integral part of the National Park System and welcomes visitors from all around the globe. The cave was named after the Russell family, who owned the caves’ land for multiple generations.
Russell Cave, Alabama
The area in the Cumberland Plateau in Alabama, which is home to Russel Cave, has a peculiar topography characterized by carbonate rocks like limestone, which got eroded by the water over the years. Caves are a common feature of this erosion process, and the cave was formed when groundwater eroded cracks and fissures in the Mississippian limestone beds. Around 11,000 years ago, the cave became exposed when a sinkhole developed on the site.
How Big is Russell Cave?
The Russell Cave is the 3rd longest mapped cave in Alabama, with a length of 11.6 km. It is ranked among the top 100 long caves in the US. However, caving is no longer allowed inside the cave.
History of Russell Cave
The Russell Cave is an archaeological site near Bridgeport in Alabama. In the 1950s, archaeological excavations were conducted, which brought the site’s significance to the forefront. The National Geographic Society purchased the site in 1956 and donated it to the US Department of the Interior for establishing the Russell Cave National Monument.
This is the only national monument of Alabama. The site provides extraordinary archeological evidence or more than 8000 years ago. To explain the different stages of civilization in SE America before it encountered the European settlers. The general cultural sequence has been classified as – Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian.
For most of the 10,000 years of use of the cave by humans, the inhabitants were mainly in the Archaic stage. There are thousands of southeastern archaic sites, and Russell Cave is one of them. Recent research has shown that the inhabitants were in the transitional stage between Paleo and Archaic. They depended a lot on hunting large animals and were not much into exploiting other resources.
Geological Cave Formations in Russell Cave
Cave formations are virtually non-existent here, although it is a portion of the limestone cavern in the Alabama-Tennessee border. Excavations of the cave have helped to unearth lots of artifacts and a selection of these has been displayed at the Visitor Center.
Wildlife in Russell Cave
We all know that Russell Cave had human inhabitants many thousands of years ago, but it also gives shelter to several animal species. Today, insects of various types are common in the cave area, and one will also find bat species like a brown bat and a Northern long ear bat.
The surrounding area is also home to various snakes such as the black rat snake and mammals like white-tailed deer and foxes. There are 100 and more species of birds, and one can spot a lot of them on the North Alabama Birding Trail.
Russell Cave Tours
Every year thousands of visitors come to the cave to discover and learn about the cultural significance of Russell Cave. Most of the visitors spend their time here exploring the great mysteries of the Native Americans but touring inside the cave shelter is not permitted. However, a tour conducted by the park ranger can let you enjoy it on a deeper level.
Self-Guided Walking Tour to the Cave Shelter is a ranger-led tour that lets you experience the area that the Native Americans called their home. You can always participate in the self-guided tour to the cave shelter irrespective of the day of the week you are coming here. You can pick up the brochure, read the signs at the cave and learn all by yourself.
If you want to experience something more, you can listen to the audio tour; it is important to download the tour before coming to the park as the cave area does not have any proper cell phone or WiFi service.
Russell Cave Tour Prices and Discounts
Admission to the Russell Cave area is free, but you can opt for the Walking Tours, and the details are as follows –
- Duration – 15 min
- Fess – None
- No reservations required
- Time of the Day – Day
- Season – any time of the year
Is Russell Cave Cold?
Archaeological evidence suggests that humans used the Russell Cave for a significant part of the last 10,000 years. The main reason behind the humans’ continued use of the cave is that the cave maintains a steady temperature of 58 degrees F. It remains cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
What to Wear?
Based on the climate and weather in the area, the best time to come here is in September. The temperature remains warm in this month, and the daytime temperatures are usually in the low 80s F. It is important to pack in certain essentials like sunglasses, short sleeve shirts, sunscreen lotion, and waterproof footwear.
Important: At this time, only cave scientists are allowed into the cave, and that too in limited numbers. The public is not permitted into the cave for multiple reasons, but the most important is to curb the spread of the White Nose Syndrome.
The White Nose Syndrome is a deadly fungal disease that seriously affects hibernating bats. The hibernation cycle of the bats is disturbed due to the fungus. They are forced to remain awake in the winter when there is not enough food to survive.
Russell Cave Hours
The cave remains closed on special days like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. On the remaining days, it remains open from 8 am to 4:30 pm CST. There are no admission charges for the park, but you need to reserve beforehand if you are coming in groups of 20 or more.
What to Do at Russell Cave (Beside Tours)
There are many more things to do there besides cave exploration. There are trails, festivals, museums, and provisions for a family picnic too! Let us check out.
Russell Cave Museum
The museum area is in the visitor center, and it has many information and facts about the cave. One can view the actual artifacts and reproductions of items that were found in the cave shelter. The photos tell the story of the people that lived in the cave a long time ago.
Russell Cave Native American Festival
The annual Native American Festival is held at the cave, showcasing Native American culture and habits.
Russell Cave Prehistoric Tools
The Rangers give demonstrations of the types of tools used by the early inhabitants. You can even try to operate the pump drill or try to grind corn.
More to do at National Monument
Yes – there really is a ton of amazing things to do in the area!
Northern Alabama Nature Trail
It is an uphill trail through the Montague Mountains and extends for a distance of 1.2 miles. The terrain is steep, and one would see lots of plants and animals along the trail.
You can enjoy the picnic area if you are coming here with your family and friends. It is a large and open field where you can relax, have your lunch and even arrange a reunion with your school friends.
Best Time to Visit Russell Caves
You can visit any time of the year, but it does get hot in the summer months. So, keeping in mind the temperature and comfort factor, we believe that you can plan a trip to Russell Cave from September onwards as the average temperature drops down to low 50s F in October and night temperatures drop further down to low 40s F.
How to Get to Russell Cave
The National Monument is in Bridgeport, Alabama. It is in the NE corner of Alabama, just south of the Tennessee state line. It is to get to Russell Cave by following the simple directions –
Take Highway 72 east to County Road 75. Then turn left onto County Road 75. Turn right on to County Road 98 for about 4 miles. When you turn left, you will get to the entrance of the park.
From Nashville and Winchester
Take the US-72 West exit, exit 152 toward S. Pittsburgh and Russell Cave National Monument. Turn slight right onto US-72 West/TN-27 west. Continue to follow US-72 West. Turn right onto County Road 75. Turn right onto County Road 98. Turn left into the entrance of the park.
Hotels near Russell Cave
If you are not a fan of camping, you can check into any of the hotels near Russell Cave. Some of the better-known hotels are around 14 km from the Russell Cave National Monument. Some of the best hotels near Russell Cave are Hampton Inn Kimball and Best Western Kimball Inn.
Places To Stay Nearby
Download our Russell Cave Guide (Unofficial) HERE:
Is Russell Cave Haunted?
This National Monument was a sacred burial site at least 10,000 years old. The burial rituals included elaborate tombs and throwing bodies off the cliffs. Some of the people who have been to the cave had an uncanny feeling, but nothing more has been reported to date.
Visiting Russell Cave
Do you need more information before visiting? Call (256) 495 – 2672 or email NPS through the form for an information packet.
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