Alabama in the southern United States has one of the highest densities of caves by area of any state in the US. Cavers the world over come to Alabama to get a chance to explore its wealth of amazing caves. Unfortunately, some of the best caves in the state are located on private property; however, there are a number of caves open to the public or accessible on tours that provide the average tourist with plenty of opportunities to go down below in Alabama. Many of the caves were historically used by Native Americans, so in addition to having a rich natural beauty, several have historical significance as well as signs of their prehistoric residents. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Cathedral Caverns State Park
3.Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge
5.Rickwood Caverns State Park
6.Russell Cave National Monument
7.Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge
7 Best Caves in Alabama
- Cathedral Caverns State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Samuel Edwards - Fotolia.com
- DeSoto Caverns, Photo: DeSoto Caverns
- Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of Rachel - Fotolia.com
- Manitou Cave, Photo: Courtesy of pbombaert - Fotolia.com
- Rickwood Caverns State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Wirepec - Fotolia.com
- Russell Cave National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of slay19 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of nercoz - Fotolia.com
More Ideas in Alabama: Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature Center
The Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature Center is part of the School of Forestry & Wildlife Sciences at Alabama’s Auburn University. Located just a few miles from downtown Auburn, the area is an oasis of native flora and fauna, and offers streams, ponds, and an old home and barn site.
The 120-acre Kreher Preserve and Nature Center is divided into seven distinct natural habitats. Habitats include the Longleaf Pine Demonstration Forest, a large forested area located near the main entrance. A Wildflower Trail traverses the preserve past a bird observation area. Boulder Ridge overlooks a natural springs, and Butterfly Garden is located near the Preserve’s north entrance. Hidden Falls trail follows a creek that leads into the preserve’s pond. Additional areas of interest include a scenic Azalea bloom site and Fern View valley. An old Homestead has an adjacent vegetable garden. The historic cabin and surrounding fields serve as a favored location for many of the Preserve’s private events, weddings and parties.
Over 5 miles of hiking trails are located throughout the Preserve. Most offer benches where hikers can pause and rest, and many trails are decorated with interpretative signage and kiosks that help identify native plants and animals. Thirty different trails offer all types of terrain, for easy to moderate hikes. Geocaching is a popular activity throughout the Kreher Preserve. The high-tech scavenger hunt uses GPS locating devices and is a popular outdoor recreation activity worldwide.
A children’s play are offers exploration of a landscape built from fallen logs, mounds of dirt, boulders, tunnels, a treehouse and mock eagle’s nest and beaver dam. Amenities throughout the preserve include drinking fountains and wheelchair accessible restrooms.
A 150-seat amphitheater is used for events and programming, and includes a wheelchair accessible meeting area and fire pit, as well as adjacent covered educational pavilion.
History: The Preserve and Nature Center’s 120 acres were donated to Auburn University in 1993 by Dr. Louise Kreher Turner and her husband, Frank Allan Turner. Originally belonging to the Creek Indians, the land eventually was used as a cotton farm, and under the ownership of the Turners, as an area for cattle grazing.
Dr. Turner managed programs at the Preserve and Nature Center from 1998 to 2000, before handing it over to volunteers from the University. The University hired the first full-time program administrator in 2007. With a full-time administrator in place, the University was able to open the land to the public 24 hours daily, 365 days per year, in 2008.
Today, the Preserve and Nature Center are funded in part by the University, supplemented by the Friends of the Preserve, which organizes fee based programming, sponsorships and membership options for the community.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center’s mission is to “leave no child inside” and to serve all “students” not only students at Auburn University, but in the surrounding communities. A valuable resource for the public, the preserve offers programming in outdoor recreation and environmental education. Community programs are designed to serve all ages, from pre-kindergartners to seniors.
Guided tours of the Preserve are available monthly. Discovery Hikes are led by a naturalist guide and are appropriate for families with children as young as 5 years old. Guides teach hiking participants about the plants and animals found within the Preserve. Nature Walks take place in the mornings and are more peaceful opportunities to socialize while enjoying the sounds and sights of the preserve.
Science programming includes presentations on native wildlife through free programs such as Creepy Wonderful Critters and AUsome Reptiles and Amphibians. Science on Saturdays is a fee-based program that invites Auburn University faculty, staff or visiting scientists to speak on a variety of topics, with hands-on activities for children to complement the lessons. Topics focus on sustainability and conservation, or outdoor recreational topics such as geocaching and spelunking.
Family Fun Day and S’More Fun with Mom encourage family participation in outdoor activities and appreciation of plants and animals. Additional outdoor recreational programming includes an annual 5K run and Ho Ho Ho Hike, a holiday-themed scavenger hunt that raises funds for the East Alabama Food Bank.
Birthday party packages for children offer the choice of several different themes, including Frogs and Fun, Art in Nature, Nuts for Nature and Radical Reptiles. All packages are designed for children ages 2 to 4, and offer educational entertainment using puppets and live animals.
2222 North College Street Auburn, AL 36849, Phone: 334-502-4553
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More Ideas in Alabama: Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge
The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is located along the banks of the Chattahoochee River in southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia. The 11,000-acre refuge is named Eufaula for the closest nearby city, which is 7 miles south of the refuge. Established in 1964, the land serves to protect the area’s wetlands, and the wildlife that depends on the riparian habitat.
A varied landscape of wetlands, forest, agricultural fields and open water provide habitat and food for wintering waterfowl and other species. Seasonal wetlands lining the banks of the Chattahoochee River appear after winter flooding subsides, and are colonized by plants as the banks dry out. Seeds from the plants become food for migrating water birds. A pump system in use at the refuge keeps the wetlands seasonally functioning, even in years when there is no flooding. The refuge is currently undergoing a process to return much of the land to its historic native prairies and longleaf pine grassland. The necessary and natural element of fire has been reintroduced, and longleaf pine has been planted and is in various stages of growth.
Over 300 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, and countless reptiles, amphibians and fish make their permanent or winter home each year within the refuge. Wildlife at the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge includes the American alligator and the copperhead rattlesnake. Mammals include white tailed deer and coyotes. Among the birds nesting in the area are osprey, the great blue heron, and the wood duck. Eastern fox squirrels, wild turkeys and bobwhite quail are returning to the fire-adapted native prairies as they become restored. Riparian marshes serve as homes for insects, minnows, dragonflies, turtles and frogs, while the waterways are full of bass and bream. The wood stork is among the endangered or threatened species protected by the refuge.
Points of interest within the wildlife refuge include an 8-mile long scenic drive. The drive winds through both wetland and upland habitat. Stopping points along the drive include an observation tower that overlooks the Houston Bottoms for winter waterfowl watching, and an uplands wildlife viewing platform for year round bird watching, and raptor spotting in the late fall and winter. The drive is also open to bicyclists and hikers. In addition, there is a short, .3-mile hiking trail that guests may access from the refuge’s main entrance.
History: The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge was established in partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1964. The Army Corps manages the Refuge’s 45,000-acre Lake Eufaula, also known as the Walter F. George Reservoir, and the Walter F. George Lock and Dam, which formed the lake by impounding the water flowing from the Chattahoochee River.
National Wildlife Refuges are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. There are over 550 refuges nationwide, include 38 wetland management districts. Approximately 325,000 guests visit the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge annually. Friends of Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is a non-profit organization that organizes volunteers and funds to supplement the Wildlife Refuge’s staff and minor budget. They recently completed projects to construct wheelchair accessible blinds, make bird nesting boxes, and landscape the area around the refuge’s main office.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Activities at the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge include hunting and fishing. Both require permits and visitors should be aware of seasonal restrictions. The refuge’s most popular hunts are archery hunts for white tailed deer, and waterfowl hunts. Other hunted animals include dove, squirrel and rabbit. Fishing takes place on Lake Eufaula, which is a man-made body of water due to impoundment. The location is known as the big bass capital of the world for its bass fishing.
Bird watching programs are found through the Georgia Southern Rivers Birding Trail, or the Wiregrass Birding Trail in Alabama, both organizations operate programs within the refuge, which has been designated as an Important Bird Area by the United States for the large number of wintering rusty blackbirds, a bird of conservation concern.
What’s Nearby: The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is bordered on the Alabama side by Lakepoint State Park. The 1,200-acre park occupies the western short of Lake Eufaula. The state park offers a 100-room lodge, close to 200 campsites, fishing cabins and lakeside cottages as well as a convention center. Recreational amenities include hiking trails, picnic pavilions, swimming pools and a marina.
367 Highway 165 Eufaula, AL 36027, Phone: 334-687-4065
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More Ideas in Alabama: Huntsville Botanical Garden
Open throughout the year, the Huntsville Botanical Garden Huntsville, AL is home to a beautiful picturesque aquatic garden, a nature trail, and even a giant wildflower. There are many arrays of plants and specialized gardens that aren’t commonly found in natural botanical gardens.
For children, there’s the Children’s Garden – a place where kids can experience the world of dinosaurs as it was when they roamed the Earth. On the other hand, if you’re a space lover, you might enjoy the Galaxy of Lights. Unlike others, this garden celebrates several family festivals, tailored to create a great family experience for people of all ages, and also hosts annual summer exhibits. The Huntsville Botanical Garden gets much of its support from Garden Members, supporters, and corporate donors and as such is a privately run not-for-profit organization. For collectors and those wishing to take away exquisite souvenirs from their great visits, the garden has you covered. You can drop by the gift shop, check out the facility rental options or enroll for an educational course.
As mentioned earlier, the Huntsville Botanical Garden has tons of exhibits to view, activities to participate in, and festivals to celebrate. It’s well suited for families and is an enjoyable experience for children and adults alike. Their list of activities and events is so long that we can’t even imagine fitting them into one single article, but we have put together some of the more notable and exceptionally ones. However, a picture is worth a thousand words and an experience is worth a thousand pictures – so apparently, nothing beats going there and checking it out for yourself!
That being said, here is a lit of some of the family-tailored facilities available, starting from things that would appeal to children and working its way up to the more serious, botanically oriented exhibits that are more likely to fascinate adults.
The Children’s Garden
The Children’s Garden was mentioned earlier, so if that piqued your interest, then here’s the main course to go with the appetizer! In this garden, you can explore the ancient and almost-mythical world of dinosaurs, see real footprints and fossils, and even walk through the rib cage of a dinosaur. There is also an actual space station node that was donated by the Marshall Space Flight Center as well as a water rocket clock, home to a real missile. For those who like to be fascinated, one can even look for a hidden pot of gold in the rainbow gardens filled with kaleidoscopes.
Are you a fan of ferns? You might be, or you might have never given them a second thought, but you will be a fan after you visit the Fern Glade at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. Home to almost 150 species of ferns along beautiful trailing paths, the Fern Glade is a perfect end to the Nature Trail, appearing in front of you almost like a mirage. All the plants here are hardy, meaning that they will return every spring, even though they are dormant during the winter months. If you visit during this time, some of them are evergreen, meaning that they will sustain their foliage throughout the winter months. However, summer or spring are the optimal times to be checking out the Fern Glade. It even boasts a waterfall, a pond, and the belvedere, which adds to the serene vibe and makes the stroll that much more enjoyable.
Garden of Hope
Founded on the 2nd October, 2006, the Garden of Hope was created with the purpose of giving cancer patients and their loved ones a way to channel their dreams, aspirations, optimism, and even fears – through the beauty and serenity of a calming atmosphere filled with majestic flowers. The area is secluded – it is surrounded by foliage – allowing for peaceful respite and facilitating the dissipation of worries.
Galaxy of Lights
The Galaxy of Lights is an event that only takes place in the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. It was rated by the “Best of The Best” in 2016. The actual show is even more fascinating than the name, featuring life-sized light displays of Santa flying over a winter village, notable nursery rhyme characters dancing and frolicking, and even a magical crystal icicle forest.
4747 Bob Wallace Ave SW, Huntsville, AL 35805, Phone: 256-830-4447
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