Wall of illuminated flowstone inside DeSoto Caverns.

DeSoto Caverns

Field review by the editors.

Childersburg, Alabama

Spectacular laser light and sound show with leaping waters inside the Great Onyx Cathedral -- larger than a football field and higher than a 12-story building! Prehistoric Indian Habitat and Burial Ground over 2,000 years old! Confederate gunpowder mining center! Meet "Happy Hernando," Spanish Explorer and living cartoon mascot! Test your explorer skills in the primitive weapons arcade and the 3/4 acre wood paneled maze. Shoot water balloons from a Spanish Fort or Indian Teepee! -- Desoto Caverns brochure

Outdoor maze: In olden times, a cave tour was enough.
Outdoor maze: In olden times, a cave tour was enough.

Modern cave attractions know that a big hole in the ground just isn't enough anymore. DeSoto goes a little overboard with the above-ground entertainments, but the place does have kiddie appeal. You can, pan for gold, run around the maze, watch a blacksmith in action... but we're here to see the cave and the 2000-year old jawbone of a seven-foot tall Woodland Indian.

Tourists look small next to a towering wall of illuminated flowstone inside DeSoto Caverns.

On the gift shop porch, ticket-holders take up position for the next guided tour. They wait nervously, uneasily -- like POWs piling up at the German train station in The Great Escape. A young female guide appears; sadly, not wearing the Happy Hernando cartoon mascot suit. She leads our crowd of trailer families, redneck newlyweds, and Yankee tourists through a 145-foot-long corrugated metal tunnel. It was blasted into the side of the hill in 1994 to ease access, and apparently collapsed a rock wall above.

The cave is mostly one immense room -- the Great Onyx Cathedral Room -- with dim lights (electricity was not added until 1965) accenting large columns, frozen Niagaras, and stalactites that have not been broken off. Where's that giant jawbone? The honest tour guide explains in warm 'bama tones that there were enough Indian bones found in one spot to reconstruct five adults and one child. But... "The university took 'em and won't give 'em back. The cave owners are tryin' to get 'em back, to bury 'em proper."

Colored light show in the darkness of DeSoto Caverns.

The guide points out that the cave waterfall was built by the cave owners, but experts believe that one was once here, and that this is what it would have looked like. In the wishing well, three resident fish with perfectly normal eyesight were bought at Walmart. They aren't blind as a result of living in the cave -- "but their offspring would be." The moonshine still was bought from the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee, but it helps simulate the period of time that the cavern was also a tavern named The Bloody Bucket. There was a dance floor and a live band. Patrons used to get sloshed and shoot stalactites off the ceiling, explaining the stubby remnants we view today.

As a finale, tour groups sit on wet log benches in the center of the big room and watch a light show. It's the usual pre-recorded paraphrasing of the Book of Genesis, spoken by a guy who must do radio spots for car dealerships and monster truck rallies. "On the seventh day, God looked around, and saw that his work was done. He rested." Illuminated fountains spritz into the air, lasers arc delicately through pumped-in mist, white spotlights blast erratically. The 1812 overture blares from speakers.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a hot afternoon.

In case you were wondering, Spanish explorer DeSoto did not discover the cave -- the guide says locals call it Cowamug Cave -- but he did pass through the area, making Childersburg the oldest continually inhabited city in the USA.

DeSoto Caverns

5181 Desoto Caverns Parkway, Childersburg, AL
Hwy 76, 5 mi E of town.
Apr-Sep M-Sa 9-5:30, Su 1-5:30, Nov-Mar M-S 9-4:30 pm (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $16.99 Children $13.99
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Gravity HillGravity Hill, Sylacauga, AL - 7 mi.
Monument To The Housewife-Whacking MeteoriteMonument To The Housewife-Whacking Meteorite, Sylacauga, AL - 9 mi.
Large Copper FrogLarge Copper Frog, Harpersville, AL - 10 mi.
In the region:
Hank Williams Astroturf Grave, Montgomery, AL - 64 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Alabama

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Alabama.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Alabama Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Rubel Castle, Glendora, California (May 16-22, 2022)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings