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Mannequins of a caveman family inside Russell Cave.
Cavepeople at home in Russell Cave.

Russell Cave: Caveman Hangout

Field review by the editors.

Bridgeport, Alabama

Russell Cave is the third-longest in Alabama, with over seven miles of passages. But most of it is off-limits to tourists because 1) the cave floods, fast, even after a brief rain; and 2) the cave is an archeological site, claiming to be the oldest regularly inhabited rock shelter in the eastern U.S. Two tons of spear points, stone tools, pottery shards, and human bones -- some nearly 9,000 years old -- have been hauled out of the cave.

Long walkway leads through trees to the large entrance of Russell Cave.

Inside the cave's small Visitor Center, photos from the 1950s show local cigarette-smoking men in bib overalls hacking out a 30-foot-deep excavation pit with pickaxes (Tourists could walk down into the pit until the 1990s, but then it was filled in).

Some of the artifacts dug out of the pit are showcased in displays that try to make them relatable, with titles such as, "How did prehistoric people cook?," and, "What did prehistoric people do for fun?"

Displays inside the Russell Cave Visitor Center titled

A five-minute stroll from the Visitor Center, along an elevated boardwalk, through the trees, leads to the mouth of the cave. Here, cavepeople dummies are posed as if enjoying a typical Russell Cave day: drying skins, testing a blowgun, feeding a baby, roasting a pig. A boy dangles a string of toe bones, apparently having prehistoric fun. Viewed from the boardwalk, this domestic tableau is as far as the average visitor gets in Russell Cave.

Russell Cave was made a National Monument by President Kennedy in 1961. This event is noted in a timeline of history in the Visitor Center, where it fills the otherwise blank century between the end of the Civil War (1865) and the end of Apartheid in South Africa (1994).

Russell Cave: Caveman Hangout

Russell Cave National Monument

3729 County Rd 98, Bridgeport, AL
Russell Cave National Monument. Entrance is on the west side of Hwy 98 less than a mile south of the Tennessee state line. Big entrance sign.
Daily 8:30-4:30 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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