Located east of Orrville at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers, the town initially known as Cahawba served as the state’s first permanent capital from 1820 until 1825. When the capital was moved from Cahawba in 1826 to Tuscaloosa, many of its early residents followed. With the continuing improvement of river transportation and the emergence of the cotton economy, Cahaba boomed again during the 1840s and 1850s. But the Civil War, floods, and the loss of rail transportation all conspired against Cahawba, and by 1900, it had become a ghost town. Today, all that remains of the government buildings, businesses, and residences that once made up the first capital of Alabama are some scattered ruins.
Now, the old Cahawba site is an Archaeological Interpretative Park. Visitors are welcome. Roam the abandoned streets of the old capital city, view the moss-covered ruins, read the interpretive signs, and contemplate Cahawba’s mysterious disappearance. Water still flows through the old ornamental wellheads. Columns and chimneys mark old house sites. Inscriptions on gravestones tell the stories of forgotten people. Old-fashioned roses and bulbs still bloom each spring. Be sure to hike the park’s Clear Creek Nature Trail. It is a half mile trail that has a canoe launch and an outlook at the Cahaba River.
The Old Cahawba Park also offers a perfect opportunity for bird watching. It of one of the featured Black Belt sites included on the Alabama Birding Trails.
Start your visit at the Welcome Center. Exhibits are displayed that feature archaeological finds and photographs of the homes and businesses that once were located in Old Cahawba. You will be provided with instructions for the routes to take to get the most out of your visit.
Directions: From Selma, take Highway 22 west 9 miles. Turn left onto County Road 9 and follow this 5 miles. Turn left onto County Road 2 and follow this into the park. GPS coordinates for the Old Cahawba Park’s Welcome Center are 32.319528, -87.104472.
Captions on the photographs at the top provide additional details about the park
For additional details including a schedule of events, visit https://ahc.alabama.gov/properties/cahawba/cahawba.aspx.
Click below for a photo tour of Old Cahawba.