Recreation and Protected Areas

Moundville is perhaps Alabama’s most interesting Native American archeological site and is the South’s largest Mississippian-era complex. Located about one mile setback from the Black Warrior on a horseshoe bend of the river this site exhibits over 20 mounds across 305 acres, believed to have housed as many as 3,000 people. These mounds are square with flat tops, the largest in Alabama sitting 58 feet high. The Mississippian era is characterized by well developed aboriginal art, pottery, and bone, stone and shell work. Their pottery ability and technique were impressive and still admired today. No other archeological site in Alabama (nor surrounding states) demonstrates a higher level of artistry and craftsmanship. Because of its highly developed culture, Moundville is considered a leading prehistoric metropolis. For unknown reasons the city dissolved in the early 1500s shortly before Desoto’s wandering through the region. The Tuscaloosa and Hale county line divides the series of mounds.

Covered Bridges
In the early 1900’s covered bridges were built throughout this part of Alabama. 4 remain in Blount County (the covered bridge capital of Alabama). One is reputed to be the longest ever built and another the highest. (One just burned in ’93 leaving only 3 out of a total 11 in the state.

The section of the Locust Fork River running under the Swann Covered Bridge is arguably the state’s most popular white water run.

Rickwood Caverns State Park
Winston County Dismals Wonder Garden

Bankhead National Forest lies entirely within the Sipsey Fork sub-basin of the Black Warrior watershed and encompasses 180,000 acres.

black warrior protected
The Black Warrior basin with the Bankhead Forest in green. Map by Alabama Water Watch.

The Sipsey Wilderness is Alabama’s largest wilderness area and was established in 1975. It covers approximately 26,000 acres of the Bankhead National Forest and is used primarily for back country recreation, averaging more than 10,000 visitors per year.

The Sipsey Fork River is Alabama’s only National Wild and Scenic River System. 61 miles of its west fork are permanently protected. The lower section of river is generally floatable by canoe for between 20 and 60 days each spring. (USGS)

The Talladega National Forest (Oakmulgee Division) occupies 160,000 acres in the East Gulf Coastal Plain. Only the western half of the forest drains to the Black Warrior system, while the eastern half drains to the Cahaba basin.

Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge
This refuge is located within the city limits of Bessemer near Valley Creek. The seven acres of vegetation and the quarter acre spring fed pond were set aside to protect the endangered Watercress Darter. The refuge is small and delicate but vital to the survival of this beautiful fish. (See Species Diversity for more about the Watercress Darter)