Russell Cave National Monument

Useful Information

Location: Jackson County.
From the South: Hwy 72 to Bridgeport, AL. From the North: I24 between Nashville and Chattanooga, exit 152 onto Hwy 72 south through South Pittsburg. Near Bridgeport turn north on County Road 75 to Mount Carmel, then turn right on County Road 98 to the Monument entrance.
(34.976619, -85.81425)
Open: All year daily 8-16:30.
Closed 01-JAN, Thanksgiving, 25-DEC.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=11,582 m, VR=121 m, T=13 °C.
Guided tours: self guided with sound show. V=25,000/a [2019]
Bibliography: Anonymous (1956): Life 8,000 Years Ago Uncovered in an Alabama Cave, National Geographic.
Melville Bell Grosvenor (1958): National Geographic Society Presents Russell Cave to the American People, National Geographic 113: 438.
C. F. Miller (1958): Russell Cave: New Light on Stone Age Life, National Geographic 113: 426-437.
Address: Russell Cave National Monument, 3729 County Road 98, Bridgeport, Alabama 35740, Tel: +1-205-495-2672, Fax: +1-205-495-9220.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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6200 B.C.-1650 regularly occupied by Prehistoric Indians.
1953-1955 first excavation by the Tennessee Archaeological Society.
1956-1958 excavation by the Smithsonian Institution, with financial support from the National Geographic Society.
1958 land purchased by the National Geographic Society.
1961 donated to the Park Service by the National Geographic Society.
11-MAY-1961 President John F. Kennedy proclaimed Russell Cave a National Monument.
1962 final excavation by the National Park Service.


Russell Cave was named after a former owner of this land, Colonel Thomas Russell. He was a revolutionary war veteran from North Carolina. The land was called Doran's Cove, named after after Russell's brother-in-law, Major James Doran, who sold him the land.

The floor of Russell Cave has yielded extensive evidence of human occupation. The broad opening of the entrance chamber provided shelter and water for Indian woodland hunters for 10,000 years. About 10 m of debris on the cave floor are full of artifacts like arrowheads and pottery.

The Indians used the cave as a permanent home, perhaps for years at a time. This is rare, as caves normally were used by year-round nomads for a convenient stopover or as winter quarters. And most of the time, especially from the year 1000 on, this cave was primarily used as a hunting camp.

The number and completeness of the finds, together with ArchaeologyC14-dating, allowed an extraordinary insight into the history of the Prehistoric Indians.

Only the entrance chamber of the cave can be visited without special permission, but it is very spectacular. The cave is entered through a sinkhole, formed by the collapse of the cave's roof. A light and sound show in one of the excavations, explains the stratas of the dig. Scenes of the life of the Prehistoric Indians with life size mannequins, illustrate the knowledge gained by the excavations. The Visitor's Center has a small museum with displays of artifacts and relics from the cave.