Before 2020 took a turn for the worse in March, I hiked the Natural Wonder of Rickwood Caverns State Park in Warrior, Alabama. If cave hiking is your thing, Rickwood is one you don’t want to miss.
Rickwood is one of several caverns found in Alabama. The others are Cathedral Caverns, DeSoto Caverns, and Russell Cave. The paths leading to and inside the caverns are easy to navigate, but be aware the exit of the cave is a flight of 110 steps. This can be a bit daunting to some.
Early years of Rickwood
In the 1860s, Mentor Burns discovered the cave while he was hunting on the property. The land would pass through the Burns for ninety years. In the 1950s, Eddie Rickles, a Boy Scout leader, led a hardy Boy Scout group to create pathways throughout the cave, including the cave entrance. The Boy Scouts made 365 steps within the cave, including the 110 stairs at the exit. The Boy Scouts used the remains of the blasted rock to create a rock wall within the cave.
The caverns were a commercial entity from 1964-1974. In the 1960s, Rickwood was a designated fallout shelter with five tons of food and supplies secured inside. Today, two tons of the stores have been removed. There was a plan was to build an elevator shaft down to the cave. That idea was abandoned after an exploratory shaft was dug.
The State of Alabama acquired the land to form a state park. Today, visitors can experience the caverns’ beauty on a guided tour of the ‘miracle mile.’ Visitors will see living rock formations, 300 million-year-old fossils, and a few bats. Don’t be alarmed if you receive a ‘cave kiss’; it’s just a bit of falling water. Visitors will learn the difference between stalagmites, formations caused by dripping water that grows from the floor of the cave, and stalactites that hang from the ceiling of the cave.
Visitors are asked not to touch the active formations while in the cave. It takes a cave formation one hundred years to grow your thumbnail’s size. Don’t stunt their growth.
The Miracle Mile tour
The temperature ranges from 58-62 degrees inside the cave year-round, but it is also humid and damp.
The deepest point of the tour is 175 feet. Here, your guide will let you experience ‘total darkness.’ You will not be able to see your hand in front of your face due to the complete absence of light. There are only three places you can experience total darkness, caverns, the deep ocean, and outer space. Our tour guide, Matt proudly said, he had never lost anyone on tour, yet.
Ice Age in Alabama
Alabama was part of an ocean during the Ice Age, two hundred sixty million years ago, and you will see evidence of the ocean’s existence throughout the cave. Visitors will see coral reef formations and shark’s teeth throughout the cave, which is a former prehistoric ocean bed.
After a substantial rainfall, Rickwood cave is prone to flooding. The Olympic size swimming pool used for campground guests is filled each year with water from the underground lake. After filling the swimming pool, the cave lake only goes down by one inch. Numerous attempts to find the source of the underground lake have all proved unsuccessful.
Rickwood Cave Formations
There are many unique formations to see in the cave. You will be amazed at the shapes and sizes of what millions of years of dripping water can do.
At 125 feet underground, you will enter the Badlands room and the overlook for Lovers leap.
Hiking a Natural Wonders of Alabama in Rickwood Caverns State Park in Warrior, Alabama is a place for a family adventure. The State Park offers ample parking for the cave tour, a gift shop, campsites, playground, pool, and hiking trails. At Christmastime, the caverns host ‘Santa’s Underground Workshop,’ which features Santa and his elves deep inside the cave.
Would you like to have a cave wedding? You can do that at Rickwood. .
If you are interested in learning more about other natural wonders of Alabama, seek out my other articles here on Roadrunner Journeys.