Alabama River Heritage Museum, operated by Monroe County Heritage Museums, lies on the
banks of Claiborne Lake,
adjacent to the Claiborne Lock and Dam about 20 miles north of Monroeville, Alabama. In addition to the museum,
you can see the lock and dam up close, walk the shores of the beautiful Alabama River, enjoy the riverside picnic
area and last but not least, check out the very popular Isaac Creek Campgrounds. It's kinda like one-stop shopping.
The Alabama River Heritage Museum has a fantastic collection of ancient fossils and Native American artifacts found in Monroe County, and specifically the world-famous Claiborne Bluff, that provides a better explanation of the early inhabitants. There are exhibits that immortalize the Steamboat Era, including a miniature replica of the Nettie Quill, a steamboat which traveled the Alabama River.
The fossils on display are from the Gosport Sand, a layer of Southeast rocks in the earth's crust noted for its concentration of fossils. The sandy environment aids the preservation of these fossils.
Sir Charles Lyell, of England, father of modern Geology and friend of Charles Darwin, visited Alabama in 1846, in part to see this 60 million year old shallow-water sea floor of Eocene age. The Gosport Sand, uppermost formation of the Claiborne fossils are known and studied by geologists world-wide. Examples of these fossils are found in Natural History Museums around the world.
The River Heritage Museum's collection spans thousands of years from pre-history tribes to the Creek Indians who were located in Monroe County until the Removal of 1834 by President Andrew Jackson, better known as the Trail of Tears.
The picture to the right is of the Claiborne Lock and Dam located behind the museum.
Monroe County Native American Life and Culture exhibits include projectile points (arrowheads and weapons), pottery shards, as well as, tools and clothing traditionally used by these Native Americans. There are hundreds of Native American sites throughout the area; camp sites, kill sites and village sites. Artifacts are being unearthed every year in plowed fields and creek beds.
A tremendous collection of artifacts, discovered during the excavation and building of the Claiborne Lock and Dam were donated by R. B. Williams, III, a former owner of the land.
The Alabama River Museum hosts the annual Alabama River Festival each March at the Claiborne Lock and Dam. A number of demonstrators and re-enactors join in to create a frontier encampment as found in the late 1700s and early 1800s. You can experience a frontier settlement, a trading post, a log cabin construction and hunting and fishing camps.
You can learn more about Creek Indian culture by participating in face painting, hatchet throwing, story telling, stickball games and the traditional Stomp Dance.
It is a fantastic museum designed so you can browse at your own pace and enjoy the various exhibits. The only drawback to the museum is the fact that its operating hours are limited. But, you can enjoy the rest of the sights year round. So plan your trip accordingly!
From Monroeville, take Highway 41 North and go 8 miles. Turn left onto County Road 17. You need to pay attention for this cut off. It will bear left at about a 11 o'clock direction. There will be a sign at the intersection on left side of Highway 41 that reads "... Campground". I was looking for sign that said lock and dam. So after I turned around about 10 miles up the road and came back, I made the correct turn. Follow the signs to the Claiborne Lock and Dam and River Museum. (Total mileage from Monroeville: 20 miles)
Special Note: Claiborne Lake is a river-run reservoir with 5,930 surface acres of water which courses 60.5 miles through Wilcox, Clarke, and Monroe counties in southwest Alabama. This reservoir was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and impounded in 1970.
Claiborne Lake has a large watershed of 21,473 square miles, and its primary function is navigation. This reservoir is the lowermost within the Alabama River System with the dam at river mile 72.5 and the pool ending at river mile 133, the Millers Ferry Lock and Dam.
Downstream of Claiborne Dam, the Alabama River is essentially free-flowing and ultimately joins the Tombigbee River to form the Mobile River near the Mt. Vernon community.
March - October
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Alabama River Heritage Museum
Claiborne Lock and Dam
31 Isaac Creek Rd.
Franklin, Alabama 36444