Alabama has multiple privately owned cave systems open to tour, but only two are located in Alabama State Parks.
Of those, typically the name that comes to mind first is Cathedral Caverns in Marshall County. In fact, many people think it is the only state-owned cave that is open to the public, but it isn’t.
As I recently discovered, Cathedral Caverns has a smaller-but-wilder sibling known as Rickwood Caverns State Park.
While exploring with his Boy Scout troop in the early 1950s, Eddie Rickles discovered a massive cave system on private land in rural Blount County. He immediately fell in love with the caverns and purchased the land. He then formed a partnership with Sonny Arwood to turn the caverns into a tourist destination.
Members of Rickles’ Boy Scout troop were so excited by the idea that they helped dig, blast, and move rock to transform the cave from its wild state to one that would accommodate people walking through it.
Once the project was complete, Rickles and Arwood combined their last names to create Rickwood Caverns, which they operated from 1954 until 1974 when it was purchased by the state and converted to a state park.
With other, more famous caves in Alabama, Rickwood Caverns is sometimes overlooked but it has much to offer. In addition to the caverns, the park has facilities for RV camping, primitive camping, and hundreds of acres on which to play, hike, or picnic.
If you go, here is Wil’s Don’t Miss List:
The guided cavern tour –
Every cave in the world is different, just like every cave tour, and this is one of the best caves I’ve toured.
Rickwood is one of the most active caves in Alabama that is open to the public. According to one of the guides, sixty percent of the cave is still active and growing, and guides point out areas throughout the tour where visitors can see the growth for themselves.
The year-round temperature of the cave is about 62 degrees, making it pleasant to tour in any season. Bats inhabit the caves (and keep the area’s bug population low) and you will literally come face-to-face with some, but don’t worry because they have no interest in humans.
The three guides that I met were fun, knowledgeable, friendly, and they obviously love sharing the cavern with visitors.
*** Please not the cave is not handicapped accessible and has more than 300 steps to maneuver inside.
The Seasonal Swimming Area –
Many people love natural springs and swimming holes and Rickwood Caverns has a swimming pool that combines the best of both worlds – it’s a nice modern concrete swimming pool that is fed by the underground lake in the caverns.
While the lake averages between 45 and 50 degrees, the sun warms the water. It is one of the only combinations of modern pool and swimming hole in the state.