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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Manitou Cave of Alabama

Manitou Cave on Lookout Mountain, Alabama

On a brisk spring morning, we arrived at Manitou Caves on the outskirts of Fort Payne, Alabama, where Annette Reynolds, founder and steward of the caves, welcomed our group with a radiant smile.

Intrepid Spelunkers Manitou Caves

EXPLORING MANITOU CAVE (PHOTO CREDIT: PENNY WEGNER)

marker Manitou Cave
HISTORIC MARKER MANITOU CAVE (PHOTO CREDIT: CLAIRE DATNOW)
Although just a short drive away from Birmingham, few people know about this special place that may have seen human activity going back 10,000 years.
After years of languishing, Manitou was reopened as a commercial cave in the 1960s, and was a popular attraction for travelers between Birmingham, Chattanooga and points north and south. After it closed in the mid 1970s, Manitou was sadly forgotten, and neglected. Thanks to Annette, today the cave is being rehabilitated and restored.

Great Stalagmite Manitou caves
HUGE STALAGMITE (PHOTO CREDIT: BORIS DATNOW)
Before entering the cave, Annette explained that the Manitou is an Ojibwas word that means Spirit. Indeed, the cave is a sacred space for the Cherokees, and contains inscriptions from the Cherokee syllabary which was invented by Sequoyah in 1821, while he lived in Willstown, now known as Ft. Payne. It is believed that The Trail of Tears may have been skirted Manitou Cave.

Underground Manitou Caves
EXPLORING THE CAVE WITH ANNETTE REYNOLDS (PHOTO CREDIT: PENNY WEGNER)
As we stepped through the heavy iron gate at the entrance, we encountered nature on a different and deeper dimension. Formations, created eons ago, glowed in the sunlight filtering from the outside world. With flashlights in hand, we cautiously made our way into the depths. At each bend, we marveled at the unique and beautiful stalagmite and stalactite limestone sculptures, translucent pools, and rushing streams. The cave is also a spiritual place that needs to be savored. At a signal from Annette, we turned off the flashlights and plunged into total darkness, allowing us to bathe in the quiet and peace of the cave.

Stalagmites Manitou Cave.
CALCITE FORMATIONS MANITOU CAVES (PHOTO CREDIT: BORIS DATNOW)
Two hours later, we emerged from beneath the earth, feeling refreshed and inspired. We are thankful to Annette for rescuing the cave and its fragile ecosystem millions of years in the making. When Annette first explored the cave, she saw the damage that had been done to it in more recent times, and vowed to save this historic place. In 2015, Annette raised enough funds through anonymous donors to purchase Manitous Cave. She founded Manitou Cave of Al, inc, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, conserve, and educate. Annette can be contacted at MANITOUCAVEOFAL@GMAIL.COM. For more information please visit: http://www.manitoucaveofal.org


Formations Manitou

MANITOU CAVE FORMATIONS (PHOTO CREDIT BORIS DATNOW)