Before Europeans first passed through the region in the sixteenth century, the Alabama Black Belt was a mosaic of environments shaped by soil type, available moisture, rivers, and fire. Native Americans strongly influenced the environment, and had done so for millenia. They established a number of towns, cleared lowland cornfields, and lit fires to manipulate vegetations, shaping the Black Belt's landscape.
Two great river systems cross the Black Belt--the Alabama and the Tombigbee. The Alabama River flows west along the northern rim of the region until it is joined by the Cahaba River, Alabama's longest free-flowing river. Offically designated an "Alabama Natural Wonder," the Cahaba River is the most biologically rich river of its size in the nation. As the Alabama River cuts through the Selma chalk underlying the Black Belt prairies, impressive white bluffs are often visible.
Between AD 900 and 1600 a series of stable and prosperous Native American cultures lived in the major river valleys of the Midwest and Southeat. Collectively, scholars refer to these cultures and their material remains as "Mississippian." The fertile river valleys of Alabama's Black Belt proved an ideal environment for Mississippian communities to develop.
We hope you enjoy your stay in the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area.