The Alabama River Museum is part of the Monroe County Heritage Museums. It is located on the east bank of the Alabama River at the Claiborne Lock and Dam in Monroe County (GPS coordinates N31.615500,W87.548306).
Travel back in time 60 million years ago….
The River Museum tour begins with a collection of ancient fossils and Native American artifacts found in Monroe County, explaining the first inhabitants.
Then, view the exhibit that immortalizes 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 noted for its concentration of 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 are found in Natural History Museums around the world, according to Dr. Doug Jones, retired Geology Professor of the University of Alabama.
Judge Charles Tait of Claiborne, Alabama was something of an amateur geologist in the early 1800s. He recognized the significance of the exposed layer of fossils, halfway up the Claiborne Bluff, visible from the cotton slide and landing steps, which traversed the 150-foot bluff.
The samples he shipped to the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences were sent all over the world when word got out that this Eocene-age layer was sloughing off whole shells in perfect condition. Dr. Timothy Conrad, from Philadelphia, spent almost 2 years studying and collecting at Claiborne as a house guest of the Tait’s. He found many unknown species.
The Gosport Sand is renowned for the great number and variety of fossils – over 150 species can be identified in it. The most rare and significant are the smallest specimens, some being microscopic. He also found important examples of these Eocene fossils in the Bell’s Landing Bluff, North of Claiborne, also in Monroe County, known especially for its large turritella shells.
Monroe Heritage Museum (251) 575-7433
Cost: For Special Group tours call 251-575-7433
Please call to schedule. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.