With an abundance of navigable rivers in Alabama, steamboat traffic flourished and was the primary form of transportation for goods and people from the state’s founding into the 1880s. Many of the state’s most important towns developed along its rivers that funneled into Mobile Bay. The construction of railroads led to a rapid decline in steamboat travel—trains were faster, more direct, safer, and more economical than steamboats, which that had to follow convoluted river systems to reach their destinations.

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Encyclopedia of Alabama