The DeSoto Caverns is best known for its Great Onyx Cathedral, some 120 feet high and larger than a football field. The limestone cave, roughly 3 million years old, has a long and fascinating history: it is home to a 2,000-year-old Native American burial site and the oldest graffiti in a U.S. cave; it was a source of saltpeter for gunpowder during the Civil War; and it operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

The cave has a long and fascinating history. It was known to Native Americans during the Woodland Period, and in 1965 archeologists from the University of Alabama discovered a 2,000-year-old Native American burial site there that held the remains of five individuals. In 1723, an Indian trader from South Carolina named I. W. Wright spent a few nights resting in the cave during his travels through the area. During his stay, he carved “I. W. Wright 1723” into a rock wall in the cave; these are the oldest graffiti to be found in any U.S. cave.

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Photos courtesy of: Alabama Department of Archives and History

Encyclopedia of Alabama