In photographs: Alabama's abandoned ghost towns

Peter Watson

These abandoned Alabama ghost towns offer an insight into the Yellowhammer State's pioneer history.

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Alabama has some fascinating historic ghost townsLow Flite/Shutterstock

While in many other parts of the US, ghost towns are usually linked with mining booms or a gold rush, in Alabama ghost towns tend to be abandoned pioneer towns, battlefields or forts.

At these Alabama ghost towns, you can walk the grounds of places and relive events that forever changed the American nation. Go ahead and dive deeper into the past. You never know what you might find.

Ghost towns in Alabama

Below is a list of the best ghost towns in Alabama. All are rich in history and offer a lot for the curious explorer.

Always be careful as many of the abandoned buildings are unsafe to enter, and many are privately owned or protected by a local or state historical society.

Taking souvenirs is – of course – strictly prohibited. But, make sure you take all the photos you can!

Old Cahawba

Cahawba was Alabama’s state capital from 1819 to 1826. At the time it was also a thriving antebellum river town.

It became a ghost town shortly after the Civil War. Today it is an important archaeological site and a place of picturesque ruins.

Nature has reclaimed much of Old Cahawba, but historians and archaeologists from the Alabama Historical Commission are working hard to uncover Cahawba’s historic past and to create a full-time interpretive park.

Blakeley

During the height of its existence, Blakeley was a thriving town that flourished as a competitor to its western neighbor, Mobile.

Established in 1813, the town was the county seat for Baldwin County from 1820 until 1868 when the county government was moved south to Daphne.

It was the location of a major fort during the Civil War with one of the last battles of the war fought here in April 1865, as Union soldiers overran Confederates. After the post office was closed in 1866, the town became abandoned and forgotten.

Today, the town is situated in an Alabama historic state park known as Historic Blakeley State Park, north of Spanish Fort.

Arcola

Named after the French victory during the Battle of Arcola – fought between French and Austrian in Europe during the French Revolutionary Wars – Arcola was established in the early 1820s by former French Bonapartists.

The first settler at the site was Frederic Ravesies, who placed himself at what later became the Hatch Plantation.

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The Hatch Plantation at Arcola today, AlabamaJeffrey Reed/CC BY-SA 3.0

Although never much more than a large village, Arcola eventually became the largest settlement in the colony. By the 1830s, American settlers had moved into the area and bought up most of the former French land, principally using Arcola as a river landing. By the 1850s the French settlement had disappeared, replaced by a collection of plantations.

Fort Gaines Historic Site

Less of a ghost town and more of a visitor historical tourism site now, Fort Gaines is still a fine example of abandoned Alabama.

The well-preserved ramparts of Fort Gaines have guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay for more than 150 years.

The Fort stands at the eastern tip of Dauphin Island where it commands panoramic views of the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The Fort was recently designated as one of the Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites in America due to ongoing shoreline erosion.

Historic Fort Gaines is one of the key sites in the famous Battle of Mobile Bay where Admiral Farragut shouted his now-famous order, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Fort Gaines is a pre-Civil War brick fortification built within feet of the Gulf. The fort has original cannons, a blacksmith shop, kitchens, a museum, a gift shop, and tunnels.

St. Stephens

First established in 1769, the townsite of historic Old St. Stephens is one of Alabama's greatest archaeological assets. Because the town was abandoned and remained virtually undisturbed for over 100 years, the area provides an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of pioneer Alabamians in the early 1800s.

Prior to colonisation, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, French, Spanish, English, and American people all lived and worked in this area prior to statehood. Today, a visit to St. Stephens offers a unique glimpse into the pioneer days when Alabama was the western frontier of European settlement.

Riverton

First established in1846, Riverton is one of Alabama's Submerged ghost towns.

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The construction of Riverton Lock in Alabama in 1895Unknown author/Public domain

Located in Colbert County, Riverton a former Tennessee River port town, which is now underwater due to the construction of the Pickwick Landing Dam was constructed during the 1930s.

The only above-water and visible remnant of Riverton is the cemetery located along the Rose Trail.

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All that remains of Riverton in AlabamaFair Use/AI.com

Bellefonte

First incorporated in 1821, when a courthouse and jail were built to serve Jackson County, Bellefonte is now a ghost town near the site of the Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station.

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The chimney of the local inn with Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station in the background, AlabamaBenji5221/CC BY 3.0

The Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station (BLN) is an unfinished nuclear power plant after construction progress at the site was halted in 1988 – arguably making it a ghost town in itself!

Bellefonte, the town, once had a population of around 400, but the town suffered severe damage during the Civil War.

The post office was closed in 1859 and the county seat was relocated in 1868 eventually leading to a drop off in population by the 1880s.

The town was eventually abandoned during the 1920s. Today, all that remains is the cemetery, the chimney of the local inn, and scattered piles of bricks.

Prairie Bluff

Initially established in 1819, the same year that Alabama was admitted to the Union as a state, Prairie Bluff –also known as Dale and Daletown – is now a ghost town in Wilcox County.

The town was at its height during the 1860s. However, its influence declined rapidly with the introduction of new railroads following the American Civil War.

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Prairie Bluff, taken from the Alabama River in 1894Eugene Allen Smith, The Journal of Geology, Published by University of Chicago Press

The town was deserted by the mid-1870s and then disappeared from maps altogether by around 1900.

Parts of the site were flooded by the William "Bill" Dannelly Reservoir with the nearby Millers Ferry Lock and Dam was built in 1963. Today, the only physical feature that remains is the Prairie Bluff Cemetery, with marked graves dating from the 1830s to the 1860s.

More Alabama ghost towns

Below is an extended list of ghost towns in Alabama with their year of establishment and, where known, their year of disestablishment.

  1. Turkey Town, 1770-?
  2. Claiborne, 1816-1870s
  3. Washington, 1817-1879
  4. Aigleville, 1818-1830s
  5. Bainbridge, 1819-1840s
  6. Cahaba, 1819-1865
  7. Bellefonte, 1821-1920s
  8. Gantts Quarry, 1830-2000
  9. Louina, 1834-1905
  10. Old Ramer, 1850-1895
  11. Mountain Mills, 1872-1893
  12. Bluffton, 1888-1934
  13. Kaulton, 1912-?
  14. Brownville, 1925-Approx. 1989
  15. Bluff City, 1818-1881
  16. Clarkesville, 1819-1860s
  17. Dumphries, 1819-1839
  18. Erie, 1819-1855
  19. Chandler Springs, 1832-1918
  20. Chulafinnee Placers, 1835-1840s
  21. Nottingham, 1880s-1895
  22. Fort McClellan, 1912-1999

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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