The Shoals is an area in northwestern Alabama named for the the shape and texture of the Tennessee River as it passed through the area. In order to make the river navigable, dams and locks were built, so that now there is a wide river and a series of lakes that are popular for sailing and fishing.
A cluster of four towns make up the residential area here: Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield and Tuscumbia. On one lovely afternoon I took a little artist's holiday by myself to explore and ended up spending most of my time in Tuscumbia, known mostly for Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller.
|Helen Keller's birthplace|
It's a small, quaint home, typical of the well-kept places we've seen throughout the area. Tucked away in a side structure, I found the video of a dramatization of Helen Keller speaking to a convention of the Lion's Club to be the most interesting part of the visit. Her speech was passionate and bold, as she asked for the Lion's Club support for blind deaf children. Although this was a dramatization, it must reflect the remarkable strength of the woman she was.
The downtown of Tuscumbia itself seems to be suspended somewhere between collapse and revitalization like so many towns we've seen across the country. I'd say its leaning more toward revitalization right now. The county courthouse is spectacular (sorry no photo), and there is a large attractive local bookstore on the main corner that seems to be the downtown hotspot.
Best of all, from my perspective, is Spring Park, named for the Big Spring around which the town's history and development centered.
|Cold Water Falls|
A sign claims that these are the largest man-made stone water falls known. The spring fills a large pond inhabited by fish, turtles and lots of waterfowl.
It runs out through a dam, into Spring Creek...
under a covered bridge...
and a swinging bridge,
carving interesting caves and shelves in the limestone as it flows away.
In addition to the beautiful water features, the park is equipped with trails, picnic tables and shelters, playgrounds, an amusement park and a children's train that circumvents the whole shebang. Oh, and the Claunch Cafe where I stopped for a little bit of refreshment along the way.
I think that Southerners really "get" cake. This is the slice of Claunch's unique Hibiscus Cake. Definitely great homemade cake.
That wraps up our week in The Shoals. There's more here to see and do, like the Coon Dog Cemetery, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Muscle Shoals music scene, so I hope you'll come see it for yourself sometime.