by Dave Lapha
January 11, 2005
Our first journey to check out a portion of this natural beauty was a side trip off I20-I59 up Hwy 17 North to Aliceville, AL. The road is straight and wide. From Aliceville, we took Hwy 14 West to Pickensville. There we stopped at the Tom Bevill Visitor Center. This is not your ordinary visitor center.
The Visitor Center portrays an 1830-1860 Greek Revival home that was similar to other homes built in the Tombigbee River Valley in those days.
While inside the center, you can learn all about the waterway, the history of the area, and the use of the waterway. There are all kinds of displays, models, exhibits, and audiovisual programs to take you from pre-history to the modern waterway. There are fossils of earlier animal life and artifacts from early pioneer days, plus you can pick up information on the boom towns and ghost towns along the river. As you tour the rooms, climb the grand staircase up to the rooftop cupola. Cupolas on these mansions often served as observatories and also added ventilation by allowing air to escape from the open windows on lower floors.
Behind the house, you get your first look at the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam. Maybe catch the commercial or recreational vessels as they enter the lock during their travels between the Gulf of Mexico and river ports of Middle America. While outside, check out the U.S. Snagboat Montgomery, a national historic landmark. It’s one of the last steam-powered sternwheelers to still ply the rivers of the south. The 180-foot vessel would remove submerged stumps and fallen trees from the inland waterways of the South for most of this century. The Montgomery can be toured from its pilothouse to the engine room.
After all this, located near the Visitors Center are camping, playgrounds, fishing areas, boat ramps, and a nice picnic area. They are all accessible, like the Visitors Center, to the disabled.
Hours: Open in winter 8am to 4pm and summer 9am to 5pm. It is located one half-mile south of the intersection of Alabama State Highways 14 and 86, 28 miles south of Columbus, Mississippi, 10 miles north of Aliceville, Alabama and 52 miles west of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. From the KOA in Toomsuba, Mississippi, I’d say it was approximately 50 miles.
For information on the Tenn-Tom Waterway, you can call 662/327-2142 or log on to Tenn-Tom's website.
From journal Camping and Sightseeing in East Central Mississippi