Winding trails dotted with wildflowers below and playful butterflies above, babbling creeks where shy turtles dart off mossy logs, charming cabins nestled in wooded enclaves, the peaceful rush of water as it churns through the grist mill wheel, the bell-like ding of metal as a bearded man makes iron by a crackling fire, patient fingers quilting colorful patchwork blankets, the steady breath of a mountain biker passing by, kids laughing in the play area — this is the time of year to visit Tannehill.

grist mill

The John Wesley Hall grist mill and cotton gin replica is situated on this picturesque creek at Tannehill. The original was in operation from 1867 to 1931.

azaleas

Beautiful azaleas in bloom at Tannehill

craft cabins

The craft cabins are open on weekends from March through November and feature art, pottery, quilts and cane chairs made by local artisans.

Rustic charm at Tannehill abounds!

Rustic charm at Tannehill abounds! This is a close-up of Hillman’s Forge, circa 1830, which was uncovered by an archeological team from The University of Alabama. It was the birthplace of Birmingham’s iron and steel district.

The old country church at Tannehill

The old country church, circa 1905, was moved to Tannehill from Jefferson County.

Just 30 minutes from Birmingham, the area was originally settled in the 1830s as a small farming community before the locals realized they stood on land that held the three magical ingredients for making pig iron: coal, limestone and iron ore. Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park now pays homage to the Steel City’s rich history in iron, as it was home to the Birmingham District’s first blast furnace. “The work and experiments done here helped pave the way for the Birmingham District to become the iron and steel making giant that it came to be in the 19th and 20th centuries,” says Jennifer Watts, museum director at the  Iron and Steel Museum of Alabama in Tannehill.

The first blast furnace, built by Moses Stroup in 1859, is on the site of the awe-inspiring restored furnaces at the heart of the park. The furnace produced pig iron that was transported via oxcart, then train to Selma to become part of the munitions used during the Civil War. More than 100 years ago, on March 31, 1865, the furnaces and surrounding support structures were destroyed by Wilson’s Raiders in the largest calvary operation in the war, wherein the federal raiders targeted industrial infrastructure, destroying railroads, mines and iron furnaces. The museum details Tannehill’s intriguing industrial past with a unique and diverse collection of industrial historical artifacts and images.

The restored forge at Tannehill is on the national register of historic places.

The restored forge at Tannehill is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Alabama Iron and Steel Museum

When Wilson’s Raiders destroyed the ironworks at Tannehill, they also destroyed The University of Alabama, the University of Montevallo and Tannehill’s sister park, Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park.

typical machine shop from the mid-1800s at Tannehill

This typical machine shop from the mid-1800s had belt-driven machines that were powered by steam engines.

Image of a Tannehill survivor

The Iron and Steel Museum of Alabama is filled with fascinating collections like this photograph of Uncle Bob Fuller, a Tannehill survivor.

And once you’ve sated you inner history buff, walk outside the museum and this charming woodsy world is your oyster. Today, the state park is home to a charming collection of donated structures that give one a sense for the community that was once built around the town’s iron industry. Log cabins, some of which are available to rent, a chapel, an old two-room schoolhouse, a post office and a country store spark the imagination with Old World visions of what once was. Visitors can explore the pioneer village, where they can witness blacksmith demonstrations, or they can shop the Country Store, Sweet Shoppe and Craft Cabins. And for nature enthusiasts and athletes, this park is a must. “People can come out and walk through our trail system,” says Amber Marcrum, the events and activities manager at Tannehill. “For the more adventurous person, we have more than 11 miles of mountain bike trails open to riders. We have many mountain bike groups from adult groups to school-age kids that compete or just enjoy the trails.”

Tannehill plays host to a stunning array of events, including weddings, candlelight tours during the holidays, the annual Dulcimer Festival, Psaltry Festival, Gem and Mineral Show, Civil War Living History with 19th century toys and games, homemaking demonstrations, calvary and infantry soldier demonstrations, an annual open house on Smithsonian Museum Day in September, traditional bow-shooting competitions, family picnics and reunions, 5K races and more. The park also hosts around 4,000 students each year as part of Tannehill’s Side Trails to History program for area schools, but they are best known for their Trade Day events — where treasure hunters gather to shop and swap tools, clothing, jewelry, knives, furniture etc. — once a month on the third weekend of March through November. Tannehill Woodcarvers meet at the park monthly to whittle and talk shop, and members of the Alabama Forge Council, a group of professional blacksmiths, meet and take part in continuing education and other social events throughout the year.

The May Plantation cotton gin at Tannehill

The May Plantation cotton gin at Tannehill

The rushing river used to power this grist mill when it was in operation.

The rushing river used to power this grist mill when it was in operation.

There are so many beautiful trails for hikers and bikers at Tannehill.

There are so many beautiful trails for hikers and bikers at Tannehill.

country store

The quaint little country store and gift shop at Tannehill has souvenirs and refreshments.

cabin at Tannehill

The park has seven rental cabins. Six are rustic log cabins from the 1800s that have been moved into the park and restored.

Cane Creek School house in Tannehill

The Cane Creek School is an old two-room schoolhouse that was built in 1923 and moved from Warrior to Tannehill in 1981.

The Woodward Iron Co. Post Office, circa 1914, at Tannehill

The Woodward Iron Co. Post Office, circa 1914, has been restored and converted into a rental cabin.

Tannehill

A serene creek scene at Tannehill provides a moment of reflection.

Williams Cabin in the Pioneer Village at Tannehill

The Williams cabin, now restored and available to rent, dates back to 1889 and was moved to Tannehill from Bibb County.

The Williams cabin in Pioneer Village at Tannehill

The Williams cabin is situated in Pioneer Village, where the Tannehill Smithy often features a blacksmith at work.

Hillman's Forge structure at Tannehill

A beautiful, sunny day beside the Hillman’s Forge structure at Tannehill

Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park

A view of the restored forge from Folsom Bridge at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park

So get your fanny to Tannehill while spring is in full bloom, and enjoy crafts by local artisans, rich history, long walks on beautiful trails, picnics under shady pavilions and more!

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