Water Ways: Alabama Traditional Culture of Alabama's Water System
For an index of all photos in this exhibit,
click here

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Alabama's rivers have long been recognized as among the state's most important natural resources. The rivers are also significant for their impact on the state's culture.

Long before statehood, Indians used the rivers for trade routes and as sources of food and water. The state's two major river systems, the Tennessee and the Mobile, have determined patterns of settlement and commerce throughout the state's history.

With small dams and waterwheels, the people of this region harnessed the power of streams and rivers to grind corn, saw lumber, and spin cotton. And since 1884, major projects damming rivers to improve navigation and flood control, to produce hydroelectric power and to create reservoirs have had far-reaching effects on the lives of Alabamians.

Today many people still make their living from the water. Many other Alabamians use the state's rivers and lakes for recreation and for community rituals. These ways of life associated with Alabama's waterways contribute an important sense of heritage and regional identity for the people of this state.


Water Ways: The Traditional Culture of Alabama's River Systems was researched and produced as a touring exhibit by Anne Kimzey, Folklife Specialist for the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture. The project was made possible with funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Folk and Traditional Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibit travelled to more than 50 sites across Alabama, including schools and museums. Teachers may download worksheets and other educational materials by clicking here. Water Ways Teaching Aids

The online version of Water Ways contains all 32 of the original photographs in the exhibit with their original captions. Each photo is on a separate page. You may go through the pages in order by clicking the NEXT arrow on each page and go back by clicking the BACK arrow on each page. You may view a text index of all the captions by clicking the link for the index on each page. You can return to the home page at any time by clicking on the Water Ways logo at the top of the page.

In an effort to enable the pages to load quickly, we reduced the size of many of the pictures. Larger format versions of the pictures are available by clicking on the photograph. These will take longer to download.

We hope you enjoy this exhibit. Your comments are appreciated and may be directed to: anne@arts.state.al.us.