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Wetumpka, Alabama
Nickname(s): City of natural beauty

Coordinates: 32°32′27″N 86°12′28″W / 32.54083°N 86.20778°W / 32.54083; -86.20778

Country United States
State Alabama
County Elmore
 • Type Mayor/ Councial
 • Mayor Jerry Willis
 • Total 8.9 sq mi (23 km2)
 • Land 8.5 sq mi (22 km2)
 • Water 0.4 sq mi (1 km2)
Elevation 200 ft (61 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 6,528[1]
 • Density 645.4/sq mi (249.2/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 36092-36093
Area code(s) 334
FIPS code 01-81720
GNIS feature ID 0155305

Wetumpka is a city in Elmore County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 6,528.[1][2] The city is the county seat of Elmore County, one of the fastest growing counties in the state.[3] The city is considered part of the Montgomery Metropolitan Area.

Wetumpka promotes itself as "The City of Natural Beauty". Among the notable landmarks are the Wetumpka crater and the Jasmine Hill Gardens, with a full-sized replica of the Temple of Hera of Olympia, Greece, the Coosa River that runs through historic downtown Wetumpka, and Fort Toulouse which is also on the Coosa River.


The name Wetumpka is a historic Creek place word meaning "rumbling waters", supposedly a description of the sound of the nearby Coosa River as the water falls over the rapids of the Devil's Staircase. It could be heard for miles before the construction of dams. The Creek named Wetumka, Oklahoma after their historic village after being forced west to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), by United States soldiers by the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

History of Wetumpka

French and British colonization

The area around Wetumpka was the heart of the Upper Creek lands, whose largest towns were located on the banks of the Tallapoosa River and Coosa River at Wetumpka and Talisi (now Tallassee). After moving the 1702 settlement of Mobile to Mobile Bay in 1711, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville sent an expedition up the Alabama River to establish a fort in the interior of New France, both to stop the encroachment of the British and to foster trade and goodwill with the Creek.

 He had Fort Toulouse constructed in 1714, 4 miles (6.4 km) above the Coosa-Tallapoosa rivers' confluence at the Creek village of Taskigi. Bienville selected this area as a strategic locale for a fortification.

The French traded at Wetumpka and garrisoned Fort Toulouse until 1763, when they ceded the territory to the British following defeat in the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in North America).

American rule

After the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War, it ceded the territory east of the Mississippi River to the United States in 1783. In 1798 the US made this area part of the Mississippi Territory, after cessions from the states of Georgia and South Carolina. Between 1800 and 1812, pioneers began to arrive and caused unrest among the Southeast Indian populations. Some Scots and Irish, like McGillivray and Weatherford, were able to marry into the Creek matrilineal aristocracy and claim vast land grants. At the same time, there were tensions among the Creek, with young men of the Upper Creek promoting a revival of religion and culture, and the Lower Creek, more influenced by settlement and trade in Georgia, becoming more assimilated. In addition, in 1811, the Shawnee chief Tecumseh appealed to the Creek to join his Western Confederacy to try to drive out and exterminate the settlers.

When the U.S. declared war on Britain in June 1812 the Upper Creek lost the assistance of the British, but they persisted with war against American settlers in the area. Upon receiving the news of the massacre at Fort Mims, whose refugees included many Lower Creek, settlers appealed for government help. General Andrew Jackson led a militia from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia and attacked the Creek in Alabama. The path they traveled became known as "Jackson's Trace."

Jackson's forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He moved on to Fort Toulouse, where he directed its repair. During his absence, the site was renamed Fort Jackson in his honor. Jackson made the fort his headquarters during the War of 1812, and the newly created Montgomery County held its courts there. The defeated Creek were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson (1814), which ceded to the United States 23,000,000 acres (36,000 sq mi; 93,000 km2) of Creek lands: the remainder of their territory in Georgia and most of central Alabama. After the war, many of Jackson's Tennessee militia returned home, collected their families and belongings, and brought them back to settle near the fort.

Growth and incorporation

Settlers, mostly from Georgia and the Carolinas, flooded into the fertile land that the Creeks had been forced to abandon. With its strategic location at the conflux of three rivers, Wetumpka quickly became an important center of agricultural trade. The city was formally incorporated in 1834. Cotton was the commodity crop of the new state of Alabama. From the scattered fields and large farms of the interior, it was carted overland to Wetumpka. Located at the fall line, the port shipped out cotton bales by steamboats which went downriver to the markets at Mobile for sale.

Wetumpka became a cotton-made boom town. The new city was divided in half. The part of the city on the eastern bank of the river was commercial, with banks, stores, and hotels, and was located in Coosa County. The western section, in Autauga County was residential, with houses and churches laid out on a grid pattern of streets.

By 1836, the city's population was 1,200. A New York newspaper (Harper's) declared that "Wetumpka, Alabama and Chicago, Illinois are the most promising two cities of the West." The city commissioned a steamboat, The Coosa Belle, to ferry passengers and cotton between Wetumpka and Mobile.

The same forces fueling Wetumpka's growth were shifting the balance of power within Alabama. A standoff between the farmers of the Tennessee Valley, centered in the former capital of Huntsville, and the old mercantile wealth of Mobile, had resulted in the capital being located for many years at Tuscaloosa. By 1845, the cotton growers in the interior Black Belt had become some of the wealthiest in the country, and power was shifting toward the southern and central part of the state. Both the Black Belt cotton barons and the Mobilians wanted the capital moved.

Compromise indicated a new, centrally located capital, accessible by river and by steamboat. The lead contenders were Wetumpka and the newer city of Montgomery, a few miles south. Neither city had a majority of support; representatives from north Alabama, enraged that the capital was being moved from Tuscaloosa, were indifferent to either site. Just before the vote, Montgomery lured an expensive French chef to the new hotel they had built to house the state's representatives if Montgomery were selected. The city distributed elegant menus to the statesmen. The promise of luxury swayed the vote, and Montgomery won. That same year, a fire broke out in Wetumpka, burning warehouses and many commercial buildings. The charred bricks were carried downriver to Montgomery to supply the building boom in Alabama's new capital.

War and Flood

Though its civic pride was wounded by losing the capital to Montgomery, the planters and merchants of the region continued to flourish throughout the antebellum period. A plan was promoted to build a lock and dam so that boats would be able to pass over the Fall Line and travel up the Coosa as far as Rome, Georgia. One famous resident was William Lowndes Yancey, a firebrand newspaper editor and statesman who was an influential advocate of States' rights and Southern secession. In February 1861, representatives from seven Southern states met in nearby Montgomery to form the Confederate government, inaugurating Jefferson Davis as their president on the steps of the Alabama state capitol. The same year saw the majority of the male population of Wetumpka going off to war. Wetumpka was never harmed by Federal troops, who did not arrive in the area until early 1865 and were determined to push quickly on to Montgomery to punish the former Confederate capital before the war ended. Those men who returned after the war came home to a city and a region whose economy had been completely destroyed. In 1866, a Reconstruction government drew up a new plan of counties for the state, and Elmore County was created out of parts of Coosa, Autauga, and Montgomery counties, with Wetumpka as its county seat (Rockford was chosen as seat of the "new" Coosa County). Despite this, the future of the city seemed grim. Before the war, the population had reached more than 3,000. By 1879, it had declined to a scant 619. In 1886, the worst flood in the history of the city inundated the west bank and most of downtown. The bridge connecting the city's two halves was washed away, and more than a year passed before unfortunate Wetumpka was able to fuse itself back together.


The first paved road linking Wetumpka with Montgomery was completed in 1924. Montgomery continued to grow during the two World Wars because of military spending and the growth of the state government. By the 1950s, the ubiquity of the automobile allowed Wetumpka's residents to commute daily to Montgomery for work.


Wetumpka is located at 32°32′27″N 86°12′28″W / 32.54083°N 86.20778°W / 32.54083; -86.20778 (32.540972, −86.207726)[4], and sits at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, where they merge to become the Alabama River.

The city is situated astride the Fall Line, where the Appalachian foothills give way to the flat Gulf Coastal plain, a fact responsible for much of its natural beauty.

Downtown Wetumpka covers two city blocks, and is bordered on the northwest by the Coosa River. The Bibb Graves Bridge crosses the river here, and is the city's most recognizable landmark. Directly across the bridge are the city's three antebellum churches, the First Methodist, First Presbyterian, and First Baptist.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.9 square miles (23 km2) of which 8.5 square miles (22 km2) is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) (4.49%) is water.[5]


As of the census[6] of 2010, there were 6,528 people and 2,206 households residing in the city.[1] The population density was 672.9 inhabitants per square mile (259.8 /km2). There were 2,139 housing units at an average density of 251.4 per square mile (97.1 /km2).[5] The racial makeup of the city was 64.88% White, 32.83% Black or African American, 0.40% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.38% from other races, and 0.94% from two or more races. 2.32% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.[7]

There were 1,797 households out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.2% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.97.[7]

In the city the population was spread out with 18.4% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 36.5% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 62.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 54.2 males.[7]

The median income for a household in the city was $35,536, and the median income for a family was $41,500. Males had a median income of $32,403 versus $23,234 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,729. About 7.7% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.5% of those under age 18 and 10.7% of those age 65 or over.[7]

Culture, natural history, and recreation

Wetumpka in movies

Three major films have been filmed on location in downtown Wetumpka.

Wetumpka meteor crater

Main article: Wetumpka crater

Wetumpka is the home of "Alabama's greatest natural disaster." A meteorite, estimated to be 1,000 feet (300 m) wide, hit the area about 80 million years ago. The hills just east of downtown showcase the eroded remains of a 5-mile (8.0 km) wide impact crater that was blasted into the bedrock, with the area labeled the Wetumpka crater or astrobleme ("star-wound") for the concentric rings of fractures and zones of shattered rock can be found beneath the surface.[11][12] In 2002, Auburn University researchers published evidence and established the site as an internationally recognized impact crater.[11]

Jasmine Hill Gardens

This outdoor museum was built in the 1930s on the estate of the Fitzpatrick family, who spent many years in Greece collecting replicas of ancient statuary to adorn their formal gardens at Jasmine Hill. Today the gardens are run as a non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting the arts and Greek culture. Frequently the site of local weddings, its attractions include a full-sized replica of the Temple of Hera at Olympia. Jasmine Hill Photo Gallery

Outdoor recreation

Wetumpka and the Coosa River annually play host to the Coosa River Challenge, which began in 2003 and regularly draws 150 to 200 participants. The race, a modified triathlon, starts at the Swayback Bridge Trail with a cross country run, a mountain bike leg, and paddling on the Coosa River to finish at Goldstar park in downtown Wetumpka.

The Swayback Bridge Trail is home to the annual mountain bike race "Attack on Swayback".

Wetumpka is popular with white water sports enthusiasts, attracting paddlers from all over the country. The city hosts the annual Coosa River Whitewater Festival, and was the site of the 2005 U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Nationals. The Coosa River Paddling Club has constructed Corn Creek Park, which offers public access to the river, along with nature and walking trails.

Poarch Creek casino

The Poarch Creek Indians have built a casino on land abutting the city.[13] The tribe have announced plans for a major expansion of the casino to include a $246 million dollar hotel, a second casino, and many other attractions in the complex as well. The new casino complex will employee over 1,000 people and have a 20 story, 285 room hotel named Wind Creek Wetumpka.[14]

Government and infrastructure

The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women of the Alabama Department of Corrections is in Wetumpka. The prison houses Alabama's female death row.[15] Wetumpka was previously the site of the Wetumpka State Penitentiary.[16]

The United States Postal Service operates the Wetumpka Post Office.[17]


The city is within the Elmore County Public School System.

Public schools include Wetumpka Elementary School,[18] Wetumpka Middle School,[19] and Wetumpka High School.[20] Wetumpka Middle School was formed by a merger of Wetumpka Intermediate School and Wetumpka Junior High School.[21]

Notable natives



External links

Alabama portal
  • City of Wetumpka website
  • WetumpkaOnline website
  • Elmore County Tourism website
  • Elmore County Corporate Development website (ECEDA)
  • Wetumpka City Pages
  • Wetumpka Public Library website
  • Jerry Armstrong's pictures of the Wetumpka impact crater

Coordinates: 32°32′27″N 86°12′28″W / 32.540972°N 86.207726°W / 32.540972; -86.207726

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