Birds and crickets chirping are the only sounds audible as the sun beams through the moss-covered trees at Fort Toulouse, a historic site in Wetumpka, Alabama.
The natural beauty of the site is why Park Director Ove Jenson chose to work at Fort Toulouse.
“I have a background in history and my options were to teach or the parks,” he said. “This park is semi-remote and does give that nice green space and peacefulness that nature provides.”
Fort Toulouse is a 180 acre park on the historic remains of the French fort, Fort Toulouse, and the American fort that took its place, Fort Jackson.
Fort Toulouse encapsulates a moment frozen in time, a memory too easily forgotten, of simpler days when hard work was a lifestyle and entertainment was imagination.
The site includes a partial duplication of Fort Jackson, Fort Toulouse, its French homes, a small replica of a Creek Indian village and an Indian mound. While the buildings are replicas, they represent what would have been historically accurate for the time they represent.
According to Jenson, there has been human occupation on the site for as many as 8,000 years. Historically, most of the occupation was migratory until 1717 when the first French settlement was established.
Fort Toulouse’s archaeologist Ned Jenkins estimates that about 50 or 60 families lived on the site from the establishment of Fort Toulouse in 1717 until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. The park’s visitor center and museum hosts displays of authentic artifacts found on site.
Today, Fort Toulouse serves as a recreational refuge from the modern world. Fort Toulouse is a short drive from neighboring cities such as Montgomery and Prattville. In the hustle and bustle of today, Fort Toulouse provides a serenity through a serene escape.
“We have pleasant – not strenuous – walking trails and really pretty views of the Coosa,” Jenson said. “Most of our weekday visitation is people walking or sitting out on a bench overlooking the Coosa River.”
Jenson said the park attracts the attention of visitors seeking out the solitude of the park for meditation or reflection. For both the visitor seeking a quiet retreat or historical education, the park boasts walking trails and self-guided tours among the reimagined forts and Creek village.
Fort Toulouse also brings history alive for local schools. The park hosts two main events each year. For one weekend every April, the park holds a French and Indian War Encampment (also known as the Seven Years War from 1755-1763). Each November, Fort Toulouse hosts Alabama Frontier Days – a week in which anywhere from 200 to 300 volunteers reenact the lifestyle of Creek Indians, military personnel and civilians who lived at the site from 1700-1820.
Many students who visit the park for Frontier Days as children become teachers as adults, and in turn, bring their students to Fort Toulouse to experience Frontier Days, according to Jenson.
“It’s really a self-generated event,” he said. “It’s immensely popular.”
Fort Toulouse is included in the state budget, but Frontier Days is the park’s largest source of revenue.
“We couldn’t do what we do without that income,” Jenson said.
Wetumpka local James Green fondly remembers visiting Fort Toulouse as a child.
“One of my favorite memories of Fort Toulouse is taking a trip with my school during Frontier Days,” Green said. “It was fun because all the people who dressed up really brought it to life.”
Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, Fort Toulouse has something to offer. Above all, Jenson recommends traveling the trails along the Coosa River.
“The views are very peaceful,” he said. “Some of the best in Alabama.”