Saturday, October 8, 2016

Fatama Lookout Tower sits on highest point in Wilcox County, Alabama

One of the most scenic drives in all of Wilcox County is the route that State Highway 21 takes through the eastern third of the county.

I drove this route on last Saturday morning, and thanks to the bright sunshine and crisp blue skies, I was struck by the unique, natural beauty of this part of Wilcox County. I started down around McWilliams, just north of the Monroe County line, passed through Caledonia and Oak Hill and crossed Pine Barren Creek. At this point, the highway makes its big turn east toward Snow Hill and Furman, over Wolf and Cedar Creeks and on into Lowndes County.

I noticed more than a few people stirring along this route early on Saturday morning. A few were cutting grass, others were walking down the road and a handful of people were milling about in downtown Oak Hill when I stopped at the main intersection, headed north.

I’ve always thought that Oak Hill is one of the neatest towns in all of Alabama, and many people consider it noteworthy because it is one of the smallest incorporated municipalities in the state. First settled in 1846 and officially incorporated in 1940, Oak Hill is currently the second smallest incorporated municipality in the entire state, just behind the Town of McMullen in Pickens County. According to the 2010 census, Oak Hill has a population of 26, and McMullen has a population of 10.

After coming to a stop at the intersection of Highway 21 and Highway 10, I continued north, passed Oak Hill Grocery, the post office and the Presbyterian church, and not far beyond this point I happened to look off to the northwest, taking in the view of the vast, wooded countryside below. This view reminded me of why Oak Hill was once known as “Oak Ridge” or simply as “The Ridge” in the early days of the county’s history.

As I rode along, all of this set me to wondering about the highest point in Wilcox County. Is it somewhere near Oak Hill or elsewhere in the county? I presumed that it wouldn’t be anywhere close to the Alabama River, but I knew that the only way to really be sure was to check a detailed topographic map of the county.

Later, at home on Sunday, I poured over topographic maps of Wilcox County and learned that the county’s highest point is actually in the south-central part of the county, just north of the Monroe County line and just off State Highway 265. If you go to this spot, which is between the Fatama community and Enon Church, you’ll find the Fatama Lookout Tower. With an official elevation of 547 feet above sea level, this hill is the highest point in Wilcox County.

The elevation at Oak Hill is actually 397 feet above sea level, which is still pretty high for this part of the world, especially when you consider that the highest point in the entire state of Florida is just 345 feet above sea level. Camden’s elevation is 207 feet above sea level, Pine Apple’s is 132 feet, Pine Hill’s is 112 feet, and Yellow Bluff’s elevation is 102 feet above sea level.

How does Wilcox County’s highest point compare with the highest points in neighboring counties? According to topographic maps of those counties, Butler County’s highest point is 590 feet above sea level, Lowndes County’s is at 587 feet, Monroe County and Dallas County’s high points are both at 580 feet, Clarke County’s is 540 feet and Marengo County’s sits at 420 feet.

In the end, if you’ve never ridden the stretch of State Highway 21 between McWilliams and the Wilcox-Lowndes county line, I highly recommend that you take the time to do so. In all, it’s only about 25 miles long, and this time of year it’s a nice drive, especially since it’s beginning to cool off and the leaves are beginning to change color. I suggest that you don’t get in a big rush, soak it all in and don’t forget to check out the view when you pass through the historic Town of Oak Hill.

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