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 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 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 Native Americans.
Fort Toulouse was constructed in 1714, four miles above the Coosa-Tallapoosa Rivers confluence at the Indian village of Taskigi. Bienville selected this area as the most strategic locale for a fortification. The French remained in Wetumpka until 1763, when financial difficulties forced the French to withdraw, and the land was included in the British province of Illinois. It remained under the rule of Great Britain until 1798, when it became part of the U.S. Mississippi Territory.
After Andrew Jackson's decisive victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, he marched on to Fort Toulouse, where he directed its repair and renamed it Fort Jackson. He made the site his headquarters during the war and it was there that the newly created Montgomery County held its courts. The Creek "Red Sticks" were defeated in 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, after which the Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which ceded to the United States 23 million acres (93,000 km²) of Creek lands. 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.
Wetumpka had become 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-like pattern of streets.
By 1836, the city's population was 1,200. A New York newspaper declared that "Wetumpka, Alabama and Chicago, Illinois are the most promising two cities of the West." The city commissioned its own steamboat, The Coosa Belle, to ferry passengers and cotton between Wetumpka and Mobile.
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.
In the past few decades, Highway 231 has become Wetumpka's major thoroughfare. Most businesses have moved to the 231 corridor, leaving older parts of the city in much the same state as they were in the 1930s and 1940s. Hollywood scouts have capitalized on the small-town ambiance, using Wetumpka as a backdrop in several films.
Despite its sleepy countenance, Wetumpka continues to grow. Elmore County is consistently ranked as one of the top five fastest growing counties in Alabama. The Poarch Creek Indians have won the right to construct a new casino in the town. Already completed is a four story parking deck that towers over any other landmark in the area. Construction is underway on what will be one of the largest casinos in the country outside of Las Vegas, and residents are bracing themselves for a development that will redefine their city in the coming years, for better or worse.
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 (23.1 km²), of which, 8.5 square miles (22.0 km²) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km²) of it (4.49%) is water.
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.
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.
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.
Wetumpka is the home of "Alabama's greatest natural disaster." A 1000-foot-wide meteorite hit the area about 80 million years ago. The hills just east of downtown showcase the eroded remains of the five mile 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. In 2002, Auburn University researchers published evidence and established the site as an internationally recognized impact crater.
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
Wetumpka and the Coosa River play host to a unique point-to-point adventure race - the Coosa River Challenge The CRC began in 2003 and regularly draws 150-200 adventure enthusiasts who test themselves against the elements and each other. The race starts at the 12 mile trail system of Swayback Bridge Trail with a cross country run and mountain bike leg ubefore following the Coosa River downstream to finish at Goldstar park in downtown Wetumpka.
The Swayback Bridge Trail is home to the annual mountain bike race Attack on Swayback The AoS is produced by the Trails of Legends Association (TOLA)and is now included in the South Central Regional Championship Series (SCRCS).
Wetumpka is also a haven for white water sports enthusiasts, attracting paddlers from all over the country who enjoy travelling down the river and tackling the rapids around the Devil's Staircase and Moccasin Gap. The city hosts the annual Coosa River Whitewater Festival, and was the site of the 2005 U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Nationals. Recently, the Coosa River Paddling Club has constructed Corn Creek Park, which offers public access to the river, along with nature and walking trails.