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31 Things to love about Alabama: Unclaimed Baggage

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It’s like thrifting, but better.

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If you’ve ever been through Scottsboro, Alabama, you might have heard about this national tourist attraction. Just a humble store in the northern reaches of the state, Unclaimed Baggage brings over a million people each year from all over the country (and out of country) to come and check out the luggage that gets left behind at airports all over the US and never makes it back to their owners. According to their website:

Although over 99.5% of domestic airline’s checked bags are picked up at the baggage carousel, lost luggage is an unfortunate part of airline travel. The airlines conduct an extensive three-month tracing process with the remaining .5% of unclaimed bags in an effort to reunite them with their owners, resulting in an astonishingly small fraction of a percent of bags that are ultimately orphaned. Claims are paid on these remaining lost bags and only then do the airlines sell the remaining unclaimed baggage property to Unclaimed Baggage Center. These purchasing agreements provide an important service to the airlines by giving a second life to unclaimed items.

The idea began in 1970 when a dude named Doyle Owens bought a chunk of luggage of D.C. and sold it off of card tables in a rental home. The business grew, and eventually was lucrative enough to buy an entire block in Scottsboro.

At 2:30 every day, the store picks a customer to actually open a bag of luggage that hasn’t been broken into yet. It’s like Christmas, but with someone else’s stuff.

Now, all that said, it’s really just a glorified thrift store, so all the items are going to be stuff that’s had previous owners, and probably sells for too much due to the store’s tourist popularity. On top of that, Scottsboro is pretty long drive out of the way, sitting in between the triangle of Birmingham, Huntsville, and Chattanooga while being nestled in Lake Guntersville and a significant distance from either I-65 or I-59.

Fortunately, there’s plenty to do in the area for nature enthusiasts. Lake Guntersville is a popular fishing destination. The Little River Canyon isn’t too far away, as is Weiss Lake. To the north, about 45 minutes away, is the Walls of Jericho trailhead that marches right up to the Alabama Tennessee border.

The trail ends in a giant limestone “bowl” shaped like an ampitheater that often has multiple small waterfalls trickling through it. The surrounding forest and wildlife is unique to the limestone rock area, with many rare species seen in very few other places.

All these spots make the area of Scottsboro and Lake Guntersville an attractive destination for a weekend trip that could be extended to visit Chatanooga or Huntsville if you’re not too familiar with either city.