- Little River Canyon National Preserve
Infobox Protected area
name = Little River Canyon National Preserve
locator_x = 198
locator_y = 118
location = Cherokee County & DeKalb County,
Fort Payne, Alabama
area = 13,633 acres (55.17 km²)
October 24, 1992
visitation_num = 201,442
visitation_year = 2005
National Park Service
Little River Canyon National Preserve is a
United States National Preservelocated on top of Lookout Mountainnear Fort Payne, Alabamaand DeSoto State Park. Created by an act of Congress in 1992, the nearly 14,000 acre (57 km²) preserve protects what is sometimes said to be the nation's longest mountaintop river, the Little River. The Canyon was historically called "May's Gulf", "gulf" being a common term throughout the Cumberland Plateau for this sort of feature (e.g. Savage Gulf in Tennessee, or Trenton Gulf nearby in Georgia, now renamed "Cloudland Canyon"). Prior to being assigned to the National Park Service, the Canyon area formed the southmost unit of Alabama's DeSoto State Park.
The Little River flows for almost its entire length down the middle of
Lookout Mountainin northeast Alabama. Over eons of geologic time, Little River has carved out one of the Southeast's deepest canyons as it winds its way from headwaters in Georgia before exiting the mountain and emptying into the Coosa River(Weiss Lake impoundment) near Leesburg, Alabama. Legend has it that a minor Civil War skirmish occurred on the rim.
The river is said to be among the cleanest and wildest waterways in the South, undammed aside from a small and derelict hydroelectric project at DeSoto Falls on the West Fork near
Mentone, Alabama. Sandstonecliffs tower up to 600 feet (200 m) above the narrow canyon floor, providing a rock climber's paradise and eye-popping vistas from overlooks along the 23 mile (37 km) scenic drive known as Little River Canyon Rim Parkway(AL 176, Dekalb C.R. 148, Cherokee C.R. 275) on the canyon's western rim. The northern half of this road was built under federal supervision in the New Deal era. The southern half was built by local authorities and suffers from erosion and occasional bridge washout, and is marked by steep grades that may be difficult for some vehicles.
Eberhart Point, above the confluence of Bear Creek and the Little River, is the most convenient point for descents to the bottom of the Canyon. Hikers may follow a rough eroded path, the remnant of a vehicle access-way which was constructed during the course of a ski-lift and amusement park project which the State of Alabama permitted a private consortium of Fort Payne businessmen to undertake in the late Sixties. The project was abandoned in a couple of years, though visitors may still see associated debris in Pine Tree Hole, in the bottom of the canyon. An unmaintained but fairly well-defined trail proceeds approximately eight miles to the canyon mouth. Heading upstream is much more problematic and should only be undertaken by hikers accustomed to bushwacking. The river is popular with practiced whitewater enthusiasts who are willing to carry their vessels down to Pine Tree Hole. Camping is not currently permitted in the Canyon.
There are currently very few visitor facilities operated by the
National Park Servicewithin the preserve. DeSoto State Park, operated by the Alabama State Park System, is located within the preserve boundaries and has a lodge, restaurant, several campgrounds, and other facilities. There is a day-use area at the mouth of the canyon where a campground was once operated. The area provides places for picnics, and is a popular swimming location.
There has been little land acquisition since the New Deal era and the immediate area of the Canyon is being encroached upon by real estate speculation, vacation house and even subdivision development.
Things to do in the Preserve
There are many recreational things to be done in the park, such as camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, and many others. To hunt in the preserve you will need a hunting licence for the state of Alabama, or an out of state hunting licence. Riding ATV's requires a permit and you must be age 16 or over to receive one. Camping is allowed only in the backcountry in three locations: Slant Rock, Hartline's Ford, and Billy's Ford. All campsites are north of Little River Falls. For more camping information, see: http://www.nps.gov/liri/planyourvisit/camping.htm Fishing requires an Alabama fishing license and net or seine fishing are not allowed.
Jacksonville State University Field Schools (Little River Canyon Field School) offers hundreds of outdoor education and environmental education programs in DeKalb County and Cherokee County in and around the canyon and preserve. These programs are for the general public and for all ages. Contact them for more information at 256-782-5697 or visit http://fieldschool.jsu.edu
* [http://www.nps.gov/liri/index.htm National Park Service: Little River Canyon National Preserve]
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