Little River Canyon. Natural Reserve

Little River Canyon

Natural Reserve

Little River Canyon Photo © Brent Moore

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Little River Canyon

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Little River Canyon Falls - Little River Canyon
Little River Canyon Falls - Little River Canyon. Photo by Brent Moore
This wild and spectacularly beautiful canyon is located on top of Lookout Mountain (Wikipedia Article) near Ft. Payne, Alabama. It has been said that Little River Canyon is the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River (Wikipedia Article). It has been left mainly untouched throughout the years although in the 1960s a group of local businessmen tried unsuccessfully to build an amusement park in the canyon.

Abandoned after a couple of years there are still remnants in an area called “Pine Tree Hole” that hikers can see at the bottom of the canyon. Little River, which over the centuries has formed this beautiful narrow canyon is the longest mountaintop river in the United States. Sandstone cliffs soar skyward up to six-hundred feet and the three waterfalls in the twelve-mile-long canyon make for breathtaking views.


Originally known as “May’s Gulf” in 1939, gulf being a common name in the Cumberland Plateau for land features such as this, the canyon became Little River Canyon when it became part of DeSoto State Park in the late summer of 1954. Not satisfied with just becoming a part of DeSoto State Park and wanting to make sure the canyon was protected and preserved, local business men and residents started a drive to make it a National Preserve. This was achieved in 1992 and it officially became part of the national park system.

Little River Canyon and Fall. - Little
	River Canyon
Little River Canyon and Fall.. Photo by Evangelio Gonzalez

What to Do

Little River has some of the best whitewater rafting in the South. Different levels of expertise are offered at different sections of the river, but there are times of the year, depending on how high the river levels are, that offer experienced whitewater rafters the best adventure they will ever have. However, when the levels are high it is not recommended for novice rafters.


The best place for hikers (experienced or novice) to see the canyon is to start at Eberhart Point where an eroded trail leads the hikers to the bottom of the canyon. There are no maintained trails to the canyon and quite a few of the trails should only be used by experienced hikers that know how to bush whack.


Little River Falls, DeSoto Falls, and Grace’s High Falls are three breathtakingly beautiful falls to be seen while you are visiting the preserve. Grace’s High Falls is seasonal and does not usually flow in the summertime, but when it is flowing it is considered to be the highest waterfall in Alabama at 133 feet.

If visitors prefer not to hike or do whitewater rafting then they have the option of seeing the canyon, the river, and the falls from the comfort of their car. Driving along the paved Canyon Rim Drive, visitors have quite a few lookout points with picnic tables that offer spectacular views of the canyon. The road starts near Ft. Payne, Alabama, on Highway 35 and ends at the man-made Weiss Lake (Wikipedia Article) which is the mouth of the canyon.

Mushroom Rock is a unique rock formation that is in the middle of the road on Canyon Rim Drive. If you are driving you will not miss this unusual piece of art and it is a fun place to stop and take pictures.

DeSoto State Park is located within Little River Canyon National Preserve and offers amenities such as swimming, picnic areas, and playgrounds.

Golf and Ski

Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort offers the best in machine-made snow in the winter with cabins and chalets for rent year round. Visitors can ski from beginners to intermediate slopes and snowboarding is available. Ski lessons are also available.

Little River Falls , Alabama, USA. -
	Little River Canyon
Little River Falls , Alabama, USA. - Little River Canyon. Photo by Evangelio Gonzalez

Where to Stay

Camping is not allowed at the canyon, but there are several towns surrounding the preserve that have lovely bed and breakfast accommodations, quaint hotels, motels, and RV camping sites.

Ft. Payne, Alabama, is a fairly large city and has all the amenities that visitors expect for their comfort. Large-name hotels and some bed and breakfast inns are offered along with many restaurants to suit any visitor's taste.

Mentone, Alabama is a quaint little town with a couple of hotels and bed and breakfast inns offering the best in old Southern charm. They cater to the unique experience of quirky little shops and restaurants. Beautiful town that should not be missed by travelers wanting a warm and friendly environment.

DeSoto State Park has a hotel, cabins that can be rented for a day or longer if visitors decide they want to stay and visit for a while, a restaurant, and camping facilities and a store for necessities so they never have to leave the preserve.

What to Know

This is a beautiful, wild paradise for visitors looking for that rustic vacation. It is for all types of visitors that can appreciate the natural beauty of this terrain. You will not be disappointed!!!

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Author: 30literbackpack. Last updated: Mar 13, 2016


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