Little River state’s most impressive natural wonder
Published 12:00 pm Saturday, February 28, 2009
It’s not Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon, but Little River Canyon National Park in Fort Payne has to be one of the more impressive natural displays of beauty in the United States. It might not attract visitors from across the country—which could be a good thing, depending on whether you like your outdoors solitary instead of sociable—but you’ll be amazed that our state is home to such a scene.
You’ll have to be willing to make the drive, which covers about 150 miles and takes about 2 hours. The park isn’t difficult to find, though. Take I-65 North to I-459 North to I-59 North to Exit 222 toward Fort Payne. Make a right onto U.S. 11, and, less than two miles later, you’ll run into the park headquarters.
My party started with the beautiful view provided by the 45-foot falls at the northern end of the canyon. The falls and canyon are most stunning in the fall and winter months because more water is in the river and thick foliage won’t block your view. The parking lot is less than a tenth of a mile from the edge of the falls, but there is an unmarked trail to the left as you walk down to the falls.
We followed this trail for about 1.5 miles until it disappeared. Along the way, there are a couple of opportunities to climb down from the ridge you are hiking on to the river basin. Bushwhacking, as it’s called, is possibly best idea for this trip when you are hiking with an unleashed dog because you have to worry less about running into other people. You should also be hiking with a human companion. As smart as Molly is, she won’t be making a phone call or going for help if I break an ankle.
After this short hike, rest for a while by navigating the 11-mile scenic drive. There are eight overlooks, and each offers a nice view. The last overlook, Eberhart Point, features a hike of less than one mile down to the river’s edge. Don’t be fooled by the distance, though. This hike is tricky on the way down and brutal on the way back up. The trail is actually the remnants of a vehicle access way from an abandoned ski lift project in the 1960s.
The park offers various other recreational activities: camping, fishing, hunting and kayaking. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/liri/index.htm.