Location: Fort Payne, Alabama
Website: National Park Service
Description: Little River Canyon is on the nation’s longest rivers the flows for most of its length on top of a mountain. Beginning at 1900 feet on Lookout Mountain the river ends up at 650 feet where it empties into Weiss Lake. While no more than a trickle during the dry summer months, spring rains will swell the river to an impressive torrent of rapids and waterfalls. The Little River has created a unique habitat for small plants and insects found nowhere else. The Canyon Rim Drive follows the western rim of the Canyon for 11 miles with 9 overlooks to look out over 400-700 foot drops to the canyon floor.
1) I would never have believed that Alabama has one of the most spectacular canyons and rivers east of the Mississippi, but the 22 miles of Little River Canyon more than meets this requirement. Starting at the beginning of the canyon at Little River Falls the Canyon Rim Drive provides many views of the canyon.
2) The Lynn Overlook is noteworthy not only for the overlook of the canyon, but also because it highlights some of the rare species of plants found in the Canyon. For example, the elf opine is a very small plant found nowhere else in the world and grows in shallow pools in limestone outcroppings in the spring. We were able to find some great views of this small plant at the overlook.
3) The Beaver Pond Trail was a bit of a disappointment. It is an easy walk through the woods and would be noteworthy for that reason alone. However, the main purpose of the trail was to an overlook of a beaver pond which was disappointing. While it is obvious it was a beaver pond in the past, it is mostly drained now with no evidence of beavers.
4) You certainly will want to miss the Mushroom Rock, because if you don’t it could do major damage to your can since it is a massive rock outcropping in the middle of the road. The road literally splits around both sides of the rock.
5) The Hawks Glide overlook is probably the best view of the canyon as you can see quite far down the canyon to the south and the Canyon View and Wolf Creek overlooks are kind of neat since you can see the other overlook which is over a mile away by road as it has to travel up wolf creek which has carved it’s own canyon before joining Little River.
6) The Graces High Falls Overlook is great in the spring time since there is water dropping over 100 feet across the canyon from the Overlook.
7) Eberhart Point is the final Overlook on the Rim Drive and has a nice picnic area with restrooms. There is also a very steep trail down to the river for those adventurous souls that want to swim in the river pools.
8) While the Canyon Rim Trail ends at Eberhart Point, there is county road 148 that continues another 11 miles along the western rim of the canyon down to the Canyon Mouth. You are warned not to attempt the drive in an RV or pulling a trailer and the warning should be taken seriously. While the road is paved and in good shape, there are no shoulders or guard rails and the grades exceed 10%. There are no planned overlooks, but there are still some spectacular views of the river and canyon along the drive.