Little River Canyon National Preserve
Little River is unique because it flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama. Forested uplands, waterfalls, canyon rims and bluffs, pools, boulders, and sandstone cliffs offer settings for a variety of recreational activities. Natural resources and cultural heritage come together to tell the story of the Preserve, a special place in the Southern Appalachians.
Located on the boundary of DeKalb and Cherokee Counties, in the rugged yet verdant landscape of northeast Alabama, Little River Canyon National Preserve (the preserve) was established in 1992 by Public Law 102-427 to protect the landscapes of the Little River Canyon.
Little River Canyon is home to an unusually diverse set of plant and animal species, owing to its location at the confluence of the Cumberland Plateau and Gulf Coastal Plain physiographic regions, as well as a number of different microhabitats created by the rugged physical features of the canyon. Some species found in the preserve are notable for their limited geographic distribution, such as the Kral’s water-plantain (Sagittaria secundifolia), while others such as the green pitcher plant (Sarracenia oreophila) are listed as federally endangered.
The preserve offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities, including swimming, fishing, climbing, and world-class whitewater paddling, with the latter reaching peak season in winter and spring. Canyon Rim Drive (Alabama State Road 176) hugs the west rim of Little River Canyon, offering scenic drives and connecting a series of overlooks that offer views into the canyon, and Cherokee County Road 275 continues along the west rim down to the canyon mouth. Hunting and trapping are permitted by legislation within the preserve, and these activities are managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The high water quality along the 27 miles of the river’s course supports a wide diversity of aquatic communities that include insects, fish, and vegetation, as well as a variety of recreational opportunities.
The Little River Canyon is one of the deepest and most extensive canyon systems in the southeastern United States, the largest in Alabama, and contains many waterfalls including Grace’s High Falls, the state’s tallest. This canyon system, carved out by the Little River, has created extraordinary and exceptional views of rugged rock outcroppings and the opportunity to look into the “belly” of Lookout Mountain. These views are enjoyed year-round by visitors and are exemplified at Wolf Creek, Canyon View, Crow Point, Eberhart Point, and Little River Falls overlooks.
The river and canyon have formed a wild and rugged landscape that allows for a range of peaceful and challenging recreational opportunities. The river supports world-class whitewater paddling and the canyon supports exceptional climbing opportunities. The opportunity for hiking, swimming, and fishing in natural areas away from city life are exemplified at Martha’s Falls and Canyon Mouth. Camping information can be found here.
The backcountry area of the preserve is the largest public land area in northern Alabama available for hunting, fishing, and trapping. This quiet area of the preserve also provides opportunities for solitude as well as multiple types of recreation including horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, flatwater paddling, and jogging. The backcountry area of the preserve also protects important habitats and a watershed for wildlife, flora, and humans alike.
Native Plants and Wildlife Communities
4322 Little River Trail NE
Fort Payne, AL 35967
GPS Address: 472 AL Hwy 35, Fort Payne, AL 35967. Our address was updated by 911 and some GPS units will send you to an incorrect address. Please use this address for GPS units.
(256) 845-9605 x201