Tag Archives: Alabama

Little River Canyon National Preserve

Overview

Authorized in 1992, Little River Canyon National Preserve covers about 14,000 acres in northeast Alabama.  Elevations range from 1,900-foot tall Lookout Mountain down to 650-foot Weiss Lake reservoir, as the Little River plunges from the Cumberland Plateau.  With cliffs up to 600 feet in height, this unique gorge contains several endemic species of plants and animals.  Only the southern half of the preserve is readily accessible by roads, with DeSoto State Park offering the best way to see the northern section.

Highlights

Little River Falls, Canyon Mouth, Graces High Falls

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the Little River Canyon Center on Highway 35, then make the short drive to the parking area for 45-foot tall Little River Falls.  From there, drive Highway 176 for 11 miles along the west side of the canyon, which has nine scenic overlooks, including one for seasonal Graces High Falls.

Best Trail

There are a few short trails in the preserve, many of which drop steeply from the rim to the riverside.  At the southern end near the intersection of Highways 273 and 275 is Canyon Mouth, a flat trail that follows alongside the Little River.  There is better hiking and even more waterfalls in nearby DeSoto State Park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Graces High Falls is 133 feet tall, making it the tallest (aboveground) waterfall in Alabama, but it only flows in the spring and after large rain events.

Peak Season

Spring

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/liri/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None except at Canyon Mouth ($15 per day or America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

De Soto State Park offers camping, in addition to excellent hiking trails to several waterfalls.  There are also three backcountry campsites in Little River Canyon National Preserve available from February through September with a permit.

Related Sites

Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama)

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park (Alabama)

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

Explore More – How many endemic species of caddisflies are found in Little River Canyon and nowhere else on Earth?

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

Overview

Not as well-known as the parkway it parallels, Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail is one of only three National Scenic Trails officially managed by the National Park Service (NPS).  The trace (or trail) started as an American Indian footpath.  Some of the mound builder sites protected here were inhabited when Hernando de Soto led the first Europeans into this area in 1540.  The Natchez Trace was heavily used in the 1800s by “Kaintuck” flatboatmen returning from New Orleans who left the Mississippi River from Natchez, Mississippi and continued on foot north to Nashville, Tennessee.  Today you can follow portions of the “sunken” trail worn down by travelers for centuries.

Highlights

Rocky Springs, Owens Creek Waterfall, Cave Spring, Cypress Swamp, War of 1812 Memorial

Must-Do Activity

The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail does not follow the entire 444-mile parkway, but exists in five segments totaling 67 miles in length.  The two longest sections are near Leipers Fork, Tennessee (Miles 408-427) and north of Jackson, Mississippi (Miles 108-130).  There are many other places to go hiking along the Natchez Trace Parkway, including one of our favorite spots, Tishomingo State Park (Mile 304) in Mississippi.  Near Tupelo, the Parkway Visitor Center at Mile 266 is another must-do stop to learn the history of the trace.

Best Trail

There are eight miles of the original trail around the Rocky Springs Campground near Mile 58 in Mississippi, which provides access to Owens Creek Waterfall and a historic town site.

Instagram-worthy Photo

In early April the dogwood trees bloom along the Natchez Trace.  At Mile 275 is Dogwood Valley, which also has a short section of “sunken” historic trail.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/natt/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The entire 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway is paved from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, but not all trailheads are RV accessible.

Camping

There are three NPS campgrounds along the route, as well as those in sites like Mississippi’s Tishomingo State Park.  The three NPS campgrounds are primitive and free, plus there are also five bike-only campsites along the route.

Related Sites

Tupelo National Battlefield (Mississippi)

Natchez National Historical Park (Mississippi)

Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)

Explore More – The Natchez Trace Parkway officially joined the NPS system in 1938, but when was construction of the road finally completed?

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

Overview

It was near Daviston, Alabama on March 27, 1814 that a fortified village of Upper Creek (or Red Stick) Indians was attacked by a superior force under the leadership of Major General Andrew Jackson.  Jackson started by firing cannons at the barricade for two hours, then his overanxious Indian allies pressed the issue by crossing the river to fight.  Jackson quickly ordered his men to charge and overtook the stronghold.  This proved to be the final battle of the Creek Indian War of 1813-14, which is considered part of the War of 1812.  In the treaty that followed, the tribe ceded much of the land that became the state of Alabama to the United States.  When Jackson became president in 1828, he signed the Indian Removal Bill and soon both the Upper Creeks and his former Indian allies were forced west on the Trail of Tears.

Highlights

Museum, film, auto tour, nature trail

Must-Do Activity

A short but good film is the best way to start learning about this lesser known yet important battle of the War of 1812 that brought fame to Andrew Jackson.  A diorama in the visitor center illustrates the fortifications used at Horseshoe Bend.   On the three-mile auto tour, only short walks are required from any interpretive pullout.

Best Trail

An alternative to the auto tour is a 2.8-mile nature trail that visits the same interpretive sites.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A tight curve in the Tallapoosa River in eastern Alabama provided the name for Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.  Indian allies of the U.S. started the 1814 battle by swimming then paddling stolen canoes across the river to get behind the fortifications.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/hobe/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no camping allowed here, but Wind Creek State Park has a campground 25 miles southwest of the park.

Related Sites

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (Louisiana)

Fort Smith National Historic Site (Arkansas-Oklahoma)

Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama)

Explore More – Where did a much more famous U.S. victory during the War of 1812 take place under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson?

Russell Cave National Monument

Overview

Humans have been visiting Russell Cave in northeast Alabama since about the time its limestone roof collapsed creating an entrance around 10,000 years ago.  A timeline of human invention was preserved in the floor of this hunting camp for millennia, from atlatls to bows, pottery to pump drills.  The park rangers were the friendliest we encountered during Pretirement and often offer demonstrations of prehistoric tools and weapons.

Highlights

Museum with American Indian artifacts, boardwalk to cave entrance, nature trails

Must-Do Activity

There are a select few artifacts displayed on site in the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center.  From there a short boardwalk leads through the forest to an overlook of the archaeological digs at the cave entrance, which you cannot enter. 

Best Trail

Two nature trails (0.6 and 1.2 miles long) split off from the boardwalk to explore the surrounding hills.

Instagram-worthy Photo

This cave is not famous for its pretty cave formations, but for its incredible archaeological record.  If you want to see beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, I recommend you head west to the impressive Cathedral Caverns State Park.

Peak Season

Summer, when it can be muggy and buggy.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ruca/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but RVs are not recommended on Highway 156 if entering from the north.

Camping

DeSoto State Park has a campground and primitive camping is allowed at three sites in nearby Little River Canyon National Preserve.

Explore More – How far down into the cave floor did archaeologists dig in the 1950s?

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Overview

Aircraft developed at an incredible rate between the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903 and the 1940s.  Yet at the outset of World War II, African-American men were not allowed to be pilots in the Army Air Corps (before the 1947 creation of the Air Force).  In 1941, an experimental program was started at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to train hundreds of pilots, bombardiers, and navigators for the looming war.  The site is housed in the old hangars at Moton Field airport where historic airplanes and excellent interpretive panels  tell the story of the group of African-American men that came to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

05-IMGP5120

Highlights

P-51 Mustang airplane, interpretive film

Must-Do Activity

Start your tour inside Hanger No. 1 then watch the film inside Hanger No. 2, where you will learn about the Tuskegee Airmen’s goal of Double-V, victory over the enemy abroad and victory over racism at home.  After the war, in 1948, President Harry S Truman signed an order calling for “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services.”

Best Trail

No trails

Instagram-worthy Photo

Get a shot in front of the P-51 “Red Tail” hanging from the ceiling inside Hanger No. 2.

Tuskegee

Peak Season

The site is open year round, but every Memorial Day weekend there is a big celebration at Moton Field and many of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen visit the site.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/tuai/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The site is handicap accessible, and if you contact the NPS before your visit they can arrange parking closer than the main visitor lot on the hill above Moton Field.

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed at nearby Tuskegee National Forest.

01-IMGP5108

02-IMG_2180

04-IMGP5115

2015TuskegeeAirmen
Jump at any chance to meet some surviving Tuskegee Airmen.  This event was in Cheyenne, WY.

Explore More – The 72 Tuskegee Airmen combat pilots shot down how many enemy aircraft during World War II?

1Wons

WONDON WAS HERE