Fort Payne: Rolling rivers and a majestic canyon draw tourists

Fort Payne: Rolling rivers and a majestic canyon draw tourists

August 28th, 2016 by Compiled by Yolanda Putman in Glimpse 2016

Icy DeSoto Falls (AP photo/The Times Journal, Melissa Smith)

Photo by Melissa Smith

Part of the picnic area at DeSoto State Park

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

Fort Payne, the county seat of DeKalb County, houses the headquarters for Little River Canyon National Preserve, the second-deepest canyon in the country east of the Mississippi River. The 15,288-acre preserve also protects what is said to be the nation's longest mountaintop river, the Little River, which flows for almost its entire length down the middle of Lookout Mountain, creating the 650-foot-deep canyon.

Although pitched in Chattanooga as a tourist attraction for sites like Rock City and Ruby Falls, most of Lookout Mountain sits in Alabama — 73 miles of the 100 miles are in Alabama, says John Dersham, president and CEO of DeKalb County Tourism.

Fort Payne also houses one of the nation's largest state parks — DeSoto State Park — which connects directly to Little River Canyon National Preserve.

"Tourism is by far or largest industry," Dersham says.

There's also lots of public land on top of the mountain, offering 150 rental cabins, eight bed-and-breakfast hotels, lots kayaking, rapelling and rock climbing.

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  • The Little River is the only river in the world to run most of its length across the top of a mountain. It reaches across Lookout Mountain, forming DeSoto Falls, a 104-foot waterfall responsible for the Little River Canyon National Preserve which reaches depths of 700 feet and offers breathtaking views. Call 256-845-9605, ext. 201 to learn more.
  • DeSoto State Park features a pavilion, walking and hiking trails, swimming pool, playground, volleyball court and ball field. (7104 DeSoto Pkwy. NE; 256-845-0051;
  • Buck’s Pocket State Park is a publicly owned recreation area located on Sand Mountain, 2 miles north of the community of Grove Oak. (393 County Road 174; 800-252-7275;
  • The centerpiece of High Falls Park is the 35-foot waterfall. Formed by Town Creek, the falls span some 300 feet across at times. (969 County Road 144; 256-659-4683)


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  • Antique Alley (May)
  • World’s Longest Yard Sale (August)
  • Boom Days Heritage Celebration (September)

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Founders of the Alabama band, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, are all cousins from Fort Payne. Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook formed the group in 1969.

The group’s biggest success hit in the 1980s when it had more than 27 No. 1 hits and seven multi-platinum albums.

The band had singles and multi-platinum record sales until it disbanded in 2006. The group reunited in 2011 and continue to tour and record.

>In homage to the family who helped make it famous, Fort Payne houses an Alabama Fan Club and Museum located at 101 Glenn Blvd. SW.