Little River Falls is one of the most scenic and accessible waterfalls in the South. It is located atop Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne, Alabama.
A major feature of the Little River Canyon National Preserve National Preserve, the waterfall runs year-round and marks the head of what many call the “Grand Canyon of the East.” The canyon is 12 miles long and reaches depths of more than 600 feet.
One of its most photographed features is Little River Falls, twin waterfalls just below the Alabama Highway 35 bridge over the Little River. The falls are less than a 30-minute drive from Interstate 59 at Fort Payne and can be seen from overlooks on both sides of the river. The most popular way to see them is from an access point just east of the bridge.
A paved but steep path leads from the parking lot to an overlook near the falls. Adventurous visitors can even make their way down onto the rocks at the top of the waterfall!
The second overlook is on Canyon Rim Drive. It provides a more panoramic view of the 45-foot high falls from the canyon rim. It is easy to
access by persons of all abilities.
Little River Falls have been a landmark for thousands of years. Native Americans visited the waterfalls for centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Spanish explorers Hernando de Soto and the followers of Tristan de Luna passed nearby.The falls also attracted the attention of the first settlers of the region. An important road crossed just upstream, providing one of very few ways for early travelers to traverse the canyon.
Both Union and Confederate troops used this crossing during the War Between the States or Civil War. Groups of deserters and even outlaw bands frequented the vicinity during the turbulent war and Reconstruction years.
The community of Edna Hill grew up around Little River falls during the late 19th century. It featured a mill that stood on the riverside just above the waterfalls. Rushing water powered the mill wheel, which in turn spun mill stones and saw mill blades.Also nearby stood a store, church and homes.
The little settlement faded into history during the 20th century and only photographs of it survive today. An interpretive panel at the east
observation deck tells the story of Edna Hill. Historic photos help visitors visualize the area as it once appeared.
The waterfall is preserved in its natural state and flows with impressive force throughout the year. Local preservationists – including members of the country band Alabama – led a fight to have the canyon and falls declared a national park area to save it and the falls from development. They achieved success with the designation of Little River Canyon National Preserve in 1992. It attracts tens of thousands of
visitors to the Alabama mountains each year.
Little River Falls is one of the most popular spots in the preserve. The park on the east bank offers picnic tables, restrooms and hiking trails. There are no accommodations or campsites at the falls, but nearby DeSoto State Park offers a hotel/lodge, cabins, campsites and more. Numerous hotels and other places to stay are available nearby in Fort Payne and Mentone.
There are numerous other waterfalls in the preserve. Many of them are small but Grace’s High Falls is believed to be the tallest in Alabama. It flows seasonally and can be seen from an overlook on Canyon Rim Drive. Martha’s Falls, meanwhile, can be accessed by a path from the DeSoto Falls parking area. It is a little difficult to reach but is worth the walk.
Also nearby is DeSoto Falls, a spectacular 100-foot waterfall on the outskirts of Mentone, Alabama. Please click here to learn more about it.
Little River Canyon National Preserve and Little River Falls are open to the public daily during daylight hours. Both are free to visit. More information can be obtained from the Visitor Center at 472 AL Hwy 35, Fort Payne, Alabama. It is very near the falls.