Dismals Canyon was once used as a shelter by Paleo, Cherokee, and Chickasaw inhabitants and traces of them abound. From the Temple Cave where you can find traces of pottery and arrow heads from the Paleo Indians that inhabited this area 10,000 years ago, to the Kitchen area where meals were cooked and tribal rituals were performed by the Chickasaw Indians.
To hike the canyon is fairly easy. It’s only a 1.5 miles trail that takes you all along the floor of the canyon. Winding it’s way around boulders and the waterway.
Many waterfalls greet you around secret corners and passage ways. It’s easy to get turned around in this place. Unfortunately the trail is not easily marked and the map that they give you is not very helpful at all. So their were some places of interest that we did miss.
Their is something to be said however in finding your own path. Making your own way and discovering a secret cave or hideout. It makes it all that more special and exciting.
One thing we searched for was the Champion Tree. This Eastern/Canadian Hemlock is the first Champion Tree in Franklin County. The tree is 138’ tall, 8’9” around and has a crown spread of 50’. It is the largest of its species in Alabama and thought to be the largest anywhere in the world.
We were less than impressed. Sorry, but we’ve seen bigger and taller trees elsewhere. Maybe it was impressive in it’s own right being an Eastern/Canadian Hemlock but to us, it was just a big tree.
Honestly, if it didn’t have the sign telling us this was the Champion Tree, we would have never been able to pick it out from the other surrounding trees. It really was not that impressively big.
Oh well…I digress.
With all of these ferns and moss growing from every surface imaginable, you really do not realize that you are in Alabama anymore. We have yet to get to the Pacific Northwest but I have a feeling that this is what it’s like.
If you’re lucky enough to be in this area in the evening time, the canyon has a night time hike that I hear is wonderful. Taking your own flashlight a guide will lead you through the canyon and the canyon, umm, shall we say, comes alive.
Their are thousands of tiny bio-luminescent creatures, or a close cousin of glow worms, that come out and “light” your way. This canyon has the distinct honor of being one of only a handful of places in the US that you can see these creatures. The canyon walls make a perfect atmosphere for these creatures and here in Alabama, in Dismals Canyon, is one of the largest concentrations of these colonies in the world.
It really has a rain forest type feel to it. With it’s cooler temperatures and babbling brook, you can close your eyes and almost transport yourself to another place.
Which is exactly what we needed from sitting in the service center parking lot campground for weeks.
A different change of pace.
A different feel.
Dismals Canyon was anything but dismal.