Celebrating 25 years – Little Canyon National Preserve beauty is timeless

Birmingham
Courtesy of John Dersham this photo of Little River Falls taken in 1889 is most likely the oldest taken of the Canyon

This past Saturday, friends and families celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Little Canyon National Preserve at the Jacksonville State University Canyon Center in Fort Payne, Alabama.  Established by an Act of Congress on October 24th, 1992, the Preserve is Alabama’s only National Park unit dedicated to a natural area.

Birmingham
Little River Canyon Falls – photo by Pat Byington, Bham Now

Known for its unmatched and timeless beauty, the Preserve has become a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts.  According to National Park Service visitation data, nearly 500,000 people visited the park in 2016.

Nationally Significant

Supporters of the National Preserve praised and reminded the gathering that attended the anniversary celebration why Little River Canyon is nationally significant.

Mike Leonard, former Alabama resident and President of the Board of the Conservation Fund, one of the nation’s largest conservation organizations, summed it up best during the celebration ceremony:

“Folks, I have travelled all over this country. I spend a lot of time outdoors.  I was in Wyoming on a five day horse packing trip back up in the Teton Wilderness in August.  Little River Canyon is one of the most magnificent land features in this country. I know that. I’ve been all over this country… it is amazing thing for this state to have.”

Birmingham Alabama
Photo of Little River Canyon 2017 – by Pat Byington, Bham Now
“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people”

Back in the early 90s, Olivia Barton Ferriter worked closely as lead staff with Congressman Tom Bevill, the author and champion of the legislation to create the park.  She now serves as Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Interior for Finance, Budget, Planning and Procurement.

In her presentation, Ferriter talked about the Preserve benefiting all people.

“My new boss, Secretary Zinke, his vision for conservation is etched on that arch at Yellowstone (National Park).

There is this phrase on it that says, “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

That is what Congressman Bevill had in mind when he started investigating how we would have something in this part of the state. It really is something Little River Canyon embodies. Opportunities are here for multiple forms of outdoor recreation and that includes hunting, fishing, watching wildlife, running the river and exploring nature. For me, it has always been a magical place.”

Left to Right -Photo of Pete Conroy, Steve Black, Sierra Reavis, Olivia Barton Ferriter and Rep. Richard Lindsey
 Cake and Timeless Beauty

Of course as with every celebration, the event culminated with a big birthday cake.

Fort Payne
Little River Canyon 25th Anniversary Cake – photo by Pat Byington, Bham Now

Remembering Little River Canyon’s history, John Dersham, President/CEO of DeKalb Tourism supplied Bham Now the first known photos of Little River Canyon taken in 1889.

Fort Payne
Images taken by O.W. Chase of Little River Canyon (May’s Gulf) in 1889. He was a photographer from Boston contracted by the Fort Payne Coal and Iron company to make photographs for a brochure to promote the industrial development of Fort Payne by New Englanders. I truly believe these are most likely the first pictures ever taken at Little River Canyon. These scans are done from the original 6 1/2 X 8 1/2 glass negatives of which were darkroom printed and scanned for digital use – courtesy of John Dersham
Birmingham
Image taken by O.W. Chase of Little River Canyon (May’s Gulf) in 1889 – Courtesy John Dersham

People from all over our nation have explored, played and fallen in love with Little River Canyon. Its beauty is timeless.

And it belongs to all of us thanks to people who created the National Preserve 25 years ago.

“It was an honor and a thrill to have celebrated conservation of this beautiful place with so many friends and colleagues,” stated Pete Conroy, JSU Canyon Center Director and co-host of the event.

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.