Back in the 1980’s, my parents took me and my sister to Phil Campbell, Alabama to see Dismals Canyon. It had been featured in Southern Living Magazine and my mother was eager to see it for herself. What we ended up seeing was one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places left in Alabama.
The Dismals began millions of years ago and was created by natural forces, such as erosion and earthquakes. You can see waterfalls, natural bridges, grottos, giant boulders, ancient hemlock trees, glowing worms called "dismalites" and much more. Artifacts have been unearthed that proves that all known cultures of Stone-Age man have resided there. Various American Indian tribes made Dismals their home in the past as well as notorious outlaws such as Aaron Burr.
At the start of the tour, you see a natural pool carved into rock at the top of Rainbow Falls. As you make your way into the canyon via wooden stairs, mist from the waterfall spreads into the canyon making it into a mysterious place. It’s like stepping back into time as you wind your way along Dismals Branch to the swinging bridge and then to Burr’s hideout.
Along the path, and all through the canyon, you will find such diversity of flora. According to their website, "More than 350 different species of Exotic Flora have been identified by botanists exploring the Dismals", including Canadian Hemlock, a variety of maples, witch hazel, mountain laurel, Virginia creeper, sassafras, and more.
In fact, the Dismals is so unique with it’s atmosphere and flora, the Discovery Channel used it as one of the locations for the filming of "When Dinosaurs Roamed America". According to the website, "the canyon was selected because its vegetation and broad leaf trees are typical of those that existed when dinosaurs roamed the Earth some 100 to 200 million years ago. The canyon's tall trees and ferns are similar to fossils paleontologists have found near dinosaur relics".
Different from when I was there years ago, the owners have added two, fully-furnished, romantic rental cabins available year-round. And, yes folks, that includes rocking chairs. Reservations are required, so call early.
For information on admission fees and more, go to the Dismals website at http://www.dismalscanyon.com/ or write them at –
901 Hwy 8
Phil Campbell, AL 35581
* all photos courtesy of www.dismalscanyon.com
© 2005 Dana Sieben