Today we visited Dismals Canyon, a sandstone gorge near Phil Campbell in Franklin County, Alabama. It has been a National Landmark since 1974 but is privately owned. This is an ecological and geological wonder. First because it is home to 30 species of trees that other states claim as their state trees. It also was home to two Canadian Hemlock trees that Paleozoic glaciers from Canada carried as seeds into Alabama where they took root. These trees are far from their Canadian home and thriving here in the south. One of the trees had it's 50 foot wide crown removed during an ice storm. At Dismals Canyon, there is a 1.5 mile hiking trail on the canyon floor following a stream with moss covered boulders as tall as small buildings. There are waterfalls, cliffs, natural bridges, mossy-green tree roots and ferns providing a paleolithic sense of time and space.
There are caverns and grottos with those boulders scatter throughout the area, as a result of ancient earthquakes. It appears so primeval that The Discovery Channel filmed "When Dinosaurs Roamed America" here in the Canyon. This Canyon has a diversity of native plants including old-growth timber and botanists have identified 350 species of Exotic Flora.
This is also an area reknown for it's Dismalites, bioluminescent creatures, that are found only in a few places on Earth. These "glowworms" require a select habitat to survive. There are night tours viewing the Canyon walls as the Dismalites illuminate with a blue light glow. However, they can also be seen during the day if you venture into cave areas. This area is home to a rare Hellbender, a Giant Salamander, discovered in 2006 and only one of three specimens discovered in Alabama in the past twenty years. These Giant Salamanders are two feet in length.
This small 85 acres appears to be a step back in time but has not had formal archelogical teams exploring it but there is evidence such a spear heads and pottery shards from Paleo Indians as well as artifacts from later Native America trides who used this are as a shelter such as the Cherokee and Chickasaw. Sadly there is an association with the Canyon pertaining to the displacement of Native Americans in the late 1800s when they were gathered and held here before being relocated to Oklahoma on a route known as the "Trail of Tears."
If you are ever in this area it is worth a visit. By the way, there is primitive camping and cabins but I am not familar with the details.