Monday, December 13, 2010

DeSoto Falls & DeSoto State Park - Fort Payne/Mentone

DeSoto Falls
While you might not think of the winter as a great time to explore the outdoors, it is actually the best time of the years to see Alabama's waterfalls flowing at their best.

One of the most spectacular and easiest to access of these is DeSoto Falls, part of DeSoto State Park. Located on the outskirts of Mentone and just a few miles from I-85 and Fort Payne, the waterfall is 100-feet high and is both a scenic wonder and a historic site rich in the heritage and culture of North Alabama.

Archaeological evidence indicates that prehistoric Indians frequented the waterfall area long before the first Europeans arrived in North America. Some researchers also say that the famed "Welsh Caves" at the falls date from the Woodland era and are more than 1,000 years old. Others, however, say they were excavated by the Welsh explorer Prince Madoc, who some believe explored Alabama in 1170 A.D.

Azalea Cascade at DeSoto State Park
Legend also holds that Spanish artifacts dating from the Hernando de Soto expedition were found in the waterfall area. This accounts for the naming of the falls after de Soto, although if such artifacts did exist, they could also have originated from the Tristan de Luna expedition of 1559.

Better known is the role of the waterfall area during the Civil War. As the Union army was advancing on Chattanooga during the days before the Battle of Chickamauga, the 20th (XX) Corps) crossed Lookout Mountain at Mentone and cavalry forces are known to have visited the waterfall itself. The waterfall was also the site of one of the earliest hydroelectric plants in Alabama.

While DeSoto Falls is the largest, there are actually a number of other waterfalls in DeSoto State Park and they flow at their best during the winter months. The park also features cabins, camping, picnicking, a boardwalk that leads to a nice little waterfall, restaurant, hotel/lodge and more. Here are some links you might enjoy exploring for history, photos and more information: