On Friday and Saturday, I ran a scouting mission to north Alabama for a trip I will be leading with the University of Alabama Outdoor Recreation over fall break (October 27 to October 30). Ostensibly, the purpose of the trip is to "explore Little River Canyon." Unfortunately, that is a rather difficult and demanding task unless you are a Class V whitewater boater or a 5.12 rock climber. Since I am neither of those things, I can hardly expect college student participants with no prior experience to be those things either. This obviously threw a small wrench in the plan. Also less-than-fortuitous, camping is not allowed in the canyon and is only permitted on the surrounding lands until September 30, at which point camping is closed for the winter. In other words, my co-leader, Matt, and I had to get a little creative.
My first course of action was to call my friend Sam England. Sam is a Huntsville native and has spent plenty of time in the Canyon. He also worked for a short time as an instructor with Nature's Classroom, a nearby experiential learning center serving elementary and middle school students. (Sam also happens to be both a Class V boater and a 5.12 rock climber.) Combined with his local knowledge, I knew that we were sure to find some suitable objectives for our trip.
Lucky for us, while Little River Canyon proper is an intimidating and committing place, the West Fork of the Little River and the associated canyon just upstream are much more accessible. Our plan was to use DeSoto State Park as a basecamp and run day trips into the canyon from there. One of these was an excursion to DeSoto Falls and the surrounding area.
|Rough map of DeSoto Falls and the surrounding area|
The area provides a decent, though small, top roping area for beginner climbing as well as a few 5.11 sport routes further upstream. The intrepid explorer will also find a saltpetre cave used by the Confederacy during the Civil War to produce gun powder as well as the mysterious "Welsh Caves" high up the cliffs. Reportedly, there is also good fishing in the pool below the falls.
|Latone after sending the crack|
|Latone finishing a very pumpy V3 traverse|