FORT PAYNE, Ala. - The Little River Canyon National Preserve celebrated its 27th anniversary on October 21.
New Hope, Alabama resident Mary Smith visited Little River Canyon National Preserve for the first time on Thursday.
"Beautiful scenery. I love the waterfall," said Smith.
The Preserve has something for everyone, but the beautiful fall colors are what attracts folks most this time of year.
"It's just gorgeous, just gorgeous," Smith.
Park Ranger Matt Switzer told WHNT News 19 that the more than 15,000-acre preserve is a national treasure in northeast Alabama.
"Little River Canyon itself is the second deepest gorge east of Mississippi, and we're also rather unique in that we have Little River cutting through," said Switzer.
It has a deep history, too.
"Spanish conquistadors came around the area, Deluna and Desoto came through the area in the 1500s. The trail of tears ran through Little River Canyon down into Fort Payne," added Switzer.
The National Park Service, the Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy are working to protect the area.
"We have to worry about vehicle emissions, chemical spills, anything that can potentially contaminate the water and the river itself. With the farmlands around, there's the potential for contamination from pesticides and herbicides," said Switzer.
They have acquired hundreds of acres of privately owned properties on the east ridge of the canyon and given it to the Preserve.
"You don’t have much natural scenery left and this is natural. We have natural habitats that need to be preserved. We need places that still need to be enjoyed," said Smith,
Little River Canyon is expanding educational programs and family fun areas in the park.
There is a new playground at Canyon Mouth Park in the Preserve.