The park, river and canyon have come along way since being known as a dumping ground for stolen automobiles throughout much of the 20th century. About 30 years ago, the last week of September in 1982, the body of little Lisa Ann Millican, who was kidnapped from the old Riverbend Mall in Rome, was recovered from the canyon.
Park Superintendent Gail Bishop said that the NPS has taken major steps during the past two decades to preserve the natural beauty of the canyon and promote the uniqueness of the Little River itself. The 12-mile long canyon is the longest canyon east of the Mississippi River and is approximately 600 feet deep much of that distance.
Chief Park Ranger Larry Beane, who has been at the Preserve since 1995 said, “Visitors often come up to me and thank us for the progress and preservation.”
The river is included in the National Wild and Scenic River system and is a popular stream for kayak and canoe enthusiasts.
The park has witnessed many changes in recent years, including the addition of a handicapped accessible boardwalk to make it easier for all people to enjoy the beauty of the Little River Falls. The special boardwalk will be dedicated as part of the activities Sunday, which will get underway at 1 p.m. CDT.
A new Alabama Highway 35 bridge at the falls brought new access to the area, and the Canyon Center, built in conjunction with Jacksonville State University, provides a center for educational activities that take place virtually every weekend.
The Little River National Preserve is the largest National Park Service area in the state of Alabama.
“We have made major improvements in safety and created visitor friendly areas,” Bishop said. “We attract between 300,000 and 500,000 visitors each year, spending anywhere from $20-$163 each at restaurants, hotels, gas stations and stores.”
Bishop also said the staff has improved the Eberhart Point Trail, Powell Trail and the path between
“We have built Beaver Pond Trail, and restored the YCC and DeSoto Scout Trails,” Bishop said.
Special children’s activities slated for Sunday include a clay art table and historic Native American games.
Refreshments will be served after the dedication.