Canyon Land Park, Alabama

….is now abandoned, but it looks like somewhere I’d have begged to be taken to as a child. My friend Chris sent me a link and asked if we’d ever been hiking to see the abandoned park, and we had not. In fact neither of us had heard of it. Turns out it was just down from the Hippie Hole ( previous post about the area) in Little River Canyon. We decided to check it out!

Canyon Land ( that link to an article with old photos of the park so you can get see what it was like), came about before Little River Canyon was a National preserve. A man named Mr Weaver bought some property overlooking the river, and on March 8, 1970 opened an amusement park.

It had rides, putt putt golf, a campground, a zoo, live music & comedy shows and its most noteworthy attraction was a 1,500 foot long chairlift that guests could take 600 feet down into the canyon below. Once at the bottom of the canyon, guests of the park could have a picnic, go swimming, hiking or fishing. The floor of the canyon was owned by the State of Alabama and operation of the chairlift was contingent upon an easement granted to the park. The chairlift was located at what is now known as Eberhart Point and you can see remnants of the lift along with the pillars at the bottom of the trail in the canyon.” From https://tagcaver.wixsite.com/undergroundearth/single-post/2018/08/28/canyon-land-an-abandoned-amusement-park-at-little-river-in-alabama

As it was January, and we’d last been here to Little River Canyon in July, we had clearer views of the river from the top of the canyon with the absence of the leaves on the trees. We stopped on the way to the trailhead to take in the views, and got to watch some birds soaring right in front of us. I had hoped they were hawks or eagles, but alas, buzzards. It was still neat to watch them soaring at our level, although we had cause for concern as we were at the top of a cliff, where Jango was keen to get after those birds – and a few times we thought she may actually jump. She was quickly escorted to time out in the truck.

I thought this was pretty awesome!

As the signs point out above, there’s an overlook at Eberhart point, as well as a trail that descends beyond it. The view from the overlook is fantastic!

Even though I’d read about the former amusement park, and read that you could still see the chair lift and abandoned picnic area, I didn’t read carefully enough about how to see the old abandoned roller coaster or Ferris wheel. From the photos in that link from my friend above, it seems that there may still be a place to see those along with the old entrance, and other odds and ends from that part of the park. Putting that down for next time, as this time we *focused on the picnic area* (gonna go with that)

Side note – I have been weirdly fascinated by abandoned amusement parks. I’m sure it has something to do with reading interesting articles about the history of them. There’s one in New Orleans (linked there) that was abandoned after Katrina. Here’s a list of others (linked there) in the US if you’re interested.

The Eberhart trail that leads to the bottom, is steep. It begins as an actual trail through decending rocks and boulders, which eventually leads to a washed out dirt road

Top of the trail
Gravel road to the bottom – its obvious who’s the faster hiker. I’m always behind him.
Didn’t need this bench on the way down, but surely did use it on the way back up. It’s at the one switchback on the gravel trail/road.

Just past the bench, I started to really look for remnants of the old park, and noticed something in the trees that looked like a structure. We stepped off of the trail (not encouraged by park personnel) and walked over to to find one of the cement pilings that once held the columns for the sky lift. As the park closed in 1985, there was 37 years of new forest growth surrounding it, which made it difficult to see if you weren’t looking for it.

The article mentions that the sky lift came down to a picnic area at the bottom of the canyon and a swimming hole. We walked in the direction of the river from the piling, and the abandoned picnic area began appearing around us.

This lone skylift frame was the highlight of former amusement park regalia

The article also mentions the old stone structure that was once a concession stand.

We were impressed with how well built it was. There were other structures around it that had been completely washed out by flooding.

When we were here last summer to go to the Hippie Hole, Shannon showed me this trailhead and mentioned that there was a swimming hole at the bottom of this trail. He said it was where people used to go skinny dipping back in the early 90’s. The article mentions that a swimming hole was also an attraction for the picnic area, and it’s evident why. The trail that ends at the picnic area, also leads directly to a small rock beach which lines a fairly large, clear, calm section of river that is between two sections of waterfall rapids. It’s a beautiful spot.

We spent most of the month of January sick with/recovering from Covid. Before that we were involved in a lot of sitting and lack of activity through the holidays. Needless to say, the steep hike up and out was a bit of a challenge. We made use of that bench at the switchback, and took advantage of the opportunity to check out the concrete pilings higher up on the way back up to reduce the rate of incline climb. I checked my smart watch for distance when we got back to the top, and it was a little over a mile round trip. Current goal: Less sitting, more moving around in general.

And look what we saw just past the park exit!

ICYMI – previous post about Tellico Gap included a Rock City Barn Roof ad sighting as well

I’m keen to go back and find the roller coaster, ferris wheel, and park entrance. Shannon mentioned, days after the fact, that he’d noticed the old entrance when we went this time but didn’t register what it was. This is good news for the return trip to find them.

It was a fun day trip adventure and I highly recommend it! .

4 thoughts on “Canyon Land Park, Alabama

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