The year was 1540 and Hernando Desoto and his Army of Spanish Conquistadors were on their way down the Chattooga River heading toward Cedar Bluff, Alabama. On June 4th, 1540 they arrived and camped for almost a month on an island. It was soon named McCoy’s island, ‘Chiaha” was the name given by Desoto’s historians.
As they arrived they found the beauty of the two rivers and the Coosa valley to be very pleasing. They decided to rest at McCoy’s Island to heal the men and horses. It was also very abundant in food and the perfect camp after a long hard journey through the Appalachian Mountains. A journey that was very difficult and a challenge for even the most experienced warrior!
There were rumors of gold to be found in the north and west hills of Lookout Mountain. So Desoto decides to send a small army of men led by lieutenant Vilabo and Silva. They departed on June 1570 and passed between Menlo, Georgia and Blanche, Alabama toward Desoto Falls near Mentone, Alabama! They decided to camp for a few days at the 104 foot waterfalls. It is located on the west fork of little river on Lookout Mountain.
For several days the troops searched the area for gold and other treasures and then proceeded to pass through Big Wills to Henagar Alabama. Here they found south Sauty Creek and followed it all the way to Buck’s Pocket State Park. It is said that the men were blown away by the view from point rock and did not find gold but found iron Oxide high in the cliffs around Buck’s Pocket! There is no historical evidence that says they went any further than Buck’s pocket or ever saw the Tennessee River!
From this point the party headed back toward McCoy’s Island and passed through the town of Sand Rock, Alabama. The men returned to Chiaha (McCoy’s Island) near Hokes Bluff. They arrived to discover that Desoto and the main party had set trail June 28, 1540 down the Coosa River. Desoto had left a few wounded men behind to wait for the Sand mountain crew to return. They departed to catch up with Desoto and arrived on June 18, 1540 only two days behind Desoto’s arrival on July 16, 1540. They camped at the mouth of the Talladega creek in Talladega County.
Many people say that Desoto discovered the falls but there is evidence that the area was used by Indians and even the Welsh! Located near 325 feet above little river are three caves that are interconnected by openings between the caverns. They are protected by the cliff and only a narrow trail leads the way to the Welsh caves. It is rumored that only a few men could fight off an army of troops. The trail was so narrow that only one man could pass at a time.
It is believed that the Welsh traveled to the New World over 300 years before Columbus and made 3 trips. They sailed into Mobile Bay and traveled to Lookout Mountain. The Indians of the time did not possess the skill of excavation and it is believed that the Welsh came and built the caves high above little river. There were also six skeletons found wearing brass armor with the Welsh coat of arms.
Desoto falls is an awesome waterfalls and seeing it in person is inspiring and beautiful. To see the foliage in the fall is breath taken and colors are super vibrant. I could not imagine what it would have looked like 500 years ago. The area is still very preserved and has an abundant supply of wildlife.
In the 1920’s Arthur Abernathy Miller and self taught electrical engineer built a twenty-foot high damn above the falls. Author built the damn to supply power to his hydroelectric generator on the west side of the gorge. There is still a square concrete slab where the generator one was. It supplied power for fort Payne, Collinsville, Mentone, valley head, Alabama and Menlo Georgia.. If it wasn’t for Miller’s genius many people in the area would have been without power.
Desoto State Park is one of Alabama most beautiful areas and has many things to do year around. They have cabins, chalets, swimming, picnic area, hiking trails, and many special events. You can’t forget all the waterfalls in the area either: Indian falls, Azalea falls, laurel, lost falls, Lodge Falls, and of course Desoto Falls! You could spend a week in Desoto state park just looking at waterfalls and hiking. Little river falls and many other falls around Little River Canyon are just a short drive away!
There are a few great trails, Wildflower trail that is perfect for you flower lovers. It is only 0.49 and begins and ends at the lodge! Looking for a longer hike you can take Laurel Creek Loop and is a total of 2.9 miles long. This is the perfect trail for you waterfall lovers and passes by laurel falls, lost Falls and azalea cascade. When it is dry you may not find Lost falls so be prepared! It also starts and ends at the same place making it a great trail for you hikers.
They have an awesome camping area with 58 water and electric sites and two comfort stations with restrooms with hot showers. You will want to make reservations, first come first serve. They also have 20 primitive camping spots and offer a group rate and a single person is $5.35 as of 2008. It is $3 per person with the group rate! You can also use the bathrooms and showers!
Need food, you have the Desoto State Park Mountain Inn cooking all the home classics. There are also places in Mentone like Cragsmere Manna Restaurant and Dessie’s Country Chef, just like mom used to make!
While you are in the area you must check out Little River Canyon National Preserve with great 700 foot cliffs and waterfalls along Lookout Mountain. Little River is a rock climbers paradise and also has white water for you water ducks out there. Come to Alabama and see the beauty of the mountain and lose yourself into nature. If you come in the winter time be sure to check out Cloudmont Ski and Golf. They start blowing Alabama snow as soon as it gets 28 degrees and the area gets an annual snowfall of 12 inches. Who would have ever thought it, Alabama snow!
Thanks for reading about Desoto Falls on Lookout Mountain. Come see Alabama and understand why they call it “Alabama the Beautiful!”