Little River Canyon National Preserve shatters visitation records in 2020

Little River Falls
Little River Falls at Little River Canyon National Preserve in December 2020. Photo via Pat Byington for The Bama Buzz

Little River Canyon National Preserve, Alabama’s only National Park unit dedicated to a natural area saw a drastic increase in the number of visitors in 2020.

According to data released by the National Park Service visitation numbers for Little River Canyon increased from 649,986 visits in 2019 to about 802,375 visits in 2020.

Fall of 2020 saw the biggest increase compared to fall of 2019. The numbers were up over 67% in October and over 79% in November.

Little River
Behind Little River Falls at Little River Canyon National Preserve in December 2020. Photo via Pat Byington for The Bama Buzz

Park visits have also been  increasing dramatically over the past 5 years. In 2017, Bham Now reported the increase in park attendance from  248,137 visitors in 2015 to over 462,703 in 2016. 

Canyon Center Hopes to Reopen

The big jump in park numbers has occurred despite the closure of the JSU Canyon Center since the beginning of the pandemic.  If COVID-19 numbers continue to decline statewide, the popular visitor and nature center at Little River Canyon could open this spring. 

“No doubt Covid created an intense need for outdoor activity but these big numbers have been surprising. We’re especially eager for increased vaccinations and continued mask wearing allowing us to reopen the JSU Canyon Center in mid April. In the meanwhile we’re open by appointment with special, exclusive opportunities.”

Pete Conroy, Director of the JSU Canyon Center

Parking – Explore Neighboring Places

Mushroom Rock
Mushroom Rock at Little River Canyon National Preserve in December 2020. Photo via Pat Byington for The Bama Buzz

The increased number of visitors to the park has made it harder to find a parking space. National Park Rangers are encouraging visitors to popular Little River Canyon  locations to arrive earlier, since parking lots have a tendency to fill up before 10 am.

They  also recommend  visitors have a backup plan in case the parking lots are full:

Nearby nature attractions in Alabama include:

  • DeSoto State Park
  • Buck’s Pocket State Park
  • Lake Guntersville State Park
  • Weiss Lake 

Georgia and Tennessee sites include:

  •  Cloudland Canyon State Park 
  • James H. Floyd State Park in Georgia 

Tips

Need some helpful tips? Check out our 2019 story about Little River Canyon and the JSU Canyon Center.

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Pat Byington
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