By Marla Ballard
DEKALB COUNTY, AL - Most people do not generally find winter to be their
favorite time of year. A wet winter commonly draws even more complaints.
However, winter is one of the best seasons to visit waterfalls due to
adequate rainfall and bare trees allowing for less obstructive views. Many
people and even some locals are surprised to discover DeSoto State Park has
DeSoto Falls, named after the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, plunges 107
feet. The historic A.A. Miller Dam and upper falls can be seen by visitors
with all physical abilities. A newly renovated beach area with paved path
allows those with mobility issues to get closer to nature on the top level
of the falls.
The lower level requires climbing down and back up 50 stairs. Located off
C.R. 89 near Mentone, seven-miles from the main park. This waterfall has a
picnic area, bathrooms, boat ramp, and more. There is a $4.00 charge per
vehicle. Tip, limited parking, so go early or late in the day on weekends.
Lodge Falls is located just behind the DeSoto State Park Lodge. The way to
reach Lodge Falls is to hike down into a small ravine and then onto the
Yellow Trail. Ask at the Country Store adjacent to the camping area or at
the DeSoto State Park Lodge for directions. The water falls 25 feet. Tip, go
after a good rain, because this waterfall is extremely dependent on
Indian Falls plummets over a 20-foot drop and creates a nice breeze as it
plunges into a small ravine, adjacent to the river. The waterfall is located
near the campground office and is across the street from the boardwalk. The
walk to the falls is approximately 0.1 from the road.
After a substantial rain it is probably best to take a hiking stick to keep
steady on the slick muddy spots. There are also a few sections where a
hiking stick would also come in handy for climbing some natural staircases
with high risers. Tip, the path that leads to the falls continues for a
peaceful hike along the river's scenic edge. Hikers may take the path up to
the lodge/cabin area or backtrack along the river.
Laurel Falls on Laurel Creek is located on the orange trial in the park. The
short 0.75-foot walk from the DeSoto Country Store has some uphill climbing
and can be both rugged and moderate to hike. Laurel Falls drops 6-feet
creating a gentle lullaby. Tip, pack a camping hammock in a backpack and
Lost Falls on Laurel Creek only drops a mere 5-feet, but is a delightful
surprise to those taking a hike through woods. The fall becomes lost when no
water is flowing. The trail is moderate to mildly strenuous. Lost Falls is
located 1.5 miles from DeSoto's Country Store. Tip, ask for directions at
the Country Store.
The Azalea Cascade on Laurel Creek may not be exactly classified as a
waterfall, but the setting is soothing as the water babbles into a small
stream at the end of the boardwalk. The boardwalk has benches where visitors
can read a book or simply sit and think. The trail is wheelchair and
stroller accessible. Tip, take binoculars for bird watching.
More waterfalls in DeKalb County can be found on the DeSoto State Park
website. Remember, the forest is home to wild animals and hikers should stay
alert to their surroundings. Talking or singing along the trail might
prevent an animal, such as a bear, from being surprised and give them time
to create some distance. Bears can still be active during winter. Also, it
is best to hike with a buddy and tell others when to expect you back.