By Tyler Pruett
The Washington Post released a ranking of 3,111 counties across the United States based on “natural amenities,” or to put in simpler terms, “prettiness.” It was quite a surprise to me as I’m sure it is to most residents that Dekalb County was ranked the ugliest in Alabama. What’s even more shocking is that nothing man made was taken into account. The study was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the methodology was developed in the late 1990’s, according to the Washington Post. Factors included scenery, climate, and beauty. So any unattractive buildings around weren’t even a factor, and neither are plants or wildlife. Having lived in this part of Alabama most of my life, I can understand how the seemingly wild variations in temperature could negatively affect our score, but in the “scenery” and “beauty” categories, I think the government data missed a few things.
In comparison, Tallapoosa and Elmore counties received the highest ratings in our state. While I certainly wouldn’t call either of those counties ugly, one criteria in which the study judged was variations in topography, or to put in layman’s terms, drastic changes in elevation to create scenery, or even more simply, mountainous. Both of these counties are in the southern part of the state which is extremely flat. Another factor took into consideration was area of water within the county, which the government deems important to a place that’s attractive to live in. This is unfair to a place like Dekalb, as we have several waterfalls, but rivers and streams don’t add as much “water area” as lakes or oceans.
While I’m sure it’s difficult compiling data and fairly judging every county out of 3,111, it’s also unfair for this beautiful county to receive a title like, “ugliest” without the judges seeing it for themselves. So we would like to invite the good people of the U.S. Department of Agriculture down to Dekalb to see how flawed their data is, but we can’t expect that anytime soon. So instead let’s highlight some of the “beautiful” things this “ugly” county has to offer:
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located just south of Fort Payne, Little River Canyon provides breathtaking views, and miles of hiking. Little River is unique as it runs almost entirely on the top of Lookout Mountain, featuring a large waterfall and many different swimming spots during the summer months. The park is open year round during daylight hours.
Desoto State Park
Desoto is one of Alabama’s most beautiful state parks, providing miles of hiking trails and several prominent waterfalls. Located northeast of Fort Payne, the part also has amenities such as meeting rooms, a restaurant, picnic area, and a museum dedicated to the Civilian Conservation Corps.
High Falls Park
Considered the “hidden gem” of Alabama, this park is located west of Fort Payne, in Oak Grove Alabama. Featuring a 35 foot high waterfall that spans over 300 feet, this natural beauty is one you don’t want to miss!