Noccalula Falls is a part park, part zoo, part hiking trail experience located just outside of downtown Gadsen, Alabama. The Falls Park requires an entry fee of $6 per adult, but the falls can be viewed from outside the park entrance, at no charge, in a separate location. During the weekday we visited, the park was nearly empty allowing us to explore the entire park without running into anyone but staff.
Noccalula Falls Park
Within the park, visitors can walk along the top of the water fall’s rocky bluffs. Just below the Park’s entrance, visitors can walk along a trail to an old Pioneer village that has been relocated here. The buildings, unfortunately, are fenced off, and can no longer be seen up close. The one exception to this being the old covered bridge, where we were told hundreds of weddings had been performed.
Continuing down the path, visitors will quickly enter a small zoo. At its front is a large deer pen, and then just below a large female lion in a somewhat small cage. For us, this was a bit of a depressing site. While lions sleep a lot during the day, the pen just felt too enclosed and lacking in resources for such a powerful creature.
Further down the path, visitors will find an enclosed pen and large barn. The pen contains several farm animals, including donkey, llahma and sheep. Inside the barn are numerous live reptiles, small mammals and birds from around the world. These exhibits are somewhat neat to see, but unfortunately contain little information. Outside the barn, the trail continues around back to a very irritable lynx, some small hens, a peacock, a bobcat, and a lemur cage.
Sadly these exhibits have the feeling of being too small, and somewhat out of date. The animals don’t have a lot of things to play with, and there are no signs to provide any information on the exhibits. I have to say, the zoo addition is something I would prefer to see elsewhere, as these animals really seem to need a better equipped place.
I visited the falls often as a child before the zoo was there, and it stood alone fine without the zoo.
Alternatively, visitors can continue along a walking trail to the falls. This trail brings visitors by the covered bridge, and around the rocky ledges, boulders, and a garden by the falls.
Noccalula Falls – The Trail
Noccalula falls is a 90 foot waterfall formed by the Black Creek. The historic gorge trail is located just passed the covered bridge on one’s left if walking from the animal habitat.
The trail is a 1.4 mile loop descending to the bottom of the gorge. The trail is closed during periods of high water, such as during my last visit. The reason for the closure is the heightened speed of the water, and the increased dangers when accessing the back of the falls. Additionally, hikers will see past caves, an aboriginal fort, an abandoned dam, pioneer homestead, and Civil War carvings. winding along the difficult trail.
Noccalula Falls – The Legend, according to the Noccalula Falls homepage.
The Legend of Noccalula says that “long ago, on a mountain summit within sight and sound of a rushing waterfall, lived a great Indian Chief whose young daughter, Noccalula, was famed far and wide for her beauty and lovliness of character.” Many gallant braves sought the old chief for the hand of Noccalula, but only one was favored by the girl’s father, a rich chief of a powerful neighboring tribe, who had much to offer in exchange: wampum, horses, and blankets. Vainly Noccalula pleaded that her heart was already given to a young brave of her own tribe.
But this young warrior, though noted for his skill and valor, possessed little in wordly goods.
The old chief refused to listen and ordered his daughter to make ready for the marriage he had arranged. What was a maiden’s silly fancy against many horses, much wampum and union with another strong tribe? The girl’s lover was driven from the tribe, and a marrige agreement was made with the neighboring chief.
The wedding day came and a great feast was prepared. In silence Noccalula allowed herself to be arrayed in festive wedding robes. It was incredible!…To be sold to a stranger by the father she loved! Her chosen lover forever banished! Overcome with grief, she quietly slipped away from the merrymakers during the festivities..the soft rhythmical rush of waters called her…a moment she stood poised upon the brink of the yawning chasm. One leap – and her troubles were over.
Heartbroken, the remorseful father gave the great cataract his daughter’s name. Since that day the waterfall has been called Noccalula.
A statute immortalizing the legend can be seen sitting atop the falls.
A Free View of the Falls
The falls can be viewed without paying an entrance fees. Drive past the park entrance and over Black Creek toward the Noccalula Falls campground. Just before the campground entrance is a parking area with a large wooden chapel, picnic shelter, and a bridge over the creek. From here the falls can be seen for free, but the trail and other park amenities cannot be accessed.
In the picture above, the free parking area can be seen just to the right of the chapel on the left side of the frame.
Other Park Amenities:
RV and Tent Campground
Miniature Golf Course
For more information, visit the park’s website: Noccalula Falls
From US 411, take US 278 Ramp West.
Turn right onto Noccalula Road next to shopping center.
Follow road up mountain approximately 1.4 miles.
Park Entrance and parking will be on left.
For free parking area and view, pass park entrance, cross creek and follow signs to campground.