Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve

Date: Friday-Sunday, April 9-11, 2010
Location: Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, Colbert County, Alabama
Members: Anthony, Bart, Betty, Doris, Foster, Gary, Jennifer, Jim, Keith, Larry, Mimi, Shelby, Yvonne
Guests: Nelsie

Nature owed us one. We had scheduled this same outing for March 2009 only to get washed out by what became an unending series of rain-soaked and/or canceled events. But the weather this April weekend was superb – warm, sunny, and not too hot during the day, cool but above freezing at night.

The Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is a 413 acre privately-protected scenic natural area located in Colbert County, about a dozen miles northwest from Russellville, Alabama. It is lovingly owned and managed by Jim and Faye Lacefield. They welcome visitors, provide maps and drinking water, and maintain a few primitive campsites.

All of this is free of charge.
SWHC at CCCNP, 10 Apr 2010

Six of us arrived on Friday afternoon and camped at the Small Point camping area. We were able to drive up to the campsite and park there though the Preserve's regular parking lot was only about 100 yards away. The other camping areas would require carrying in your gear. Our campsite sported a picnic table, fire ring, and a clean privy but no other amenities.

For the day hike on Saturday, everyone had arrived by 9 AM. We began from our campsite at the Small Point. A short downhill walk brought us to the Waterfall, a quite scenic area in its own right with good views of the surrounding forest.

The Point Tree Fern Cave
The Point Tree Fern Cave

We then proceeded to the Point where, not unexpectedly, the view of the canyon was the best to be had. From the Point, there is a very steep trail down to Cane Creek. But we opted for the more moderate Canyon Rim Trail which took us along the edge and gradually down to the Tree Fern Cave, more of a rock shelter than a cave per se.

Bridge over Cane Creek The trail then merged with a gravel access road, taking us steeply downhill to the aptly-named – due to the surrounding vegetation – Cane Creek. The hiking up to this point had not been difficult but had some ups and downs. The pathway was choppy enough that you had to at least pay a little attention to where your feet were.

We crossed the creek over one of the simple concrete bridges and proceeded north to the Linden Meadows Picnic Area where we stopped to refill our water bottles and take advantage of the privy. We re-crossed the creek and ducked down to check out the Boulder Garden Wildflower Area which for full effect we arrived about a month too early.
We resumed our northerly route, this time along the East Cane Creek Trail, passed the Blue Hole Camp Area and Tractor Cave Rock Shelter, and turned east on to the Devil's Hollow Trail. We followed this all the way to its end at Karen's Falls, passing Johnson Falls and the Yellowwood Falls Rock Shelter along the way. The walking on this stretch was fairly easy.

After lunch at Karen's Falls, we started back, veering off onto the Under Bluff Trail, another one appropriately named. The path was more difficult to discern here and required negotiating a couple of steep slopes but was worth the effort.
Underbluff Trail
Lady Slipper Orchid
We rejoined the Devil's Hollow Trail after a while. There are many trails here and we explored some of the alternatives to the way we came out in the course of our return. We passed the Dry Cascade, crossed the creek at the Quarry Bridge, and followed the West Cane Creek Trail back to the picnic area.

From there, some opted to climb the Steep Trail up to the Point. Others continued down the creek, stopping to view a Lady Slipper Orchid, and pursued the South Boundary Road – one of the gravel access roads – back to the parking lot. We had covered about seven miles in about six hours but were hardly in a hurry.

Mimi and I had the campsite to ourselves on Saturday night. Just at dusk, we followed a short path down under the Waterfall to try to see the Dismalites, these strange larvae that glow in the dark. For whatever reason, probably our lack of patience, we did not succeed but hope to try again.

We all thought CCCNP to be a wonderful place to visit and are looking forward to returning. The hiking proved to be much more than just a stroll in a park and exploring the myriad of trails could be an adventure in itself.
To view more photos (in better resolution), please see our Picasa Web Album Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve 2010.

Submitted 14 Apr 2010
Text: Larry
Photos: Betty, Doris, Gary, Larry, Mimi

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