Little River is primarily a rain-fed river, with miles of river north of the park and numerous tributaries along the length of the river. Because of this, water levels can change rapidly and with little warning, as storms may be occurring up-river from the park sight unseen.
Your safety while in, on, and around the Little River is our concern and your responsibility – here are some water safety recommendations for you to practice during your visit:
Water Safety Tips:
- Wear a personal flotation device (PFD or lifejacket) – they can save your life!
- Don’t leave children unattended. They often don’t recognize danger – young children can drown in relatively shallow water.
- Always wear sturdy shoes – trails and rocks may be loose or slippery, and there may be sharp objects in the water that will cut bare feet.
- Do not mix swimming with drinking alcohol – approximately half of all swimming deaths involve alcohol. Alcohol is prohibited at Little River Canyon National for your safety and to maintain a family friendly atmosphere.
- Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat even on cloudy days.
- Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water.
- Check the water level before you come – the river can rise quickly and without warning from storms up-river. While the water level can rise quickly, it is slow to come back down. Typical summer flows on the river can range from 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) down less than 1 cfs. 1 cubic foot of water is the equivalent to 7.5 gallons. The United States Geological Survey operates a river gauge at Canyon Mouth Park. Data may not accurately represent what the river is doing at any point upstream of Canyon Mouth Park but can be a good guide as to what river conditions are like.
- It only takes 6 inches of fast-moving water to sweep an adult off their feet.
- Check the weather before you come – severe weather can move in quickly and you may not receive an alert on your cell phone due to poor cell signal in the canyon. Check the National Weather Service Huntsville office website at weather.gov/hun
- In the event of severe weather, such as strong winds, heavy rain, and lightning, get away from the river as soon as possible and seek shelter.
- There are drop-offs, strong currents, and hydraulics (undertows) all along the Little River.
- Do not swim alone and travel together – there is safety in numbers.
- Exposure to cool air and cold water can lead to hypothermia, even when temperatures are above freezing.
- Be safe on the riverbanks – accidents often happen to waders and “rock-hoppers”.
- Pack out what you pack in – help keep the Little River clean and dispose of your trash properly!
- Be health conscious – restrooms are located at the Little River Canyon Center, Little River Falls parking lot, Eberhart Point parking lot, and Canyon Mouth Park. Do not use the river as a restroom!
- Respect the rights of private property owners along the river and creeks.
Little River Canyon National Preserve has a small staff – when an incident occurs, regardless of a staff members official job title, everyone pulls together and participates during an emergency in the following ways:
- Assisting the injured person
- Clearing the area of bystanders
- Clearing parking areas for first responder/helicopter access
- Traffic control
- Rope/litter teams
A swift and successful treatment/rescue/recovery operation would not be possible without the cooperation of the highly trained professionals of the following agencies:
- Fischer Rescue Squad
- Fort Payne Fire Department
- DeKalb Ambulance Service
- Floyd Emergency Medical Services
- Adamsburg Volunteer Fire Department
- Dogtown Volunteer Fire Department
- Broomtown Volunteer Fire Department
- Tuckers Chapel Volunteer Fire Department
- Cherokee County Rescue Squad
- Morgan Country Rescue Squad
- DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office
- Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office
- Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency
- DeKalb Emergency Management Agency
- Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
- Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
- De Soto State Park
According to a Forbes article from December 2, 2020, Little River Canyon National Preserve made a list of the “Deadliest Parks in America” in the #5 position (average deaths per 10 million visitors).
There have been 16 Loss of Life incidents at Little River Canyon National Preserve since 2016
- 11 of those were drownings
- 6 Hispanic
- 4 White/Non-Hispanic
- 1 Black/African-American