The Little River Canyon Center, open since 2009, is a Jacksonville State University building located in Northeast Alabama that adjoins the Little River Canyon National Preserve in the city of Fort Payne, AL. The Canyon Center is a good resource to visit when planning a trip to the Little River Canyon. Stop in and talk with a National Park Service ranger for tips on where to find the best birds in season. There are several small trails at the Canyon Center that have an assortment of typical suburban birds. The location is best thought of as a jumping off point to explore the larger preserve–use their restrooms, learn about the area and then head off along the beautiful canyon drive.
With a portion leased to the National Park Service and the staff of the Little River Canyon National Preserve, the facility features a Grand Hall, HD movie theater, gift shop, natural history library, exhibits, classrooms, back deck, outdoor amphitheater and trails for both education and adventure. It is available to rent for meetings, social gatherings, corporate retreats and other special events.
The Canyon Center features a regular schedule of programs that include concerts, workshops, hikes, lectures, and other activities for students of all ages. The building itself is educational as it is LEED (Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design) registered structure that utilizes geothermal heating and cooling, recycled materials, added insulation and many other innovative and sustainable design elements.
From this open vantage point, check the skies above the canyon; you may see Red-tailed Hawks, and Black and Turkey vultures throughout the year. Broad-winged Hawks live in the area from spring to fall, and you can find almost any of the migratory birds of prey in spring and especially fall. Consider the Canyon Center to be an excellent “jumping off” point to explore the full preserve and to take a drive along the rim of the canyon, all the while watching for soaring hawks!
GPS: 34.3987365 -85.6343736
Gateway to the Appalachian Highland Birding Trail
The Canyon Center building is accessible. The birding at the center itself is fairly limited, however.
From Birmingham: Take Interstate 59 north to Fort Payne exit #218 and turn right onto Hwy 35. Follow Hwy 35 through town (Gault Avenue) and staying on Hwy 35, turn right onto 5th Street NE. Then follow directions below “From Fort Payne.”
From Chattanooga: Take Interstate 59 South to Fort Payne exit #222 and turn left onto Hwy 11. Drive South on Hwy 11 (Gault Avenue) for nearly 3 miles and turn left onto Hwy 35. Then follow directions below “From Fort Payne.”
From Fort Payne: Drive up Lookout Mountain, staying on Hwy 35 for approximately 7 miles from Gault Ave. The Canyon Center will be on your left just before you enter into the Little River Canyon National Preserve. If you cross over the river and enter into Cherokee County, you have gone too far!
From Atlanta: From Me-75 take Cartersville exit #288 onto East Main Street (Co. Rd. 113). Go west almost 2 miles and at the intersection, go right onto Hwy 41 North. Follow Hwy 41 (Joe Frank Harris Parkway) for approximately 2.5 miles until it becomes Hwy 411 and continue going west to Rome.
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