The 14,000-acre Little River Canyon National Preserve protects the nation's longest mountaintop river, which flows for almost its entire length down the middle of Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama. Over eons of geologic time, Little River has carved out one of the Southeast's deepest canyons as it winds its way from headwaters in Georgia before exiting the mountain and emptying into Weiss Lake near Leesburg, Alabama. The Preserve is a biologically diverse area with a number of rare plants and animals such as the green pitcher plant, an endangered fish called the blue shiner, and the green salamander.
Because there are no dams to regulate its flow and few man-made developments to pollute its waters, the river is among the cleanest and wildest waterways in the South. Sandstone cliffs tower up to 600 feet above the narrow canyon floor, providing a rock climber's paradise and eye-popping vistas from overlooks along a 23-mile scenic drive on the canyon's western rim. The upper stretches of the river are calm enough for swimming and canoeing, and the riverbank is easily accessible. However, there are only a few access points to the deep canyon on the south end of the preserve. Kayaking through the challenging rapids on the lower river is fairly dangerous and should be left to the experts.
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