(WLOX) - Little River Canyon, in the North East corner of Alabama near the Georgia and Tennessee lines, is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of the east.
Running the length of the canyon atop Lookout Mountain, it was declared a federal preserve in 1992. It's managed by the National Park Service and is considered a natural wonder.
"We're a canyon on top of a mountain and that makes it unique. The walls of the canyon are as steep as 800-feet. Little River begins and ends on top of the mountain, and that makes it a strange geological formation," said Peter Conroy, Director of the Little River Canyon Center.
Little River Falls is the highlight of the river. It features a 45-foot drop and 30,000 cubic feet of water per second cascades over rugged rocks. The river attracts kayakers from around the world.
"It's a little more extreme than most of the water access you get in Alabama. This one is category 3, 4 and 5 rapids," according to Israel Partridge who is a guide for True Adventure Sports.
When the river is full and producing white rapids, Partridge suggests only experts run the river.
"The north portion of the canyon has some unique formations that create some incredible hydraulics. The north end is considered the suicide run, so it's more extreme than the average," Partridge said.
The Little River Canyon National preserve spans more than 15,000 acres and reaches depths of 800 feet. It is a popular sport for rock climbing and repelling. There are 92 sites available to descend into the canyon. Breathtaking vistas and challenging rock formations appeal to thrill seekers.
The state of Alabama works with the federal government to protect the environment and improve the economy through responsible tourism.
"Last year our numbers nearly doubled. We went from about 300,000 to 500,000 people visiting in a year with about a $16 million economic impact," Peter Conroy said.