Dismals Canyon offers beauty and recreation despite name - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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Dismals Canyon offers beauty and recreation despite name

Dismals Canyon (Source: WAFF) Dismals Canyon (Source: WAFF)
PHIL CAMPBELL, AL (WAFF) -

Dismals Canyon's name is somewhat ironic. It's a national natural landmark with a cove, a waterfall and beautiful scenery.

Given that, one might wonder where that name comes from.

"When the Scotch Irish settled in this area they could not pronounce the chief's name that lived here, so they called him Chief Dismal. And this became Dismals Canyon and Dismals Branch that flows through the canyon," said Kevin Cheek, manager of Dismals Canyon.

Cheek said Rainbow Falls is one of the cave's biggest draws. The water comes from about a mile upstream. Three natural streams come together to form the branch.

He said a gristmill was wiped out by a tornado and flooding in the 1940s.

But what also makes this place so special is what we commonly refer to as glowworms. We didn't see them this trip, but we did find some of their New Zealand cousins that are similar. They make their home in the moss on the rocks, near the water. Cheek said they turn into fungal gnats after about six months. They only live a couple of days after that.

He said the insects are drawn to the light of their heads and tails then get caught in their webs. They then become food.

"We ask people not to touch them. Because if you try to touch one you're going to kill it because they are very small," Cheek said.

Cell phones don't get reception down in the caves, but Cheek said they're not needed for entertainment anyway. Besides the camping, hiking and a Limestone pool for swimming, we saw a dinning area, an old-fashioned soda fountain.

Cheek said the store has been here since he was born, but it's been expanded over the years.

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