Noccalula Falls

Useful Information

Location: Noccalula Falls Park, Gadsden.
(34.0412854357172, -86.02141979667644)
Open: MAR to MAY daily 9-17.
JUN to AUG daily 9-19.
SEP daily 9-17.
OCT daily 10-14.
Fee: Adults USD 6, Seniors (55+) USD 4, Military USD 4, Children (4-12) USD 3, Children (0-3) free.
Classification: SpeleologyErosional Cave
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Noccalula Falls Park, 1500 Noccalula Rd., Gadsden, AL 35904, Tel: +1-256-549-4663
Campground Office, Tel: +1-256-543-7412
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1909 land bought by R. A. Mitchell, a former mayor of Gadsden.
1959 purchased by the city for $70,000.
1950 improvements made (trails).
1959 additional land purchased.
12-MAY-1976 listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
2011 three expert kayakers went successfully down the drop.
2017 rated as the best campsite in Alabama.


Noccalula Falls, Alabama, U.S.A. Public Domain.

Noccalula Falls is located in a small eponymous park in the city of Gadsen. Black Creek forms a 27 m high waterfall, which actually erodes the rock into an escarpment with a cave behind the waterfall. While the river forms a shallow river bed above the fall, it forms a gorge below. This is a result of the retrograde erosion at the waterfall. The park has numerous trails and one leads to the foot of waterfall. From here it is possible to climb behind the waterfall into the cave.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Gadsden Land and Improvement Company operated a tavern and dance hall in this cave. From this time the inscription "FAXON 1859" remains. This ended when they attempted to level the cave floor using dynamite and caused a cave-in.

It is possible to run down the fall with a kayak, but it is forbidden. The first successful drop by three experts was in 2011. Since then numerous attempts were made. It works only when the water level is unusually high, which creates a deep enough pool at the base of the falls. As this is quite dangerous local law enforcement is not very happy about it.

The park goes back to R. A. Mitchell, a former mayor of Gadsden, who purchased it and intended to make it a city park. This never happened and it was inherited by his daughter Sadie Mitchell Elmore. She offered the land for purchase, and finally, after an election approving the purchase, the city bought the land. The city built trails and parking lots, added more land in 1959, and today there is a trail winding through Black Creek Gorge, an aboriginal fort, an abandoned dam, a pioneer homestead, and Civil War carvings.

There is a legend how the waterfall got its name. Noccalula, a young Cherokee woman, was ordered by her father to marry a man she did not love. She committed suicide by jumping down the waterfall. This legend is quite similar to Wisconsin's Winona story and James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. However, it is unknown if this ever happened or if it is just local lore. Nevertheless the Gadsden Woman's Club collected money and erected a 3 m high bronze statue at the fall in 1969.