The Grand Canyon of the South
As the story goes, a circuit-riding minister chanced upon this rugged piece of real estate in Northern Alabama / Southern Tennessee in the late 1800's and was so awestruck by the cathedral-like beauty of the narrow gorge that he delcared it deserved a grand biblical name. The preacher, it is said, stood in the gorge's bottom - a limestone bowl, 50 yards wide where water shoots out of bowling ball size holes and foot-wide cracks in the rock during a heavy rain - and peered up at cliffs 200 feet high on both sides. He named the site the Walls of Jericho, and so it has been known ever since.
The Walls of Jericho include streams such as Turkey Creek and Hurricane Creek that are headwaters of the Paint Rock River, home to 17 varieties of rare mussels. The more we protect the headwaters, the more we protect the Paint Rock downstream. What the visitor receives is extraordinary and pristine beauty in the rock formations as well as the much-anticipated flora and fauna.
The Walls of Jericho are in Jackson County, Alabama about 25 miles northwest of Scottsboro. There are 10 miles of horse trails and 3.5 miles of hiking trails. Both lead into the gorge. A tent-onlly camping area is available at the bottom. The hike is about 3.5 miles in length, one-way, and is downhill most of the route into the gorge. That, of course means the walk back will be mostly uphill. It is a strenuous hike, so visitors should wear comfortable hiking shoes and take plenty of water and snacks.
The trail is well marked but often muddy for days after a rain shower. Several streams have to be crossed, so plan on getting wet. Be advised, the stream levels rise quickly during thunderstorms and crossing can be hazordous in swift water. Plan on a maximum of six hours to make the round trip, which includes a two-hour photographic stay in the gorge.
Recently, the state's Forever Wild program acquired additional acreage of biologically important forest in Jackson County. The 535-acre addition was purchased from the Alabama Chapter of The Nauture Conservancy with support from a Forest Legacy grant from the USDA Forest Service. The Land is located along the Estill Fork tributary to the Paint Rock River and is adjacent to the James D. Martin-Skyline Wildlife Managemeant area and will increase public access to the Walls of Jericho trail system.