After lunch at the Wildflower Café, we followed the signs to DeSoto Falls. I hate to pass up a chance to visit any waterfall. The falls are immediately below a dam across the Little River that runs along the top of the Lookout Mountain in Alabama, about 8 miles from Mentone.DeSoto Falls includes an upper falls and a lower fall that drops about one hundred feet into the pool below. Based on what we were told in town, as well as a collection of photos online, the flow of the falls responds directly to local rain. On out visit, it had not rained in some days, and the flow over the dam was relatively quiet, producing a more modest flow over the falls—but still enough to be picturesque.
The Little River and DeSoto Falls have been witness to various historical events, from the thousands of years of Native American, to early European explorers (including namesake Hernando de Soto), and Union and Confederate soldiers in the area.
According to local legend, caves near the bottom of the falls were once incorporated into a fort constructed by Welsh explorers around 1170 A.D., well before Columbus discovered North America. While there is evidence of a “fort,” archeological evidence suggests it was constructed by early Woodland Indians (about 1000 A.D.) who had lived in the area for several centuries.
It is not clear if Hernando de Soto personally viewed the falls—his route north through the area was supposed to have been further west—it is possible that scouts from his party did encounter the falls in 1540.
Later, in a prelude to the battle of Chickamauga, Union General William Rosecrans encamped his troops just above DeSoto Falls in 1863. The Union troops crossed Lookout Mountain through the pass at Mentone into Chattanooga.The pool at the base of DeSoto falls. The crevice in the rock may lead to a larger cave
DeSoto Falls is part of the National Forest that also includes DeSoto State Park. The falls are easily viewed from the parking area near the top of the falls. A more rigorous hike down a trail will take modern-day explorers to the pool below the falls and an extraordinary view of the falls.
While the quickest access to DeSoto Falls Recreation Area is located off Highway 129 just inside the National Forest boundary, I recommend visiting the shops of Mentone and discovering this quaint, almost primitive little town, then following the signs out of town to the falls.