DeSoto State Park Campground Set to Reopen
By DAVID RAINER
Forget about the date, Ken Thomas isn’t going to let superstition get in the way of campground renovations at DeSoto State Park in scenic northeast Alabama.
“March 13, that’s a Friday the 13th that is going to be a good luck day for us,” said Thomas, DeSoto’s park superintendent. “We’re going to do a partial opening of our campgrounds.
“State Parks did a web survey in Montgomery and the No. 1 question was when is DeSoto State Park’s campground going to open. It’s going to be one of those situations where we open the corral gates and step aside.”
The partial opening entails the lower loop of campsites and the pull-through sites. That will mean 23 pull-throughs, 36 back-in sites and one buddy site will be opened in a little more than a week.
“The buddy site is something new,” Thomas said. “It’s just a giant pull-through that allows two units to camp on the same site. It has hook-ups for both sites, so if families or friends come together they can stay on a buddy site.”
The reason the campground will be opened in two phases is because of the construction of the comfort stations/bath houses. Only one will be open by March 13th.
“Hopefully, by the first week in April we’ll have the second bath house completed and we’ll be able to open the full campground, which will give us a total of 94 campsites,” Thomas said.
All the improved campsites have been renovated over the past year, all with 50/30-amp electrical service, sewer hook-ups, new freeze-proof water spigots, and all will eventually have cable TV hook-ups.
“RVs and travel trailers have gotten bigger and bigger over the years, so now all of our sites will be approximately 16 feet wide and 60 feet deep on average,” Thomas said. “That will give them more room to get in and out.
“We’re still offering an extremely reasonable, economical family camping vacation and experience. We’re charging $25 for a back-in and $30 for a pull-through, plus 7 percent lodging tax. Now that is a good price.”
For those who want to “rough it,” the park has a primitive campground with a community water spigot. There are 20 primitive sites available with a pair of group sites that will hold about 15 tents for church groups or scout groups.
For those who want more of the comforts of home in a rustic setting, the park completed seven log cabins in the spring of 2006. Six of those cabins replaced cabins constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
“The new log cabins are beautiful and are very popular,” Thomas said. “We always recommend reservations for the log cabins. They are two-bedroom cabins with a double bed in each and a sleeper sofa, so they will handle six people. It has a basic kitchen outfitted for light housekeeping with coffee machine, microwave, stove and refrigerator.
“We’ve also got 11 chalets and four of the rustic CCC cabins left, as well as 25 motel rooms and a lodge with a nice restaurant.”
Thomas said DeSoto State Park has a well-developed interpretive program that includes Wildflower Saturday, the first Saturday in May, with interpretive hikes and other presentations. Memorial Day Weekend kicks off an extensive interpretive program with presentations on Friday and Saturday nights and hikes during the weekend days.
“We have a lot of botanical presentations with native plants and flowers,” Thomas said. “We’ll have professors from Jacksonville State University come out and talk about frogs, amphibians, geology. JSU’s archeology professor comes out and does a great program on Hernando DeSoto and the Spanish.”
Although a trip to DeSoto State Park might be perfect for anyone who wants to just get away for a while, it also sits atop a mountain in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains that offers a wealth of panoramic vistas.
“We’re the home of Mother Nature,” Thomas said. “We’re on top of Lookout Mountain with about 15 miles of hiking trails – Laurel Falls, Lost Falls, Indian Falls, and Lodge Falls. We’ve got waterfalls everywhere. Over the past few years, volunteers have added 3 ½- miles of single-path mountain bike trails. This is not for beginners. It’s for mountain biking enthusiasts.
“If you like sightseeing, this is the place. We’ve got DeSoto Falls, and Little River Canyon National Preserve is right down the road. It’s absolutely beautiful any time of the year.”
Thomas said there is a big surge of visitors to the park during spring break and the wildflower season.
“Memorial Day kicks off the busy season for all state parks until the kids go back to school,” he said. “Labor Day is also big. And then for the parks in north Alabama – DeSoto, Joe Wheeler, Guntersville, Monte Sano, Buck’s Pocket and Cheaha – the fall colors season is really big for us. Historically, the peak of the fall colors can be anywhere from the last two weeks of October to the first week in November. The last couple of years, it’s hit the first week of November.
“If you want to stay at the park during those busy seasons, we recommend making reservations well in advance. We will take reservations one year, to the day, in advance.”
Visit www.alapark.com for more information on Alabama’s scenic state parks.
PHOTOS: DeSoto Falls offers a stunning view of a series cascading waterfalls on Little River just below the DeSoto Dam. Seven new log cabins are now available at DeSoto State Park, which is in the process of opening the renovated campground at the park near Fort Payne.