It all began with a dream and the purchase of 60 acres along the rim of the Little River Canyon. On March 8, 1970, Millard Weaver opened Canyon Land Park & Zoo, complete with carnival-type rides, miniature golf course, zoo, campground, live entertainment, and a 1,500 foot long chair lift from the rim down into the canyon to the Little River, which was then part of De Soto State Park. For $1.50 (one-way), riders would descend into the 600 foot deep canyon where they could enjoy a picnic, hiking, and fishing along the Little River, or take a swim in the river itself from the sandy beaches.
A 103 year old train depot from nearby Collinsville was relocated to Canyon Land, and was converted to a souvenir and gift shop, and used as the depot for a miniature train which offered visitors a ride around the park.
The live entertainment was a large draw at Canyon Land. A few of the notable musical performances were given by country singer and actor Gordon Terry, country singer and author Jeanne Pruett, and a local band from Fort Payne called Wildcountry. Wildcountry would go on to change their name and become the most awarded band in the history of country music - Alabama.
The beginning of the endof the park came with Weaver's passing in 1973. Change of ownership, court battles, and a greater emphasis by the state to move away from the carnival atmosphere led to an inital closure of Canyon Land in the late 1970's. Weaver's son, Jackie, reopened the park in 1982, but the property was put up for saile again in 1985, and so sits today.
Signs of Canyon Land Park & Zoo can still be seen along the Eberhart Trail and at the river - chairlift tower footings, rock wall remenents, and picnic tables can be spotted through the thick vegetation, reclaimed by the woods, a testament to the long history of LIttle River Canyon as a tourist destination.
Last updated: March 26, 2021