Water Safety

People enjoying the river along the rocky riverside
Visitors enjoying a summer day on the rocky banks of the Little River.

NPS / Matt Switzer


Enjoy the Little River safely, but do not underestimate its power.

Little River is primarily a rain-fed river, with miles of river north of the park and numerous tributaries along the length of the river. Because of this, water levels can change rapidly and with little warning, as storms may be occuring up-river from the park sight unseen.

Your safety while in, on, and around the Little River is our concern - here are some water safety recommendations for you to practice during your visit:

Water Safety Tips:

  • Wear a personal flotation device (PFD or lifejacket) - they can save your life!
  • Don't leave children unattended. They often don't recognize danger - young children can drown in relatively shallow water.
  • Always wear sturdy shoes - trails and rocks may be loose or slippery, and there may be sharp objects in the water that will cut bare feet.
  • Do not mix swimming with drinking alcohol - approximately half of all swimming deaths involve alcohol. Alcohol is prohibited at Little River Canyon National for your safety and to maintain a family friendly atmosphere.
  • Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat even on cloudy days.
  • Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water.
  • Check the water level before you come - the river can rise quickly and without warning from storms up-river. While the water level car rise quickly, it is slow to come back down. Typical summer flows on the river can range from 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) down less than 1 cfs. 1 cubic foot of water is the equivalent to 7.5 gallons. The United States Geological Survey operates a river gauge at Canyon Mouth Park. Data may not accurately represent what the river is doing at any point upstream of Canyon Mouth Park but can be a good guide as to what river conditions are like.
  • It only takes 6 inches of fast-moving water to sweep an adult off their feet.
  • Check the weather before you come - severe weather can move in quickly and you may not receive an alert on your cell phone due to poor cell signal in the canyon. You can check the National Weather Service forecast here.
  • In the event of severe weather, such as strong winds, heavy rain, and lightning, get away from the river as soon as possible and seek shelter.
  • There are drop-offs, strong currents, and hydraulics (undertows) all along the Little River.
  • Do not swim alone and travel together - there is safety in numbers.
  • Exposure to cool air and cold water can lead to hypothermia, even when temperatures are above freezing.
  • Be safe on the riverbanks - accidents often happen to waders and "rock-hoppers".

River Etiquette:

  • Pack out what you pack in - help keep the Little River clean and dispose of your trash properly!
  • Be health conscious - restrooms are located at the Little River Canyon Center, Little River Falls parking lot, Eberhart Point parking lot, and Canyon Mouth Park. Do not use the river as a restroom!
  • Respect the rights of private property owners along the river and creeks.


Canyon Mouth Park Water Safety Activity Book

Front page of the English language edition of the Water Safety Activity Book
Teach your family water safety with this fun activity book!

NPS / Kari Sandage & Kevin Garcia

Family fun at Canyon Mouth Park begins with safety. Teach your young swimmers about water safety with the fun and educational Water Safety Activity Book!

Water Safety Activity Book (3.47 mb PDF)

Last updated: April 6, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

4322 Little River Trail NE Ste 100
Fort Payne, AL 35967


256 845-9605 x201
Main phone number for Little River Canyon National Preserve.

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