Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dismals Canyon

In some respects the forest in this canyon is similar to what we saw Natural Bridge park.  It is a very moist area with many moss-covered boulders and trees.  Ferns and mushrooms as well as swamp-type trees are in abundance.  The picture below should give you a good idea of the green environment of the canyon.
However, it is different from Natural Bridge and, for that matter, any other park open to the public, in that its forest has been untouched by either axe or fire.  Consequently it has many ancient trees and exotic plant life.  The canyon is named after the Dismalites- wow, when I heard that name I sure thought that they were some religious sect,  but I was very wrong!  Past twilight the canyon is lit up by bioluminescent creatures or "glowworms".  They are the larvae stage of a unique species of insects which emits a bright blue-green glow to attract its food (their food being other insects).  Using our trail map we found the area of the canyon, called the witches cavern, where the Dismalities are usually in residence.  It is a strange labyrinth of moss and fern covered boulders.  Night tours of the canyon are available to see the glow of the insects.
The canyon has some very interesting history.  There is an area of smooth rock called the Dance Hall.  It is a well-camouflaged area protected from the elements used by the Chickasaw Indians for their secret rituals.  It is the only place where the rock has been worn smooth by centuries of human use.
In another part of the canyon some say they can see the head of an Indian Maiden.  Green moss growing on  the bluff where she is located is said to be tears shed by the canyon for the loss of its only true friends, the Chickasaw Indians.  In 1838 U.S. Troops rounded up the Indians and held them under guard for two weeks in the canyon before herding them out to begin their journey on the Trail of Tears.  Most of the Chickasaw Indian Nation perished on that trail.  In another part of the canyon is thought to be the site of Aaron Burr's hideout after he killed Alexander Hamilton.  A cot and an old musket that were found here years later are thought to have belonged to him.  I have just mentioned only a few highlights of the canyon, there are many more interesting features which I have not covered.  Hiking through this canyon at times was not easy, some rock scrambling was needed. However, it was still an incredible experience, and we would rate it as one of the more memorable canyons which we have seen.  I will end this posting with one more picture showing the rugged beauty of Dismals Canyon. We have one more stop before we reach our final destination in Missouri.  That stop will be Memphis, John has not yet seen Graceland.  I have seen it already and will pass on touring it again.

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