in Alabama
Walls of Jericho in Alabama © Ed Orth

Places We Protect

The Walls of Jericho

Alabama

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Come see the Limestone Cathedral and Alabama’s Mystic Canyon

Alabama’s Forever Wild Program purchased the 12,500-acre Alabama section of the property from The Nature Conservancy. It is now known as the Skyline Wildlife Management Area and is open for public access. The protected area encompasses the headwaters of the globally significant Paint Rock River.

In 2006, The Nature Conservancy also transferred the 8,900-acre Tennessee tract to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to be the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area. The State Natural Areas Program of the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation co-manages 750 acres of the Walls of Jericho and its surrounding creek basin within the Bear Hollow Wildlife Management Area. The Walls of Jericho site is designated as a Tennessee State Natural Area. The entire 8,900-acre area is open for public access.

Historical Background

The Walls of Jericho area was originally owned by the Texas oil magnate Harry Lee Carter, who acquired 60,000 acres in Franklin County, Tenn., and Jackson County, Ala., in the 1940s.

For years, up until 1977 when the Walls of Jericho were closed to the public, the Tennessee property had been open to the public for recreational use and managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Now, this special place is once again open to the public.

The Carter Lands region lies in the heart of the Southern Cumberlands and totals 60,000 acres.

About the Walls of Jericho

The Walls of Jericho tract links large, protected, intact forestlands within the Southern Cumberlands, for a total of more than 50,000 acres of protected lands.

Nearby protected areas include Franklin State Forest, Carter Caves State Natural Area, University of the South at Sewanee, The Nature Conservancy’s David Carter tract, Skyline Wildlife Management Area.

This project protects the headwaters of the Paint Rock River.

Work on this property is a joint effort between the Tennessee and Alabama chapters of The Nature Conservancy and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The Southern Cumberlands and the Paint Rock River

Jackson County, Ala., has the highest concentration of caves of any county in the United States. This area is the epicenter of the rare Tennessee cave salamander.

The upper Paint Rock River watershed, including the Walls of Jericho area, is one of the few intact large functional landscapes remaining in the Southeast.

The Paint Rock River is home to 100 species of fish and about 45 mussel species:

  • Five globally imperiled mussels and 12 globally rare mussels are found in the Paint Rock River and its tributaries.
  • Two of the mussel species (pale lilliput and Alabama lampshell) are found nowhere else in the world, and one fish species (palezone shiner) is confined to the Paint Rock River and one stream in Kentucky.
  • Three globally imperiled fish (sawfin shiner, blotchside logperch and snail darter) occur in the Paint Rock River.

The area provides important habitat for migratory songbirds, such as the cerulean warbler, and for non-migratory birds, such as ruffed grouse.

 

Contact Information

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Lands Division, 334 242-3484

Trail Map

Here is a GPS map for the Walls of Jericho trails (Tennessee and Alabama trailheads), provided by Backpacker magazine, or view a color trail map.

The Walls of Jericho Are Now Open to the Public 

There are hiking trails and horse trails. Both lead into the gorge. A tent-only, primitive camping area is available at the bottom of the gorge not far from the Walls of Jericho natural amphitheater.

The hike is about 3.5 miles in length, one way, and is downhill most of the route into the gorge. That, of course, means the walk back will be mostly uphill. It is a strenuous hike, so visitors should wear comfortable shoes and take plenty of water and snacks. The trail is well marked but often is muddy for days after a rain shower. Several streams have to be crossed, so plan on getting wet. Be advised that stream levels rise quickly during thunderstorms and crossing them can be hazardous in swift water. Plan on a minimum of six hours to make the round trip, which includes a two-hour stay in the gorge.