Cheaha State Park
Accessible Trail
A Project of Jacksonville State University's
Environmental Policy & Information Center

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Cheaha Interpretive Labels
By JSU'S EPIC and Southern Customs Exhibits
(With an introductory panel by Alabama's Governor and First Lady, Don and Lori Siegelman)

Panel #1 (Shown here)

“A mountain top boardwalk for everyone!”

Cheaha State Park Alabama 
Doug Ghee sign

Panel #2

Welcome to one of Alabama's most unique natural wonders. Just minutes away are the most dramatic overlooks imaginable and along this enjoyable stroll you may experience some of natures most beautiful wildlife and wildflowers.

Cheaha State Park is where we come time after time to relax and appreciate our beautiful mountains. We hope that you will come back too.

                    Don and Lori Siegelman
                    Governor and First Lady of Alabama - 1998

Panel #3

An Accessible Trail?
That's right... some trails are too steep, rough or bumpy, but this path is just right for almost everybody. Led by local Senator Doug Ghee, Alabama State Parks have created this trail for all of us to enjoy.

Accessibility isn't just an issue for those who use a wheelchair. It's important for us all. The design here allows our toddlers, our seniors, our sight impaired, and others a special place to visit safely. We hope that the design makes it easier for you. If you have suggestions or comments, please call 256-488-5111.

Panel #4

See the CCC?
The trail that is down the steps and to the left is rocky and old. In fact, it's as old as a program started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it began in 1933 as a way to create jobs. By 1942, over 2 million young men had worked with the CCC.

All over the country they fought fires, planted trees, and many of them worked right here. The CCC is responsible for building Cheaha's cabins, Bald Rock Lodge and even the rocky old trail. Can you find these signs of the CCC?

Panel #5

The Sleeping Giant?
Think back in time about 200 years when this mountain got its name. In the historic Muskegon language of our area's Creek Indians, this place was called "Chaha." Sounding similar to the current name Cheaha, it meant "high place."

Other Creek Indians had a different, more creative name. They called it "sleeping giant". When you imagine being far away and seeing the silhouetted ridge lines, this name makes sense too.  Maybe, right now, you're standing on the giant's shoulder!

Panel #6

Always Peaceful
Before the roads and cars, few people traveled up here. The mountain was hard to climb and because there's not much water on top, it wasn't a good place to stay. Instead, some of our native ancestors lived in rock shelters at the base of Cheaha. More lived near the flowing water of the valleys below.

Throughout time, many of those who have journeyed here have done so for spiritual reasons, inspiration, and for the peacefulness.  Funny how some things never change.

Panel #7

Rocky Ridges
Most everywhere around here are rocks. Old rocks. Really old rocks! In fact, it's thought that they could be 500 to 600 million years old. Most of them are quartzite, an extremely hard rock formed deep beneath the earth's surface. Slowly it was squeezed together and forced upwards by intense levels of heat and pressure.

Through time they have been crushed, broken, and exposed to the surface. While most rocks have eroded away, the tough quartzite has remained behind to form these ridges.

Panel #8

Seashells up here?
That's right, but don't expect to find a whale or hear the ocean! Not far from where you are standing, geologists have found fossilized seashells. So what are they doing on the highest mountain ridge in Alabama?  Good question.

Millions of years ago, most of Alabama was covered by the sea. As the rock layers found at the bottom of the ocean were crumpled up to form the Appalachian mountains, remnants of the old sea creatures which lived there were pushed up too.

Panel #9

Natural Bonsai Trees
You've got to be tough to stand the conditions up here. Bitter cold temperatures, high winds and long periods without rain make it hard to live on top of this ridge.

Like natural bonsai trees, some look gnarled and dwarfed by the weather.  In fact, a nearby Virginia Pine with a diameter of only six inches had its age determined to be over 150 years old. In the valleys below, a tree that size might be only 10 or 20.

Panel #10

Are you being watched?
Probably so! Despite harsh conditions, there is an abundance of wildlife all around you. Hiding not too far away could be deer, turkey, fox, raccoon, opossum and even a wild pig. On the smaller end of the spectrum there are insects, shrews, mice, bats, squirrels and chipmunk all hiding in the rocks, leaves and trees nearby.

Reptiles and amphibians are also plentiful on and around Cheaha. Snakes, turtles, frogs, toads and salamanders are active during the warmer months. Yes, you are probably being watched!

Panel #11

A Floating Highway
One of the most amazing feats in nature is that of bird migration. Some feathered friends instinctively fly tens of thousands of miles, southward in Spring and northward in Fall. Migration improves their conditions for feeding and breeding.

To find their way they follow rivers, stars, magnetic fields and especially mountains like Cheaha. Why? Because when wind hits these ridges it blows upward, producing a cushion of air on which birds fly. From Maine to right here, the Appalachian Mountains create an invisible floating highway.

Panel #12

Favorites of Fall
In Autumn, folks come here to watch hawks soar, sail and glide their way south.  Seen from this ridge are over a dozen species including the Red-tailed Hawk and Peregrine Falcon. Some dart alone while others fly in large swirling groups called "kettles".

The Broad winged Hawk starts as far north as Canada. More and more of this species join the migration, until hundreds pass overhead here. By the time they reach their destination of Central and South America, there are tens of thousands flying together.  Amazing!

Panel #13

Specialties of Spring
In April and May, this mountain is alive with some of the most colorful little critters on earth. Springtime is warbler time up here! In fact, all sorts of little birds can be found flitting around from tree to tree, singing and eating their way northward.
Songbirds are especially prone to follow the ridges. Some night flyers die after colliding with the wires that hold up our communication towers. Thankfully, conservation and industry groups are working to solve the problem.

epic logo Panel #14

Feeling on top of the World?
No surprise!  Right now you're standing over 2,100 feet above sea level and on a clear day, you can see half way to Birmingham! Look below and see a portion of the 210,000 acre Talladega National Forest.

Look for our cities and towns. Can you find Talladega, Munford, Oxford and Anniston? Look for Coldwater Mountain, Blue Mountain, and Alabama's third highest mountain, Morton Hill. For help locating these places check out the panorama finder to your right.

Panel #15

Alabama: More than Mountains
Alabama is one of the most geographically diverse states in the nation. From these “ridge and valley” mountains to north Alabama's “Cumberland Plateau”, and from the Gulf Coast beaches to the massive wetlands of the Tensaw-Delta, this state beats the rest. You may be surprised to learn that Alabama also has more plant and animal species than most any other state.

Look out over Alabama, be reminded of its splendor but please, never take it for granted. Your help is needed, so get involved with the conservation of this great place!

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Environmental Policy & Information Center
Jacksonville State University
700 Pelham Road North
Suite 246 Martin Hall
Jacksonville, AL 36265
(256) 782-5681
Link to Last Updated:  October 13,  2003