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Desoto Falls: the first descent

In 2008 I drove down to Alabama with my friend Chris after a big rain storm swept across the Southeast. We were going to Desoto Falls, a massive waterfall hidden in the mountainous northeastern corner of Alabama, and Chris was going to try to run it in his kayak. I’d visited this falls as a child, on family hikes, and I remember standing at the edge thinking how terrifying it would be to fling yourself off. Chris had discovered Desoto Falls five years earlier in a Google search and had dreamed of kayaking it ever since. It had become a project for him–a dream that he pursued by training in his kayak, running smaller (40+ feet) waterfalls, and trying to prepare himself mentally for such a challenge. Now the perfect storm of weather conditions and preparation had come together to present him the opportunity to go for it. We had four hours of driving to do before we could even look at the falls, and that was a long stretch of time to spend with our thoughts and butterflies. To this point, no one had ever attempted to kayak Desoto Falls before. The video will tell the rest of the story, but I’ll give this much of a spoiler: we ended the day with a high-water run on nearby Little River Canyon. It was one of the hardest bits of paddling I’ve ever done and a joyful memory for sure.