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North Alabama for Outdoor Sports
By John E. Phillips

If you enjoy the wind in your hair, a big blue sky overhead and the promise of adventure before you, then you'll find the Alabama Mountain Lakes region a dream come true. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this area attracts lovers of outdoor recreation.

The mighty Tennessee River, often known as the Smallmouth Bass Capital of the World, runs through the heart of the Mountain Lakes district. Anglers consistently catch smallmouth weighing 4 to 6 pounds each year-round on the river.

Wheeler Lake, Lake Guntersville, Pickwick Lake and Wilson Lake regularly rank among the top fishing lakes in the B.A.I.T. (Bass Anglers Information Team) survey for number and size of fish.

During summer months, the abundance of catfish on the Tennessee River causes many local fish markets that buy catfish to close because they have too many fish to sell. In May and June anglers will find bluegill and shellcrackers lining the banks of Tennessee River lakes.

But the Tennessee River has other drawing cards besides fishing. Because of the river's length and width, water skiers can skim the surface for miles without having to turn around their boats. Sailing enthusiasts can catch the wind and listen to the chatter of waves against their hulls as a gentle breeze fills their sails. For those who enjoy cruising on houseboats, yachts or luxurious motorboats, the river stretches from one side of the state to the other, providing thousands of miles of picturesque shoreline with adventure and beauty around every bend.

For as long as anyone can remember, Weiss Lake in the northeastern corner of this region has held the title of the Crappie Capital of the World. Out-of-state anglers buy more licenses at Weiss Lake than at any other body of water in Alabama, primarily because of the lake's large crappie population.

Hiking trails crisscross the high mountain ridges of this area and meander through breathtaking national forests. On some of these trails in northeast Alabama, you can see the Little River Canyon, the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River. You'll also find spectacular waterfalls to view and photograph like Noccalula Falls near Gadsden.

If you want to get away from it all, the Bankhead National Forest lies in the Mountain Lakes region. Knowledgeable forest rangers work in each area and will direct you to campsites, hiking trails, points of interest for the photographer and fishing and hunting opportunities.

For the adventurer, not all sights lie above-ground. Many underground streams and rivers dating to prehistoric times have carved their paths through limestone rock in this region and have created interesting caves and caverns like Rickwood Caverns, located off I-65 north of Birmingham; DeSoto Caverns near Fort Payne and Sequoyah Caverns at Valley Head, both off I-59; and Russell Cave National Monument near Bridgeport northwest of I-59 on the Tennessee/Alabama border.

If you enjoy family entertainment, put Decatur's Point Mallard water park on your list of attractions to visit during your Alabama Mountain Lakes excursion. Point Mallard has a championship golf course, rustic campgrounds, tennis courts, hiking trails, bike paths and America's first simulated wave pool.

When your spirit yearns for outdoor adventure and you long for the opportunity to participate in outdoor sports, you'll find the Alabama Mountain Lakes region the place for you. You'll also meet friendly guides who will direct you to the places and sights to make your trip to the Alabama Mountain Lakes region truly an experience of a lifetime.

For information on special events and travel destinations in North Alabama, call the North Alabama Tourism Association, formerly the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association, at (800) 648-5381 or (256) 350-3500, visit their web site at www.northalabama.org or e-mail the staff at info@northalabama.org.

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