Falling Awake: Sipsey Wilderness

The Sipsey Wilderness area is one of only two designated wilderness areas in the state of Alabama, and is the third largest East of the Mississippi River. Its topography is formed by the Warrior Mountains, the western terminus of the Appalachians. Numerous streams have eroded this part of the Cumberland Plateau forming lush canyons and wooded ridges. There are over 400 miles of canyons in this small area. Rocky bluffs from 50 to 200 feet in height drop away from the ridges. Some of the coves are so rugged that they have never been logged and are home to virgin and old growth trees. Sometimes called “land of a thousand waterfalls,” Sipsey hosts large cascades from 35 to 70 feet as well as hundreds of smaller ones.

As evidenced in my piece, my every visit to Sipsey has been in the fall (with no complaints from me.) I included imagery of many of the trees and plant-life, all drawn from brilliantly colored photos of my hikes. The two trees that stood out to me as being unusually prevalent were the evergreen Eastern Hemlock and the Big-Leaf Magnolia. Even with my complicated format, I found I could not include every visual aspect of the place, and so left out the rock outcroppings, dark canyons, and rushing creeks that signify the place as much as the beautiful forests. Perhaps in another painting…

Sipsey Wilderness is a part of Bankhead National Forest, maintained by the Forest Service. WildSouth is a non-profit organization that works to restore and protect the Sipsey Wilderness and other Southern ecosystems. For more information go to wildsouth.org.


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