What Ever Happened to the Amusement Park Called “Canyon Land Park”, Near Fort Payne, Alabama?

During the early 1970’s up until circa 1983, there was an amusement park called Canyon Land, just a few miles outside of my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama on Lookout Mountain. In ‘70’s fashion, very comparable to the Dharma Initiative on LOST, Canyon Land could best be described as “1977 carnival meets small zoo”. One of the rides was a ski lift that took people over an actual canyon, Little River Canyon.

Being that I was born in 1981 and the park closed a few years later, my descriptions aren’t based on me being there during its prime. But my parents did go on dates there as teenagers.

Fortunately in 1993 (7th grade) my church youth minister Eddie McPherson was able to rent the shut down amusement park for $4 for the Halloween season. Our youth group put on an evangelical version of a “spook house” called Hell House. We used the old roller coaster carts and its track to manually push the guests through a “no flashlights allowed tour of hell” which ended with a bright room featuring Jesus (played by my dad) who invited them to Heaven.

It was a lot of fun for a 12 year old kid to explore that old place. The grass was taller than I was, where the parking lot used to be. Much of the place had basically been frozen in time as it evidently was abruptly shut down. In a room that stored all the old ski lift chairs, I found a completely intact Mellow Yellow can from 1979 (which I still have in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.

The urban legend is that the man who ran the place just let all the zoo animals go free into the woods. Therefore, to this day, jaguars and monkeys and all kinds of exotic animals can still be spotted on a lucky day. That would be fun to believe.

Because I helped resurrect Canyon Land for a few weeks in 1993, I tend to imagine what current lively buildings and attractions would be like if they became old an abandoned. Like Starbuck’s, for example. Twenty years from now, will all those Seattle-esque building be defunct? Like the old Food World building that remained years after the Super Wal-Mart came to town.

Not so much a ghost town. But a ghost attraction. Once filled with people laughing and buying ice cream. Now, only visited by raccoons.

Canyon Land is so forsaken that not even the Internet really acknowledges it. No Wikipedia entry. The best Google was able to do was take me to Ebay where someone is trying to sell Canyon Land postcards and tickets from 1970.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Fort-Payne-Alabama-Canyon-Land-Park-Card-Tickets-1970_W0QQitemZ310185209860QQcmdZViewItemQQssPageNameZRSS:B:SRCH:US:101?rvr_id=

Also, for anyone who would like to purchase Canyon Land, it’s currently for sale. For the low, low price of $2.4 million.  http://www.mycampgroundsforsale.com/park_detail.asp?ID=11

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19 thoughts on “What Ever Happened to the Amusement Park Called “Canyon Land Park”, Near Fort Payne, Alabama?”

  1. I just found the leftovers of Canyonland Park. What memories I have of this place! Couldn’t see much of the old park because it was fenced in. Very bittersweet. Found 3 of the old lift chairs down the road, mounted in front of an antique store in Lickskillet, AL. Wonder how much they want for them?

  2. So you have any idea who it was that your church contacted to rent the facility? This place was apecial to my parents and I am planning my own wedding and one of our most memorable dates when we first started dating was hiking at Eberhart Point which is just minutes from the park so I would love to be able to rent it for the wedding. Any information you can give me would be great, thank you so much!

    1. The facility is currently up for sale (for $4 million, I think) so I would think at this point it’s virtually impossible to go on the land unless you go through the realtor :(

  3. I found this post while doing some family tree research. My grandfather was the Park Director of Canyon Land, and is shown holding the first white tiger cub born in captivity (they named him King Solomon) in some old newspaper articles from 1974. I’ve also heard the stories of him releasing the animals into the wild when the park was shut down, but no family members have verified this :)

  4. The old chairlift chairs are located at F&G Lumber in Sylvania, AL. It is a large sawmill near the school. The chairs are for sale for $50 each. I bought one and brought it backt to my house at Dogtown. Going to refinish it and make a swing for my yard.

    1. That’s awesome! What a cool idea, seriously. By the way, if install TV and Internet for Boonlink, I met you. I just remember the last name, Pruitt.

  5. This brings back memories. We used to go and have picnics on Sunday afternoons at the park. My dad when he was a little boy (way before there was even a though of a park) learned to swim in the Little River. This was nice. Thank you for reviving some long ago memories.

  6. My family was from Rome and whenever I would visit, my aunt and uncle would take me to Canyon Land. I was trying to remember the name and couldn’t. I kept searching the internet but with no name, I couldn’t find any info. I finally called the Tourist Board in Ft. Payne to find someone that could help me remember the name! Many fond memories of going there!

  7. Glad someone else besides me knows about Canyon Land Park. We were driving in the area in 1977 and stumbled across the place in the middle of nowhere. It was closed up. Don’t know if it was just for the season or forever but it didn’t look very well kept up so I figured it had been closed for a long time. I wondered what kind of attractions were in the park but could not get close enough to the fence to see. Hate to say it but there’s no way I’d have taken that chair lift down into that canyon. Still, I was sad to see it closed. That winding narrow 2-lane along the canyon was the scariest road I ever rode on. Afraid we were going off the edge at any moment. Thanks for posting this.

  8. I did a search for “Canyon Land” because I found a file on it where I work. Apparently our organization briefly owned land next door to it. There is a note in the file that “The owner of Canyon Land Park died in the fall of 1973, and the bank took possession of the property.” They were going to hold on to the adjoining land in the event that the amusement park was started up again, as it would affect the price. There is also a copy of their brochure in the file. Email me, Nick, if you want a scan of the brochure.

  9. I’m pretty sure some time after ’93 my parents somehow shortly got this place to use for their sock mill. Kelly Hosiery and/or Diversified Yarns. If its the same place, it has a putt putt golf course and somewhere in front ? Or back? There is a hill type thing that had giant rocks on it that were climb able. I found a gun there when I was a kid am now wondering why it was there.

  10. I remember going there as a teenager with my best friend and his family. To get to the bottom of the canyon, you could either take the chairlift or hike. My friend, his older brother, and I did both, only we did the hike without their parent permission. Wow, was their dad angry when we got back!
    Problem now is that I can’t find it on Google Maps. I found the canyon, but I can’t locate the old park. Can you put a map link in your post?
    And thanks for everybody’s contribution. This really brings back memories.

  11. I think it would be a great idea to post anything you can find about this place on the Wikipedia page for it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canyon_Land_Park

    It would help preserve this landmark that are in people’s memories. Also, if anyone could upload pictures of their friends and family while they were there, that would be great too!

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