Hit Alabama’s Fall Foliage Trail!

Labor Day 2012 is in the books, and that means that the spectacular fall colors that paint Alabama’s forests each year are not far away! Here on the banks of Smith Lake, we’ve got an incredible view of the gorgeous fall foliage that’s going to be lighting up the Bankhead National Forest in the coming weeks.

And while we think the best place to view these spectacular colors is right here at Sipsey Landing, we also want to let you know about the other areas around the Southeast that are going to be showcasing the colors of fall. The Alabama Tourism Department has put together a great website that shows color enthusiasts where and when to find the peak colors. Just roll over the dates, and you’ll see which areas of our state are expected to be showing off the finest fall colors on those weekends. According to this site colors are expected to peak around Smith Lake and Birmingham in early November. That means you’ve got plenty of time to visit Smith Lake and find your favorite viewing and photography spots! [Read more...]

How Did the Bankhead Forest Get Its Name?

Having the William Bankhead Forest as a backdrop is undoubtedly one of our favorite things about Smith Lake. As a national forest, the land will always remain a pristine, heavily-wooded home for deer, turkey and beautiful birds. But have you ever wondered how the park came to be?

The 180,000 acres that now comprise the Bankhead were originally set aside by the government on Jan. 15, 1918. The land was called the Alabama National Forest until 1942, when it was renamed for longtime U.S. Representative William Brockman Bankhead, who also served as Speaker of the House.

Here are some fun facts about the National Forest’s namesake:

  • Bankhead graduated from the University of Alabama, where he played on the school’s first football team. It was organized in 1892.
  • As Speaker of the House, Bankhead held the highest political office of any Alabamian except William King, who briefly served as Vice President to Franklin Pierce.
  • Bankhead’s daughter was the noted actress Tallulah Bankhead.


The Many Moods of Smith Lake

Smith Lake is not just about the summer. Far from it.

The Bankhead National Forest paints a whole new experience as the seasons unfold. To appreciate them from a boat on Smith Lake is simply breathtaking. But to get into the thick of it is even better. So, whether you enjoy horseback riding, bike riding, all-terrain vehicles, fishing, camping or just simply relaxing, you can enjoy the changing ambience of the forest and lake year round.

What is your favorite season to enjoy the many moods of Smith Lake?

Photography by keithbozemanphotography.com

“Hello Dahling’s” Tallulah Bankhead Adds A Little Color to Smith Lake’s History

Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

So, what exactly does  Tallulah Bankhead have to do with Smith Lake?

A Bit History

Today when one thinks of family political dynasties, the Kennedy’s or Bush’s might spring to mind. However, in the first three decades of the twentieth century, one of the most powerful families in national politics was Alabama’s own Bankhead family.

The Bankhead dynasty began with John Hollis Bankhead, a Black Belt planter and officer in the Confederate Army. He won election to the House of Representatives where he served from 1887 to 1907. He later served in the U.S. Senate for thirteen years until his death in 1920. His son John Hollis Bankhead, Jr., arrived in the Senate a decade later and served until his death in 1946, while his brother William Brockman Bankhead served in the House of Representatives from 1917 until he died in 1940.

Like most families of such repute, the Bankheads had their rebel. In their case, it was Tallulah.

Tallulah Bankhead, famous stage, film and radio actress of the early 1900′s, was the daughter of William, namkesake of the William B. Bankhead National Forest, which powerfully winds through and arround Lewis Smith Lake.

At age 15, Tallulah secretly submitted her photograph to a contest sponsored by Picture Play magazine and won an all-expenses paid trip to New York City, a weekly salary of $25 and a chance to act in a motion picture.

She stayed in New York for the next five years and earned a reputation as a hard-partying flapper with a wit as dry as a martini. Tallulah was not to be controlled even by her chaperone and once said, “Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”

At age 21 she headed to London where she appeared in a dozen plays and continued to live up to her reputation as a party girl.

“It’s the good girls who keep the diaries. The bad girls never have the time.”

At age 29 she headed back to America after signing a contract with Paramount Pictures.

It was not until 1944, at age 42 that she achieved her greatest on-screen triumph in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. Her later years did not live up to her acting potential. Some feel it was the impending aftereffect of drug and alcohol abuse. Tallulah died at 66 of pneumonia. Reportedly, her last words were “Codeine –bourbon!”

But in her wake she left a body of serious theatrical work spiced with a zest for life.

“Alabama is famous for being home to many colorful characters and Tallulah Bankhead was a rainbow among them.” – Courteney Cox, Actress

So, it’s not just the foliage and trees of the Bankhead Forest that are colorful on Smith Lake. The name itself carries a characterful history as well.

Information from Heart of Dixie.

Even With 181,581 acres, the William B. Bankhead National Forest continues to expand















It’s impossible to talk about Smith Lake without boasting of the BANKHEAD NATIONAL FOREST. It weaves around a good portion of the lake, providing a beautiful, untouched haven.

At Sispey Landing, we are fortunate to call the Bankhead our next door neighbor. Our property has views of rocky shores and tall trees – never to be developed.

So, how did the area became a national forest?

Before the Civil War, the land here was settled. The soil was good, but the hills didn’t cater to farming. After the war ended, many settlers packed their belongings and headed west to find more accommodating land. As a result, many pockets of acreage reverted back to the government through the Alabama Purchase Unit, established by the National Forest Commission in Fiscal Year 1914. Today the forest has 181,581 acres, and continues to grow as the government is forever buying and trading land in an effort to consolidate the fragmented pieces.

And how did it get it’s name?

  • January 15, 1918 – President Woodrow Wilson designated the the first 66,008 acres as the “Alabama National Forest”
  • June 19, 1936 – President Teddy Roosevelt renamed the area the “Black Warrior National Forest”
  • June 17, 1942 – Congress enacted legislation changing the forest’s name to the “William B. Bankhead National Forest”

A native Alabamian and good friend to President Roosevelt, Mr. William Brockman Bankhead served in the U.S. Congress from 1917-1940 and was Speaker of the House from 1936 until his death in 1940. 

While parts of the Forest are still privately owned (Sipsey Landing owner Tarrie Hyche owns about a thousand acres), roads and housing are sparse to say the least.

Thanks to the efforts of many in the early 1900s, this gorgeous sanctuary was preserved and is enjoyed today by thousands. With 4 recreational camping areas the hiking trails, biking trails, horse trails and natural water falls are just a few of the many things to do or see in the beautiful Bankhead Forest.

How do you enjoy the Bankhead? Do you have a story about how it has grown?

Day Trip: Hiking the Sipsey Wilderness

One of the great appeals of Sipsey Landing is that it sits adjacent to the Bankhead National Forest. These areas will never be developed, leaving the beautiful, natural view for residents of our resort to enjoy.

Our location also makes hiking in the Sipsey Wilderness extremely convenient. We have hundreds of waterfalls and plentiful acres of untouched forest right in our backyard, ready for you to explore.

The Sispey Wilderness Hiking Club provides a great resource for trails, maps and the waterfalls. They also keep the site updated with areas of trail maintenance and trip reports.

Below are a few “know before you go” tips:

  • There are no motorized vehicles permitted in the Sipsey Wilderness.
  • You should be prepared to take your trash out with you when you leave. The area is “leave no trace.”
  • If you plan to drink water from the streams/falls, you’ll need to treat it. Otherwise, bring a canteen.
  • The Sipsey is wild, so animals are a possibility. Snakes and ticks are the biggest threat.
  • Watch out for poison ivy. It’s plentiful here. Plan to wear pants if you’re highly allergic.
  • Cell phone reception is spotty at best.