Buck's Pocket State Park is a secluded 2,000-acre park located in the foothills of the Appalachians in northeast Alabama, two miles from the town of Grove Oak. The park straddles DeKalb, Jackson, and Marshall counties. Buck's Pocket is actually a narrow canyon carved into the rock of Sand Mountain by South Sauty Creek. The canyon, or "pocket," is surrounded by soaring bluffs that reach to the canyon rim above, offering panoramic overviews of the gorge. In 2009, the park had 27,000 visitors, annual operating expenses of $154,000, and a staff of three people.
In April 1966, the Sand Mountain Booster's Club organized a group called the Tri-County Park Authority to develop the area into a park. The group purchased land from a local farmer and began work to develop facilities. The park was opened in 1971. There are various local tales about how Buck's Pocket got its name. The most common legend says that a group of Cherokee hunters cornered a buck deer on a high ledge, and the frightened animal leapt off the ledge into the deep rock pocket below. Another tale says that the area was once a gathering place for buck deer that roamed the area by the hundreds. Local folklore also holds that Buck's Pocket is where unsuccessful candidates for public office would go to contemplate their fates after suffering defeat at the polls.
There are 36 modern campsites located in the bottom of the canyon with tables and grills and a laundry, comfort station, and playground. Additionally, the park offers primitive camping and facilities for camping with horses. A large picnic area on the canyon rim overlooks the pocket below and a group pavilion is available. A boat launch and fishing area is located seven miles downstream on South Sauty Creek at Morgan's Cove, a secluded section of Lake Guntersville that is part of the park. Hikers and horseback riders are particularly attracted to the park's 18 miles of trails. They range from one-quarter mile to six miles in length, traverse dense forests and high bluffs, and offer glimpses of the valley below. One of the most popular trails is Point Rock Trail, which leads from the park office on the floor of the canyon up to the overlook. This trail follows a creek up the canyon and has an elevation change of 400 feet, with the last 100 feet being a steep grade. The Primitive Trail is an old road that parallels South Sauty Creek and offers easy hiking and horseback riding.
Buck's Pocket teems with wildlife, wildflowers, thick hardwood forests, dramatic vertical bluffs, and clear creeks. Like nearby Lake Guntersville State Park, Buck's Pocket is renowned for the number and variety of birds that can be found within its borders. Waterfowl such as great blue herons and great egrets and numerous species of woodland birds are plentiful, and visitors may see an occasional bald eagle. Spring wildflowers and autumn leaves are also major attractions of the park.
Thomas V. Ress
Published June 16, 2010
Last updated August 12, 2010