An account of the DeSoto Falls area by Albert James Pickett, October 1850
What is rather singular, Little River has its source on the top of Lookout Mountain, and runs for many miles on the most elevated parts of it. In the winter and spring it is a stream of considerable size, affording a rapid and dangerous current of water; but when it was seen upon the present occasion, a very protracted drought had nearly dried it up. The river flows along the top of the mountain with very inconsiderable banks, until it reaches a precipice of solid rock, in the form of a half circle, over which it falls seventy feet perpendicularly, into a basin. After being received in this rock basin, the river flows off without much interruption, and, in winding about, forms a peninsula about two or three hundred yards below the falls. The banks of the river bordering on this peninsula are the same unbroken rock walls which form the falls, and are equally high and bold. Across the neck of the peninsula are yet to be traced two ancient ditches, nearly parallel with each other, and about thirty feet apart in the middle of the curve which they form, though they commence within ten feet of each other upon the upper precipice, and when they have reached the lower precipice are found to run into each other. These ditches have been almost filled up by the effects of time. On their inner sides are rocks piled up and mixed with the dirt which was thrown up in making these entrenchments, indicating them to be of the simplest and rudest Indian origin. The author has seen many such entrenchments in his travels over Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, and hesitates not to say that they are the works of the aborigines of the country. On one side of the peninsula, and about ten feet below the top of the rock precipice, are four or five small caves, large enough, if square, to form rooms twelve by fourteen feet. They are separated from each other by strata of rock, two of which resemble pillars, roughly hewn out. Three of them communicate with each other by means of holes which can be crawled through. These caves open immediately upon the precipice, and from their floors it is at least seventy feet down to the surface of the river. Many persons who have visited this singular place, call these "DeSoto's Rock Houses." and they have stretched their imagination to such an extent as to assert that they have distinctly traced his pickaxes in the face of the rocks. There can be no question, however, but that these caves have been improved, to a slight extent, in size and shape, by human labor. But it was the labor of the Red people. Occasionally we could see where they smoothed off a point, and leveled the floors by knocking off the uneven places. It was, doubtless, a strong Indian fortification, and long used as a safe retreat when the valleys below were overrun by a victorious enemy. The walls are black with smoke, and everything about them bears evidence of constant occupation for years. These caves or rock houses constructed a most admirable defense, especially with the assistance of the walls, at the head of the peninsula. In order to get into the first cave, a person has to pass along a rock passage wide enough for only one man. Below him, on his right, is the awful precipice, and on his left, the rock wall reaching ten feet above his head. A few persons in the first rock house with swords or spears, could keep off an army of one thousand men; for, only one assailant being able to approach the cave at a time, could be instantly dispatched and hurled down the abyss below. In regard to the inner walls of the ditches, the author saw no cement among the rocks, although he had heard that that ingredient (never used by Indians) was to be found there.