North America

Where to Find Glow Worms in Alabama

Alabama is the sequel to my Tennessee post and it’s the true reason I went on this trip to begin with.
I have a habit of keeping an ongoing bucket list of locations I want to explore and one day on Reddit I happened across a post regarding the glow worms of Alabama.

There are only glow worms in two parts of the world – most famously Alabama and New Zealand.  They can be found in Alabama’s neighboring states but not in clusters like they are in Dismals Canyon (to be discussed later).  I believe you can find the occasional one in Australia as well, but again, they’re not in clusters.

Call me intrigued!

From my AirBnB in Tennessee, I drove 3 hours down to Bankhead National Forest in Alabama.  In. to. the forest.  I foolishly didn’t type in Bankhead National Forest Visitor Center or anything like that, so I’m passing up these trailheads and just trying to go to where my GPS is pointing me.  Well, it pointed me to the middle of the forest, on a road, with no trailheads in site.  At least on the way, I saw a deer leap across the road!  Very cool.  I’ve seen plenty of deer, but I don’t think I’ve ever had them actually cross me on the road.

My adventure at Bankhead was already going to be pretty short since I wanted to be able to hike Dismals Canyon during the day prior to the night tour, so I was pretty bummed out that I stupidly typed in such vague directions.  I drove out of the forest and started heading to the canyon, but on the way saw a sign for Caney Creek Falls.  Well that usually means waterfalls, right?   I pulled over to investigate.  I’m very glad I did.

1.5 miles in, the trail dips down and into this amazing, secluded pocket of wonderful.

Zora’s Domain?

I don’t know if the pictures really do it justice, but it was incredible to walk upon this beautiful pond with a natural waterfall cascading down in front of you, with bluffs and lush greenery surrounding.  I felt blessed, honestly.  What a cool experience.

But it got cooler.

I went back to my car and drove the remainder of the way to Dismals Canyon.  This is where the glow worms were!  You can’t see them glow until night time, but it’s a really cool hike regardless.  I had called beforehand to set up my tickets because the night tours get sold out really quickly.

This wasn’t actually a snake den.  During the night tour, our guide told us that there’s a vulture and her albino baby vulture in there; our guide put the sign up to keep visitors away.

Very reminiscent of Hall of Mosses in Washington.
Wow.  What an incredible experience.

This location was actually where the Chickasaw Indians were held under guard for two weeks prior to the Trail of Tears where 90% of them died.  There are other really interesting tidbits of history to this place as well – check out the Dismals Canyon website for more info.

As I mentioned, I got day tickets and night tickets for Dismals Canyon.  Once I finished my hike, I went to my motel (not even comparable to my Tennessee AirBnB) to wash off the humidity and get some food.

This was right next to my motel.  Holy small town.

I spend a couple of hours relaxing in the room, calling my parents as well as Matt to talk about the trip so far.  Caught up on RuPaul’s Drag Race (c’mon, season 9!) and closed my eyes just for a moment.  And then it was time for my glow worm tour!  AHH!!  P.S., they’re not actually called glow worms.  They’re not even worms, they’re fungal fly larvae and they’re named Dismalites; this particular species is only found in Alabama -and as mentioned before, in very small amounts in nearby states.

You can’t even really see the wormish shape at all, but you can look it up online to check out what it’s shaped like.

I am beyond thrilled that I was able to capture image of these elusive f-er’s.  They’re apparently incredibly difficult to photograph.

I wasn’t even sure if the pictures were taking properly because I had the camera resting on my chest while I was taking them – I didn’t want to check the screen because once we got to their homes everyone turned off their flashlights so we could see them.  Some people were rudely turning on their flashlights occasionally and that disables you from seeing them.

Anyway.  Picture stars in the sky.  But they’re not stars, and it’s not the sky.

Disclaimer: you may have to put your face to the screen to see them.  Also, they’re not blue to the eye, they’re white!  I think this may be a byproduct of the long exposure.  If you look closely, you’ll see there are a bunch of little white dots all over – not just the blue cluster.  I would recommend just saving the image and then opening it up in Preview or Photoshop to see all the details.

Our guide was telling us that she’s been studying them and she goes out to count them every night – she’s also writing her thesis on them.  Native Americans have folklore about them and she said that she tries not to think about it too much because it freaks her out.  I’m not sure what the folklore is but I’ve emailed them since getting back home to see if I could get some more information.

What a cool end to my journey!  I went home and went to bed because I had a 3 hour drive back to Nashville for my 1pm flight.  The drive back consisted of a lot of dead armadillos on the side of the road… and then at one point, three baby foxes playing in the  MIDDLE of the road.  Glad to say they haven’t wound up like the armadillos (yet).

Once I got back to Chicago, I crossed paths with Matt who was on his way to depart on a flight to work!

THANK YOU for getting me to and back, what an adventure.

Obligatory-Matt-and-I eating bananas at Midway.

P.S. my neck got sunburnt during my two days in the South so I guess I’m officially a redneck.



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