Depending on your appetite for variations on myth and legend, you might enjoy  a number of other details added over the years to embellish this story: Noccalula continues to haunt the area below the falls, sometimes appearing in the mist; the rainbow sometimes seen in the mist is a token of the bond between the girl and her lover; her lover returned to the falls, either shortly after her death or much later as an old man, and jumped to his death, too; or even this: her lover was not a brave from her tribe but rather a blue-eyed, fair-haired stranger. You can pick and choose!

Princess Noccalula haunted the mist the morning we visited.

In November 1969, a bronze sculpture of Noccalula was installed at the edge of the gorge. The model was a local teenager dressed in stereotypical “Indian” garb rather than the more likely wraparound skirt with a woven or deerskin mantle—and no festive wedding robes. The teenager’s name was Kay Smith, and she even appeared at the dedication in her stereotypical costume to sign autographs! 

Princess Noccalula was not the only princess to leap to her death in American legend. In his book Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain wrote that there were “fifty Lover’s Leaps along the Mississippi from whose summit disappointed Indian girls have jumped.” In Alabama, besides Noccalula, there are three lover’s leaps—one at DeSoto Caverns in Childersburg, one at Mile 96 on the Tombigbee River, and one next to Shades Crest Road up in Bluff Park that gives the traditional legend a gruesome twist. Supposedly, an Indian brave who was tired of the love of a tribal princess stabbed her on one of the rocks on the bluff and then, regretting what he’d done, jumped with her in his arms. Sigh!

Princess Noccalula graces the cover of Leland and Crystal Payton’s book, Lover’s Leap Legends, which chronicles leap legends from “Sappho of Lesbos to Wah-Wah-Tee of Waco.”

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