Tallulah Gorge is a nearly thousand-foot-deep canyon which follows the Tallulah River for two miles resulting in one of the most beautiful natural areas in Georgia. The spectacular site is accessed at Tallulah Gorge State Park and is a mecca for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. I didn’t have much time when I was here, but even a visit of a couple of hours is one of the most rewarding trips in Georgia.
The first thing you’ll see if you plan on the strenuous descent to the Hurricane Falls suspension bridge, is L’Eau d’Or Falls, actually a series of several smaller falls. It’s a mere 350 feet below.
The Cascade Falls Trail is part of the Pine Mountain Trail, located within the F. D. Roosevelt State Park. Several waterfalls punctuate the trail, and while they may be small compared to better known waterfalls in North Georgia, they nonetheless provide great views. This post focuses on the trail as hiked from the WJSB-TV tower parking lot, just south of Warm Springs. The round trip to Cascade Falls and back is approximately 4.1 miles and will take about 3 hours with stops.
I’ll share the waterfalls first, since they are the main attraction, and then images from the trail.
Waterfalls of the Cascade Falls Trail, FDR State Park
Csonka Falls will be the first waterfall you reach on the trail.
Big Rock Falls will be the next point of interest. It’s a great spot to take a rest.
The third waterfall is Slippery Rock Falls, and it is my favorite spot on the trail.
It’s another good rest stop, but the rocks live up to their name and are indeed quite slippery.
About 2.1 miles from the trailhead, hikers are at last rewarded with the highlight of the trail, Cascade Falls. Like all the waterfalls along the trail, it’s marked with a wooden sign.
The pool below the falls is a nice place to cool your feet in the summertime, and to take a rest before returning to the trailhead.
Cascade Falls Trail, F. D. Roosevelt State Park
This easternmost section of the Pine Mountain Trail is popular with hikers for its waterfalls, but the landscape of this area is equally interesting. It’s the most mountainous section of Georgia south of Atlanta.
The first part of the hike crosses relatively flat land.
The topography changes as the trail winds it way toward the falls, following Wolfden Creek, also known as Wolfden Branch.
The creek runs mostly parallel to the trail, but it crosses it 13 times.
One of the interesting features of the trail are the large rocks that litter the woods.
They make good seats if you need to take a break from the walk.
You’ll also likely notice many fallen trees. They’re remnants of a 2011 tornado.
Past Slippery Rock Falls, the trail begins it highest rise.
For casual hikers, it can be a bit of a challenge.
Bumblebee Ridge is the highest point before reaching Cascade Falls, and offers nice views (and a bench).
Plants of Cascade Falls Trail, F. D. Roosevelt State Park
Early Spring is a great time to hike the trail, and you’ll encounter a variety of early wildflowers, and a reptile or two. Be careful of Copperheads, though, as this is prime habitat for the poisonous snakes.
Native azaleas were just beginning to bloom and were fairly common along the trail. I was here too early to see the Mountain Laurels, which reach the southern end of their range near here.
Keep an eye out for one of my favorite native plants, the Bird-Foot Violet.
I found this Oxalis blooming in a crevice between two rocks. I believe it’s a Wood Sorrel, but am not positive as to which species.
Shaking Rock Park is a fascinating natural area located within the city limits of Lexington that is named for a 27-ton rock that could be shaken with one hand while remaining in place, before the elements shifted its balance [likely the 1886 Charleston earthquake]. It still maintains a precarious perch albeit aided today by some sort of mortar.
The random field of mostly egg-shaped granite boulders comes into view at the crest of a fairly low hill and defines the trail to come. It’s a fairly easy walk and other than the presence of large roots in places, has few obstacles.
Archaeological evidence suggests that before European habitation, the site was used by Cherokee and Creek peoples as a campground.
In 1968, Shaking Rock became a public park thanks to the efforts of the Lexington Women’s Club.
Judge Hamilton McWhorter was the last private owner, and three of his heirs, Mrs. Andrew Cobb Erwin, Mrs. Sallie McWhorter, and Thurmond McWhorter, made the public transfer possible.
Depending on where one stands, the namesake rock’s appearance can vary greatly. Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with graffiti at the site.
Shaking Rock Park is an excellent natural resource and is free to explore.
Randolph Cemetery, set on a precipitous hillside southwest of Milledgeville, has the appearance of a typical early-20th-century African-American burying ground, with many handmade headstones and grave markers sourced from local materials. This monumental folk art arch makes it anything but a typical cemetery. [It might also be of interest that it is believed that a descendant of one of George Washington’s slaves is buried here].
The top of the arch contains relief carvings of oak leaves, plus some possible clues about the builder. Below a random series of letters and numbers [K PL47, perhaps designating Knights of Pythias Lodge 47?] and the phrase “He Watches Over Me” is what appears to be the date 1923 and the initials F B and ARB. It’s possible that the B is for Brown, as there are several Browns in this cemetery, but that is only a guess.
As you make your way up the short but vigorous trail to the top of Fort Mountain you will encounter scattered rocks of varying sizes. It helps you aunderstand the availability of material that lead to the construction of the rock wall the mountain is known for.
It has an otherworldly feel and I found it as fascinating on a recent trip as I did when I visited as a child.
With around 8 million metric tons mined and $1 billion in annual economic impact, kaolin is one of Georgia’s largest natural resources and industries. In fact, Georgia is the leading clay-producing state in the nation. Primary applications of kaolin include paper-coating (glossy magazine pages, for instance), paint pigments, ceramics, and pharmaceuticals, especially antacids such as Kaopectate and Mylanta.
The Kaolin Belt in Georgia runs roughly parallel to the Fall Line and is a vital economic force in at least 13 counties.
Historically, the industry had a bad reputation for its land rights and reclamation practices, but improvements in recent decades have (hopefully) lead to better stewardship. For an overview of the industry’s controversial earlier days, read Charles Seabrooke’s Red Clay, Pink Cadillacs and White Gold: The Kaolin Chalk Wars. The book was not well-received by the industry, though locals agree that much of it is solidly documented and reported. I’m not endorsing nor attacking the industry as it’s very important to the economy, but let’s hope it has improved. It’s not a liberal or conservative view to treat people right, to not steal their land, and to leave the land better than you found it.
Known locally as “The Rocks”, this site in the Salem community of northwestern Ben Hill County seems out of place in the Coastal Plain landscape surrounding it. It’s been an area landmark for at least a century but there is no general access. I’m unable to give directions to the site.
For years these geological features were informally identified as Ashburn formations (Wharton, The Natural Environments of Georgia, Atlanta, 1978, et al.) , after the first well-documented site of this type, located off Highway 41 north of Ashburn. Since I’m not a geologist, I don’t know if they’re related to the well-known Altamaha formations (or Altamaha grit). I suspect they may be grouped together at this point. Recent scholarship suggests they may be remnants of coral reefs near the ancient shoreline. Still others believe they’re meteoric in origin.
It’s looks quite small from some perspectives but the largest rock is actually nearly twenty feet high.
Boulders like the ones seen below can also be found in random nearby locations.
This is an important natural heritage site and I hope it remains in pristine condition for years to come.
The site of a historic ferry on the Ocmulgee, this landing now provides public access to the river. It’s truly one of the most appealing areas on the river, just upstream from the confluence with the Oconee and the beginning of the Altamaha River.
Rock outcrops common to the Altamaha Formation are found here as they are in other parts of the county.
Jesse M. Bookhardt recently shared this about Burkett’s Ferry: Burkett’s Ferry is a wonderful place and occupies a special place in my memory. Located in Jeff Davis County just off the old Pioneer Tallahassee Trail, it represents one of several ferries that provided river crossing services. Though not in operation during my time, I remember the site well. Folks from the neighboring communities such as Snipesville often went there fishing, boating, and picnicking. There existed a small spring of cool clear water that seeped from a bank just up stream from the landing. From this pool of fresh water, many fishermen and visitors to the river stopped to drink. It is unknown to me whether the spring still runs or has succumbed to the dynamic forces of nature. Burkett’s Ferry was one of two closely geographically connect fishing spots. Nearby is Pike Creek recorded as Pipe Creek in the original land survey of the area. Both places provided rich fishing waters. Perhaps the “Pipe” referred to a site for making Native American tobacco medicine pipes. Obviously Native Americans once occupied the Burkett’s Ferry site, for in the 1950s when I was a kid, I found pottery and stone artifacts. During the pioneer period, the ferry connected Telfair with Ocmulgeeville, and further to the east Holmesville, the county seat of Appling. When the original plan was made for the old Macon and Brunswick Railroad, it called for the route to cross the Ocmulgee near Burkett’s Ferry. Later the plan was changed and the railroad was scheduled to be built across the Ocmulgee at Lumber City further down stream. Burkett’s Ferry is historically significant to the Ocmulgee and Wiregrass region for it provided much needed access to the hinterland of South Georgia.