Tag Archives: Georgia Recreation

Whitewater Rafting, Columbus

Columbus, like Georgia’s other Fall Line cities, is defined by a dramatic shift in elevation [124 feet over a 2 mile stretch], and its lifeblood has always been the Chattahoochee River. Historically, the river’s waters ran freely over rocks and shoals and were known as the Falls of the Chattahoochee. Chutes de la Chattahoutchie, an 1838 painting by the French naturalist Francis de la Porte depicted a wild and scenic waterway and the river retained this wildness until it was dammed by Eagle and Phenix Mill [1882] and City Mills [1907] to provide the power which made their industries possible. Smaller dams were built earlier in the 19th century, but did not have the impact of the aforementioned examples.

The Falls of the Chattahoochee vanished as the mills grew over time. In the mid-2000s, a plan to breach and remove those dams took hold in an effort to make the Chattahoochee wild again and provide new tourism opportunities for Columbus.

The breaching of the Eagle and Phenix Mill dam in 2012 and the City Mills dam in 2013 brought back a resource which had vanished over a century ago. The Falls of the Chattahoochee, which had been important to the area since the days of Native Americans, once again flow through the city and have created what has been called one of the best urban whitewater runs in the nation.

The river reclamation has been a driver of revitalization in Columbus, and while I generally don’t make endorsements, I would direct you to the experienced folks at Whitewater Express.

They’ll gladly take you on an amazing adventure if you’re of a mind to get wet and get your adrenaline flowing.

Whether you’ve never done whitewater or you’re an old pro, they will make your experience worthwhile. It’s a great day trip if you’re in the area.

White Chimney River, McIntosh County

Originating in swampland east of Young Man Road in northern McIntosh County, the White Chimney River [also referred to as White Chimney Creek] flows southerly for several miles before joining the Sapelo River. I haven’t located an origin for the name, but would presume it to be related to an early house or other landmark with white chimneys. Seems logical, but who knows…

The White Chimney River is surrounded by marsh and hammock on both sides for most of its brief course.

This landscape is typical of estuaries along the Atlantic seaboard.

In the southeast, they generally feature palmettos, oaks, and cedars.

A web of smaller creeks feed into the river from all directions.

Like the rivers they support, they are dependent on the tides.

These estuaries are integral to the abundance of marine life that attracts fishermen to the region.

This floating dock is located at Cooper’s Point, now part of a residential development bordering the White Chimney River. It’s a private dock, but anyone can access the river at the White Chimney Creek Boat Ramp on Shellman Bluff Road. The river is particularly known for its abundance of Spotted Seatrout. Croaker is also common.

Oysters are also dependent on the estuarine environment and are quite abundant along the banks of the White Chimney River.

Life is Better on Bluff Time, Shellman Bluff

This sign, across from Hunter’s Cafe, sums up the mood around Shellman Bluff; no hurries and no worries. The words change from time to time, but the message really doesn’t. It overlooks the idyllic Julienton River, a tributary of the Sapelo River.

Clarks Hill Lake, McDuffie County

This man-made lake, now officially known as Lake Strom Thurmond, retains its original designation as Clarks Hill Lake in Georgia. Its creation was made possible by the construction of the Clarks Hill Dam near the confluence of the Savannah River and the Little River in 1952. It is the third largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi River and provides abundant recreation and fishing opportunities for residents and tourists alike.

This view was made on a western section of the lake, near the old town of Raysville. The lake is bordered by McCormick County, South Carolina, and Lincoln, Columbia, McDuffie, and Wilkes counties in Georgia.

Flint River Diving Trees, Meriwether County

Most of us who have grown up swimming in rivers and creeks are familiar with rope swings tied to trees that have a good reach over the waterway, and occasionally, we see impromptu ladders added to make the climb to the top easier. I shot these several years ago near the Meriwether County Landing on the Flint River and I think they had more steps than any I’ve seen.

I really didn’t know what to call them other than “diving trees”. They’re really more for jumping than diving, especially when the rivers are low. I don’t think there’s any consensus as to an official term but they’re a thing down here in southern Georgia and I thought these two were perfect examples.

Nails Creek, Franklin County

This lush stream rises in the Appalachian foothills a few miles north of Homer in Banks County and flows northeastward into Franklin County before turning southeastward and joining the Hudson River. All of these waterways feed the Broad River and its three forks.

Nails Creek was an important location in the development of industry in the region. J. D. Cromer had a sawmill, gristmill, and gin mill here in the late 19th century and this likely supported other small businesses, as well.

Tallulah Point Overlook, 1920s, Rabun County

This well-loved tourist stop was known as Harvey’s Famous Overlook from at least the 1920s [some sources say 1912] until the 1980s.

It undoubtedly hosted millions of visitors in its long history. This vintage postcard likely dates to the late 1930s. [Public domain image]

It was next known as Tallulah Point and closed in 1989. It reopened as Tallulah Point Overlook in 1994.

In 2020, the shop relocated to downtown Tallulah Falls, signalling the end of an era, but not of the business.

Tallulah Gorge, Rabun County

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.

House Creek Boils, Wilcox County

Known locally as “The Boils”, this natural Eden is an oxbow of House Creek, a tributary of the Ocmulgee River near the Wilcox-Ben Hill County line, which has been protected by the Fuller family for the better part of two centuries. There are several other well-known boils in this area, including Oscewicee [pronounced ossi-witchy] Springs and Lake Wilco. None of these are open or accessible to the public, though Oscewicee Springs once was. Elizabeth Sizemore recalls another site north of The Boils, Poor Robin Springs near Abbeville.

In South Georgia, the term “boils” is commonly used to describe natural springs found in creeks, rivers, oxbows, and swamps. Water rises rapidly from an underground fissure and appears to be bubbling or boiling. With an average temperature of 68-70°F year-round, unaffected by the air temperature, they are warm in winter and famously cold in summer.

Native Americans would have been the first humans to appreciate these mystical places, using them in much the same ways we use them today. They were likely sacred to the tribes who knew them, both for their beauty and their unique qualities when compared to other aspects of the nearby terrain.

One of their most appealing features is the clear water which gives them a blue appearance, looking more like a tropical sea than a Coastal Plains swamp. Since tea-colored or muddy waters are the norm in these parts, they really stand out. I have treasured memories of swimming in these places as a young man, especially on holidays when we’d float watermelons near the sides to keep them cool.

In the 1940s, biologist Brooke Meanley did fieldwork here, some of which eventually appeared in his book, Swamps, River Bottoms & Canebrakes. Local farmer and naturalist Milton Hopkins and renowned woodcarver C. M. Copeland were also regular visitors for many years, welcomed enthusiastically by “Uncle Guy” Fuller. Hopkins made detailed observations on local birdlife and C. M. Copeland ventured into the surrounding swamps and collected cypress knees to use in his carvings.

The site was documented by David Stanley for the American Folklife Center circa 1977, as well. Some of his notes and images can be found in the Library of Congress.

Ken Fuller

I’m grateful to Ken Fuller for allowing me to photograph this incredibly special place and to share it with you. My father and I really enjoyed our last visit here, as we do all our visits with Ken and family.

We saw some amazing trees.

This view from the House Creek “side” of The Boils, along with Ken’s lifelong memories of the place, was ample reward for our hike.

Augusta Canal Headgates, 1840s & 1870s, Columbia County

Augusta Canal gatehouse, headgates, and locks.

Henry Harford Cumming envisioned Augusta as the “Lowell of the South” [in reference to the textile hub in Massachusetts] and was the driving force behind the Augusta Canal. The first nine-mile section was completed between 1845-1846, and within a couple of years three mills had already been risen along the waterway. Built near the end of the Canal Era [roughly 1800-1850], it was amazingly successful, as most Southern canals never were, and is the only intact industrial canal still in use in the South today. It was lengthened and enlarged between 1872-1877. It was after this expansion that most of the mills associated with Augusta’s industrial heritage were constructed. These included the Enterprise, Blanche, Sibley, and King Mills. I believe the present gatehouse dates to the expansion period in the 1870s.

Diversion Dam and Savannah River Rapids

A V-shaped dam diverts the Savannah River at the headgates and below it are what is now known as the Savannah Rapids. It is a popular recreation area and a very picturesque location.

Augusta Canal just below the headgates

Along the walkway at the gatehouse you’ll notice hundreds, if not thousands, of modern padlocks. These have been left behind by visitors over the years, as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the place. I’m not sure when the tradition started, but it has definitely caught on.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area