The Tallulah Gorge Is Part Of One Of The Most Popular Georgia State Parks
This Gorge is found about ninety minutes drive north of the City of Atlanta in the American State of Georgia. At the end of the 19th century it was a place that rivalled Niagara Falls in popularity. Visitors came from far and wide to view the six waterfalls that tumbled down the length of the gorge.
The Gorge forms part of the county line between Rabun and Habersham counties in the north-east corner of Georgia.
It is the centrepiece of The Tallulah Gorge State Park. This is one of the newest Georgia State Parks having only been created in 1993.
The management of the park is shared between the State of Georgia and the electricity generating company Georgia Power. They are involved because they own much of the land and have a dam, built in 1912, which is upriver from the gorge and the Falls.
The Tallulah Gorge State Park is 2,680 acres of beautiful woods, river and lake. The gorge itself is two miles long and almost a 1,000 feet deep in places. The State of Georgia list it as one of their Seven Natural Wonders.
The Tallulah Gorge State Park is a great place for boating on their three lakes. There is also mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and hiking. There are miles of trails which go along both rims of the gorge or through the beautiful woods.
The history of the area is a tale of many ups and downs. The Gorge and falls were first discovered by white Americans around 1819 although the Okonee and Cherokee Native Americans knew about it.
The name Tallulah probably originates from the Okonee word "talula" meaning town.
When the first white settlers found the gorge the roar of the Tallulah Falls could be heard some miles away.
The area gradually became something of a tourist attraction drawing sightseers from far and wide. The journey to reach the gorge was made considerably easier in 1882 when the Tallulah Falls Railway was built.
One Of The Falls In The Gorge
More and more visitors made the trip to see the Tallulah Gorge. Businesses sprang up to service the demands of these tourists. The town of Tallulah Falls was created and in its heyday had as many as seventeen hotels and boarding houses, as well as stores and billiard halls.
To promote one of the hotels, on July 24th 1886, a tightrope walker named Professor Bachman crossed the gorge a high wire! This feat was to be repeated by the famous Karl Wallenda on July 18th 1970.
But this heyday was to be short-lived. A company called Georgia Railway and Power (now just Georgia Power) needed to generate electricity to power the streetcars in the City of Atlanta. They saw in the Tallulah Gorge an opportunity to generate hydroelectricity.
They purchased much of the land around the gorge and, despite an outcry from local people and one of the very first ever "action groups," built a dam upriver from the Tallulah Falls and power was sent to supply the needs of Atlanta.
The mighty roar of the Tallulah Falls was quieted.
The importance of the town gradually faded. In December 1921 a fire started and burned for several days destroying many of the hotels, stores and homes. Most were never rebuilt. Today the town is a tiny, but very pretty place of less than two hundred residents.
But visitors still flock to see the gorge!
The building of the dam had stopped the thunder of the waterfalls. The water had been re-directed down a 6,666 foot tunnel which had been cut through solid rock, by-passing the gorge to a generating station 600 feet lower than the level of the Tallulah Lake behind the dam.
The Suspension Bridge Across The Gorge
However, the incredible gorge was still a great attraction. A suspension bridge crossed above the river and many look-outs and steps were created to allow walkers down into the gorge
The fortunes of the Tallulah Gorge were to change once more in the 1990`s. Firstly, in 1993, Georgia Governor Zel Miller created the Tallulah Gorge State Park. At around the same time the attitude of Georgia Power changed somewhat. Their licence to generate was up for renewal and various pressure groups persuaded them to look at the usage of the gorge in different ways.
This has led to Georgia Power releasing water from the dam and down the natural course of the Tallulah River and through the gorge. These are termed "aesthetic releases" and are done to re-create the once powerful waterfalls so that people can once again enjoy the tremendous sight. It also allows kayakers and rafters to ride through the gorge on the extra flow of water.
Kayaking Down The Gorge
The times of these releases are widely advertised and arranged well in advance so that enthusiasts and sightseers are able to enjoy the excitement.
During these releases no permits to hike along the bottom of the gorge are issued. For obvious reasons! But you can observe them from the many lookout points. For more information about these aesthetic releases telephone Tallulah Gorge State Park on 706-754-7970.
Hiking is extremely popular around the State Park. There are six trails of
varying length adding up to nearly twenty miles of great hiking.
The two rim trails are well used as they give spectacular views of the gorge. The South Rim trail was actually destroyed by a tornado in 1994 and had to be rebuilt.
Hiking down to the bottom of the gorge requires a permit obtainable from the Interpretive Centre.
It can be a very challenging hike up and down, but worth it!
The interpretive centre opened in 1996 and it really is a superb building featuring many displays on wildlife and the history of the Tallulah Gorge Falls area.
If you are ever in Georgia, Tallulah Gorge really is a great gorge to visit.
Warning Sign At The Gorge