Tallulah Gorge State Park

Hike into this deep canyon to marvel at rush­ing wa­ters and breath­tak­ing cliffs.

Country - - SPECIAL SECTION - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY PAT & CHUCK BLACKLEY

Since the days of the horse and buggy, peo­ple have been drawn to Tallulah Gorge, known as the Ni­a­gara of the South and one of Ge­or­gia’s seven nat­u­ral won­ders. Carved by the Tallulah River from the Tallulah Dome rock for­ma­tion, this vast canyon—2 miles long and nearly 1,000-feet deep—has six ma­jor wa­ter­falls with dra­matic names such as Hur­ri­cane and Tem­pesta.

Now a state park, there are more than 20 miles of hik­ing trails here, which lead visi­tors along the rim and down into the canyon.

Keep an eye out for unique flora such as mon­key­face or­chid and the en­dan­gered per­sis­tent tril­lium that are pro­tected here.

Our fa­vorite spot from which to ad­mire the deep gorge is the rim over­look above L’Eau d’Or Falls, not far from the Jane Hurt Yarn In­ter­pre­tive Cen­ter for visi­tors. From this high van­tage point, there is an un­ob­structed view of the forested gran­ite cliffs and the pow­er­ful rush­ing cas­cades be­low.

Each day, 100 per­mits are given out to those who wish to hike in the canyon. Per­mits are dis­trib­uted at the visi­tors cen­ter, and they’re gen­er­ally all spo­ken for by early morn­ing. On hot sum­mer days, swim­ming holes tucked in along the canyon trails are ideal for laz­ing the time away.

Another perk for per­mit-hold­ers is ac­cess to a swing­ing sus­pen­sion bridge that hov­ers 80 feet above the rush­ing wa­ters of the gorge floor.

The power com­pany dammed the Tallulah River in the early 1900s; most of the wa­ter is di­verted through a tun­nel to a down­stream fa­cil­ity that gen­er­ates elec­tric­ity.

How­ever, on des­ig­nated week­ends, wa­ter is re­leased to re­store the river flows to his­toric lev­els, al­low­ing the thun­der of the falls to roar as it did be­fore the dam was built. Some of the re­leases are sub­stan­tial enough for white-wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties, mak­ing these peak times for pad­dlers to visit.

The state park, es­tab­lished in 1993, in­cludes a sand beach at the 63-acre lake up­stream, a pic­nic shel­ter, fish­ing, camp­ing, a 10-mile moun­tain bik­ing trail and a 1.7-mile paved path laid over a sec­tion of the Tallulah Falls Rail­way, which catered to elite Vic­to­rian-era visi­tors. And the tow­ers are still vis­i­ble from where famed tightrope walker Karl Wal­lenda crossed over the gorge.

When­ever we visit, we feel grate­ful for the decades of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts by Ge­or­gians to pre­serve this land­scape for pos­ter­ity.

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