May 26th, 2017
On Friday, my wife Joann and I, drove from our home in upstate South Carolina to Tallulah Gorge State Park in NE Georgia. We’ve lived in the region for almost six years and have talked about visiting the gorge before now, but for one reason or another, we just hadn’t managed to do it.
Tallulah Gorge is a spectacular two mile long canyon that is more than 900 feet deep. The Tallulah River runs through the gorge, creating a number of very nice waterfalls. The gorge was designated as a state park in 1992. The state park consists of 2,739 acres, a 16,000-square-foot Interpretive Center, and 20 miles of hiking trails.
For today, Joann and I decided to just hike the 3 mile round-trip North and South Rim Trails. Together, these two trails would lead us to a series of numbered scenic overlooks with great views.
Beginning at the parking lot, Joann and I headed down the North Rim Trail. Our first stop was at overlook 1A. Far below us was Hurricane Falls and the suspension bridge that crosses the gorge and takes you to the South Rim.
On our way to the next overlook, we came upon this tower, lying on it’s side. This is the North Wallenda Tower. There is another tower like this one on the South side. In July 1970, 65-year-old Karl Wallenda of the famed Great Wallendas walked across the gorge on a highwire strung between the towers, performing two headstands along the way. Unfortunately, in 1978, a then 73-year-old Wallenda fell to his death from a height of ten-stories, while attempting to walk between two buildings in Puerto Rico.
After spending a few minutes checking out the tower, we continued on up the trail towards overlook 1. From overlook 1, we had excellent views of the gorge from high above Oceana Falls.
Next, we headed towards Inspiration Point. The trail from overlook 1 to Inspiration Point climbs steeply, gaining 212 feet in about a quarter-mile. Once there, Joann relaxed on a bench while I took more pictures of Oceana Falls.
Just beyond Inspiration Point is the junction for the High Bluff Trail. In order to do the moderate three mile round-trip hike, you must first obtain a free permit at the Interpretive Center. I’d definitely like to do it in the future, but for now, Joann and I backtracked and made our way to overlook 3. From there, we could see Hawthorne Pool and L’Eau d’Or Falls through the trees.
Along overlooks 4 and 5, we could see the Dam at Tallulah Falls Lake. A few weekends each year, the water flow through the Dam is increased from the typical 35-40 CFS to as much as 700 CFS. These high volume releases create whitewater on the river that allows kayakers to challenge their skills as spectators watch from the rim.
Overlook 5 marks the end of the North Rim Tail. From there, we picked up the South Rim Trail by taking the sidewalk along US 441 to the other side of the gorge.
Situated between overlooks 6 and 7, is this nice painted mural depicting a waterfall, kayakers, and some of the local flora and fauna. The second image is a closeup of the center of the mural.
The waterfall in the first of these two images is Tempesta Falls. The view in the Winter when the leaves are off the trees must be very impressive. Next, Joann and I passed under a covered walkway with bench seating made from large stones. The shade that the walkway provided was much appreciated on this warm, sunny day.
From the vicinity of overlook 8, we could see both the Interpretive Center across the gorge and Hurricane Falls down near the bottom.
Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I see a face in the rock. To me, it looks kind of monstrous, with creepy eyes, nose, mouth, and even teeth.
After making it to the end of the South Rim Trail, we turned around and headed back a short ways to a junction where there were stairs that would take us down to the suspension bridge. After descending 347 steps, we reached the bridge. Instead of crossing right away, we descended another 221 steps down to the base of Hurricane Falls.
We spent a few minutes at the base taking pictures before beginning the climb back up. While crossing the 200-foot suspension bridge, we had impressive views of the Tallulah River from just above the falls.
Once on the other side of the bridge, we still had to climb 310 more steps to reach the top of the gorge and overlook 2. From there, we had an unobstructed view of Hawthorne Pool and of L’Eau d’Ore Falls.
During our short hike, we had seen lots of Mountain Laurel growing beside the trail. We also saw some Hydrangea right at the end.
This last picture was taken inside the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center. You could easily spend an hour or more checking out all of the interesting displays.
Joann and I were both quite impressed with Tallulah Gorge. It was all very beautiful. We won’t be waiting another six years to visit again. In fact, we’re planning on returning with our three kids in the Fall when temps are milder and the leaves are changing color.
If you either live in the area or are planning a trip, then Tallulah Gorge should definitely be on your list of places to visit.