Located in Tallulah Falls, Georgia, Tallulah Gorge State Park is home to one of the most gorge-ous canyons in the eastern United States! Just 2.5 hours from Atlanta, this was a must-do for our Year of Georgia State Parks. And yes, I have been using that pun a lot.
The gorge was formed by the Tallulah River cutting through the Tallulah Dome rock formation, leaving at 2-mile long, 1,000-foot deep canyon that is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia. The river creates a series of six waterfalls, known as Tallulah Falls, throughout the gorge: l’Eau d’Or, Tempesta, Hurricane, Oceana, Bridal Veil, and Lovers Leap. Above the falls is Tallulah Falls Lake created in 1913 by a hydroelectric dam that was used to run Atlanta’s streetcar.
The gorge is considered North Georgia’s first tourist attraction. In 1882, Tallulah Falls Railroad was built to service all the tourists from Atlanta and South Georgia. In 1883, tightrope walker Professor Bachman crossed the gorge as part of a publicity stunt for a hotel, and in 1970, Karl Wallenda became the second person to tightrope walk across the gorge. When the dam was being created, Helen Dortch Longstreet, widow of a Confederate general, led an unsuccessful campaign to have Tallulah Gorge protected by the state, becoming one of the first conservation movements in Georgia. Tourism declined after the creation of the dam. The state park was finally established in 1993 by governor Zell Miller in cooperation with Georgia Power.
Tallulah Gorge State Park
Tallulah Gorge State Park is a hot spot for adventure travelers. The park boasts 20 miles of hiking trails, including the ridge trails that lead to numerous overlooks, trails on the gorge floor, a paved path that follows the old railroad bed, and a 10-mile mountain bike trial. A suspension bridge crosses the gorge, hanging 80 feet above the floor. Swimming is encouraged at Bridal Veil Falls, kayakers have access to the river below Hurricane Falls, and whitewater boating and aesthetic water releases typically happen on select weekend in the spring and summer. When Peregrine Falcons aren’t nesting (which they are right now), visitors can rock climb in designated areas. Until then, bring your binoculars and watch for the birds. Afterward, you can cool down in the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center where you can view exhibits on the history of the Victorian resort town, the gorge terrain and wild life, and area’s ecosystem. I, of course, made friends with the bears.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Gorge Floor Permits are required to access the gorge floor: These are free permits that can be obtained at the Interpretive Center. Visitors must wear proper footwear. Permits are not issued after 4 p.m. (or 3 p.m. during daylight savings time).
- Permits are limited to 100 per day: This means that on busy days, permits can run out early in the morning.
- Animals are not allowed on the gorge floor: Furry friends are not allowed on the gorge floor or on any trail accessing the gorge, but leashed pets are welcome on the rim trails.
- Weather, dam release, and water flow conditions can restrict gorge floor access: Currently, for spring 2017, gorge permits are suspended due to dam maintenance.
What’s your favorite state park? Let me know in the comments!