A century ago people called Tallulah Falls The Niagara
of the South. It was one of Georgia's most popular tourist
spots, drawing thousands of people a year to see the mighty
Tallulah River with its six waterfalls, and to hike down into
the Tallulah Gorge, which is two miles long and in places
as deep as 1200 feet. At its peak, the little town was home
to seventeen hotels and boarding houses, and in addition to
the natural beauty of the river and the gorge, it offered
restaurants, tennis, horseback riding, and music and dancing.
In 1912 the Georgia Railway and Power Company dammed the Tallulah
River, reducing the Niagara of the South to a trickle. But
Tallulah Falls, Georgia is as worth visiting today as it was
a hundred years ago. Though the dam left the falls quiet for
nearly 80 years, now regular controlled water releases bring
the falls back to life several times throughout the year.
But even when the dam fully holds back the Tallulah, the gorge
itself is as awesome as ever.
Anna and I had stopped in Tallulah Falls for only a few minutes
back in July on our way to Gatlinburg. I thought the place
was interesting enough for another visit, so I took a Wednesday
off work and went back. Fortunately, and quite serendipitously
(I didn't think to check the water release schedule before
planning my trip), my visit was on one of the midweek water
I left my house at 8:15, stopped at a QuikTrip for the traditional
cup of cappuccino and two Krispy Kreme donuts, and headed
up U.S. 23. The drive is beautiful, and I took it slow. At
9:49 I pulled into a parking spot at the Indian Springs Trading
Post on the 441 scenic loop.
It was probably the Indian Springs Trading Post that first
attracted me to the little town. I've admitted to my weakness
for roadside attractions any number of times, and the faux
western fort and genuine imitation Indian totem poles definitely
tickle that part of my fancy. The Indian Springs Trading Post
wasn't open, however, so I took a few pictures and moved down
to Tallulah Point Overlook (A mountain tradition since
the 1920s). I browsed in the store for a few minutes
and bought a grape Nehi, a walking stick, and a book about
Tallulah Falls. There was a small but steady stream of people
coming through, about five in the store at any one time. There
were four other cars in the parking area when I got there,
but about four more soon arrived.
Next I went to the Tallulah Gallery (Prints Originals
Pottery), looked around for a few minutes,
and bought a couple of thingsan enameled pin with a
cat that looks like our Seuss for Annie, an angel medallion
to give to my friend Pearl on her birthday.
At 11:47 I turned in to the Terrora Lake part of Tallulah
Falls State Park and discovered that on Wednesdays parking
is free! Not that I would have minded paying the two dollars
admission, but it didn't bother me to not pay it either.
I parked in the shade, walked through the nature trail, sat
on a bench by the lake for a few minutes, and then set off
for the walk along the rim of Tallulah Gorge.
I joined the trail at the midpoint, Overlook 5. My first thought
was: what a place of splendid beauty! There was a breeze coming
out of the gorge. The leaves were starting to change colors.
Overhead, a pair of crows seemed to be having a cawing contest,
and from across the gorge I heard the yapping of some small
dog climbing the trails with his family.
It took me about forty minutes to follow the trail along the
north rim from Overlook 5 to Overlook 1. I was growing a little
hungry, not having had lunch yet, but I was too excited to
really think about food. What a wonderful place to be on an
autumn Wednesday afternoon!
At the end of the north rim, near Overlook 1, I went into
the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center. The Center was named
after an Atlanta environmental activist who was called The
Grand Dame of Conservation by Southern Wildlife
magazine. I walked around the center for a while, going through
the history of Tallulah Falls exhibit, looking at the examples
of flora and fauna found in the area, and browsing in the
gift shop. I went into the little theater and watched the
15 minute film about the the area, and then headed out to
the south rim.
It took me about an hour to walk the south rim. There were
a lot of friendly people out there, people who talk to
you. There was one couple I first encountered on the north
rim and who I met up with again along the south rim. They
were probably both in their mid fifties, possibly from the
Midwest; they were, the woman told me, meandering through
north Georgia in their RV. The man had a gold earring and
a mustache and wore an enviable brown hat. He let me look
through his binoculars (also enviable) at one of the falls.
At another spot we watched a green snake climbing a tree.
I finished the south rim at about 4:30. My legs hurt and
I was very tired and hungry, but also very happy.
I intended to end the day by having a simple dinner of a
hot dog or grilled cheese sandwich at the Cat Cafe at Tallulah
Point Overlook, but it was just closing down as I arrived
at 5:00. Instead, I went to Isabelle's. Isabelle's is a big
white house on a hill that you pass on 441; I imagine that
in a past life it was home to some wealthy family, one of
the ones that found prosperity in the late 1800s tourist boom
only to see it all taken away by the dam. I ordered Monterey
chicken with French fries, which I ate alone (as far as I
know, they didn't have any other customers that night) on
the screened in porch. I was not nearly as hungry as you might
think, considering that all I'd eaten that day before going
to Isabelle's were two donuts about nine hours earlier.
I finished eating at 6:15, and began the drive south, back
to my mundane life in Lawrenceville.