Tallulah Gorge State Park is truly one of Georgia's wonders, and one of the first developed attractions in the state. The rim trail was developed in 1992 when the state of Georgia teamed with Georgia Power to create a state park that returned one of Georgia's natural wonders to the state. The massive rock walls are once again active with outdoors activity.
The hike itself is known by many names. The state calls the hikes the North Rim Trail and the South Rim Trail, but if you include the Hurricane Falls Bridge it becomes the Hurricane Falls Loop Trail. Since we began hiking this trail its simply been known to us as the Tallulah Falls Rim Trail, with or without the bridge.
About Tallulah Gorge
Tallulah Gorge forms part of the boundary between Georgia's Rabun County and Habersham County. The city of Tallulah Falls is located west of the gorge in Habersham County. The first mention of the gorge in writing appears in 1819, but settlers knew of the falls back in the early 1700's. In 1881 the Tallulah Falls Railroad was added to carry passengers to the gorge.
In 1912 the Georgia Railway and Power Company (now Georgia Power dammed the Tallulah River above the gorge, reducing the six falls that had attracted so many visitors to a trickle. The Tallulah Falls Railroad, a narrow gauge road continued to run, mostly as a freight line, until 1961.
The Falls of Tallulah Gorge
From the Tallulah Falls Dam to the power plant six falls and other named geological formations occur in the two mile stretch. Traditionally, the start of the gorge has been known as "Arrowhead" or "Indian Arrow." The first waterfall, Ladore Falls, comes from the French L’Eau d’Or (water of gold). It is 46 feet tall, ending in Hawthorne Pool. The flow out of Hawthorne Pool feeds Tempesta Falls, with a drop of 76 feet. Hurricane Falls is the tallest drop at 96 feet and the addition of the Hurricane Falls Loop bridge over the Tallulah River makes this falls the easiest to visit.
Below Hurricane Falls is the Devil's Pulpit, so named because the sound of the water made one visitor think of the devil. Caldonia Cascades (Cascade Falls) drops some 600 feet into the gorge from the north rim east of Hurricane Falls. Oceana Falls, about halfway between Hurricane Falls and the power plant, is a sliding falls that end with water being churned into the air by a ledge the kayakers call "The Thing." The eastern end of the gorge has two smaller falls known as Bridal Veil Falls (17 feet) and Sweet Sixteen Falls (16 feet). After Sweet Sixteen the Tallulah River forms Horseshoe Bend, where the power plant is located.
Tallulah Gorge lies within a unique, structurally complex formation known as the Tallulah Dome (sometimes called the Tallulah Falls Dome). First mapped in 1948, the dome is comprised of many strata including part of the Dahlonega gold belt. The dominant structural patterns of the dome formed during the Neoacadian orogeny although later formation did occur during the Alleghanian orogeny.
Within the gorge walls are multiple ecosystems that provide
North Rim Trail
Access to the Tallulah Gorge Rim Trail is from the Jane Hurt Yarn Center in the Tallulah Gorge State Park. An additional access point is from the parking for the center. When you reach the trail you are between stops 1 and 2 on the interpreted trail. This narrative begins with Stop 1, so turn left when you reach the trail.
Stop 1:View south along the Tallulah River toward Bridal Veil Falls. At the end of the 2 mile-long, 750 foot drop into Tallulah Gorge water diverted from the dam still rushes through a turbine near Bridal Veil. Below Stop 1 is Oceana Falls. In 1886 Professor Leon crossed the gorge just south of Stop 1, a feat duplicated by 65-year old Karl Wallenda in 1970. One tower used by Wallenda in his 750 foot crossing of the gorge is still visible just before Stop 1.
July_24, 1886 brought a crowd of about 5,000 people to Tallulah Gorge to watch "Professor Leon" try to cross the gorge on a tightrope at the widest spot. Leon seemed to fall from his tightrope, but grabbed the rope as he fell. He raised himself back on the rope and continued his walk. On Saturday, July_18, 1970 in front of an estimated 30,000 people Karl Wallenda walked between the cliffs of Tallulah Gorge in 20 minutes. Many people counted each of his 616 steps. Twice he stopped and stood on his head.
As you follow the trail the next interpreted area is Stop 3. From Stop 3 you continue to Stop 2, where the steps to Hurricane Falls start or end, depending on the way you decide to walk.
Stop 2 and 3: 350 feet below these overlooks are Ladore Falls, . From Ladore the Tallulah River forms Hawthorne Pool, which feeds Tempesta Falls. One of the first deaths in the gorge was that of a man named Hawthorne, a Presbyterian minister from Athens who swam in the pool in 1837. The pool has unusual currents and it is presumed he was pulled over Tempesta Falls. To the left of Ladore are the remains of a compressor. Overlook 3 has an excellent view of the 250 foot tall metamorphic gneiss rock that forms the floor of Overlook 2. You can enter the Hurricane Falls Loop Trail from Overlook 2.
Stop 4: View of Tallulah Falls Dam. Georgia Power's purchase of the underlying land was completed before 1905, however, Work began on Tallulah Falls Dam in 1912 after. The dam was completed and began operating in 1913 under the direction of Charles Lenz. From the dam water flows over 6,600 feat through a concrete-lined solid rock tunnel to a turbine that produced enough power to make it the third-largest electrical plant in the United States at the time it was completed.
Stop 5: The last overlook on the North Rim of Tallulah Gorge. The gorge floor at this point is 250 feet below the overlook. From Overlook 1 to Overlook 5 the floor of the gorge has risen some 500 feet.
South Rim Trail – Located on the opposite side of the gorge from the Interpretive Center and is approximately 3/4-mile one-way, moderate with inclines. This trail has five Scenic Overlooks described below:
6. View of Hawthorne Pool, North Rim Trail Overlooks 2 and 3, top of Tempesta Falls and down gorge towards Hurricane Falls. Gorge depth is 350 feet.
7. View of Hawthorne Pool, Tempesta Falls and Pool. Gorge depth is 400 feet.
8. View of Hurricane Falls and Pool, “Devil’s Pulpit” outcrop below, and the Interpretive Center is across the gorge. Gorge depth is 500 feet.
9. View of Hurricane Falls, Oceana Falls, Caledonia Cascade (600 feet), and North Rim Overlook 1. Gorge depth is 650 feet.
10. View of Caledonia Cascade and the Wallenda north tower area. Bluff to far right is approximately 1,000 feet high.