Volume Two April 17, 2002 

Tallulah Falls Spring Festival 2002


All of us have fond memories of Tallulah Falls from our years at Rabun Gap.  Remember the old route 23/441 where we stopped at the “free” lookout and gazed down in the gorge.   Stuckeys by the bridge where we could buy the pecan logs and walk across the bridge.  The winding old road by the power plant and river.   On the trips back from school holidays, we knew we were almost home when we reached Tallulah Falls.  In the years of my childhood and in all the following years of driving up to “restore my soul” in the mountains, I had not seen the river in the gorge flow with more than a trickle.  It was amazing to me to hear of hikers drowning in the pools, which happened far too frequently.  After the state took over the land from Georgia Power and turned it into a park, I visited the Interpretive Center.  I viewed a film of the history of Tallulah Falls and it featured the resort and the big hotels, the gorge and all the falls.  When I heard that the state was planning on water releases to lure white water enthusiasts, I promised myself I would make a trek to see the falls run again.  Of course I had to entice my cohort and traveling companion Dale to join me.  (Just rattle a bag of Cheetoes and she is there.)

A little history:

Tallulah River was dammed in 1913-14 to produce power.   Prior to that Tallulah Falls had been a booming resort area.  The railroad, which was constructed in 1882, made travel easier and the town was incorporated in 1885.  In the early 1870’s – hotels, boarding houses and restaurants were built to accommodate the visitors.  One of the boarding houses, Beale’s (a.k.a. “Rough ‘n’ Ready”) even existed before the Civil War.  Tallulah Falls became one of the most popular resorts in the South for newlyweds and families to visit.  In 1886 Professor Leon was the first to tightrope walk over the gorge.   We can all remember, and some of you may have seen, Karl Wallenda becoming the second to perform this feat.  The extension of the railroad to Clayton and Franklin caused some of the travelers to by-pass Tallulah Falls.  The damming of the river  in 1913 and then a devastating fire in 1921 which consumed almost all of the hotels and shops, effectively destroyed the area as a major resort.

Gorge facts:

The gorge is 3 miles long and approximately 1000 feet deep at its highest point to lowest point.  The gorge has six waterfalls:  L’Eau d’Or (LaDore) 46 feet, Tempesta 76 feet, Hurricane 96 feet, Oceana 50 feet, Bridal Veil 17 feet, and Sweet Sixteen 16 feet. The average daily water flow is 45-50 cubic feet per second.  When the water is released for “aesthetic” purposes, it runs at 220 cubic feet per second. For “whitewater” releases the water runs at 500-700 cubic feet per second.  The whitewater releases are set for the first two weekends in April and the last three in November. 

April 6, 2002

Dale and I arrived at Tallulah Falls early.  We thought there would be so many people that parking would be a problem.  We timed it right because there were very few people and we had the run of the place.  We parked at the picnic area and walked back across the bridge.  Looking down into the river from the bridge,  we both laughed with delight.  The river was incredible, full and charging down the gorge. 

Looking at the dam, you will see that only one spillway was opened to produce this volume of water. 


The area where Stuckey’s and the post office were located is now the entrance to the trail on the west side of the gorge.  We walked down a paved and very easy path to Overlook #7 and looked down. 
WOW !!!!!  We were looking down on Tempesta Falls. 

While we were basking in the beauty of the falls and a perfect Spring day at the overlooks, the kayakers were walking past us and down the trail to the bottom.  They were carrying/dragging their kayaks.  We had assumed they would be putting into the water at the bridge but they had to go all the way down below the next falls, Hurricane, and put in at the base of the falls.  The trail is 600 feet down, carrying kayaks.  They were a happy, carefree group looking forward to the adventure.  The consensus was, they would love to put in at the bridge but the state would not let them.  Too dangerous. 

The kayakers are required to park on the other side of the road walk down 25 steps to go under the bridge and then up 25 steps on the other side.  They could then start the trek to the bottom. 

The original concrete bridge across the gorge was built in the 1930’s. That two-lane structure served
for 60 years until the early 1990’s when it was rebuilt to handle four lanes of traffic. The dedication of the bridge in honor of Riley C. Thurmond must have been a very proud event for the Thurmond family.

Riley Thurmond was an uncle of Beth, Carol and Dennis Dickerson and Annette, William and Harold Thurmond.

The river flowing through the gorge was a fantastic sight.  Note the bridge at the bottom of the trail that crosses from the East to the West side.  The very top of Hurricane Falls is just below that bridge. 

The trails down from both sides now connect and you can walk from one side of the gorge to the other but a whole lot of steps are involved and you have to get a pass from the Lodge to go past a certain point. 

Harold was fortunate to be there one fall when water was released. His pictures and comments are on 
the next page.

 Continued .......

Photos  2002 by Beverly Guthrie Lougher
and J. Harold Thurmond
clipping from The Clayton Tribune

 Rabun Ramblings