/ The Atlanta Traveler
Atlanta — By Linda Erbele on March 19, 2010 at 10:26 am
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Off-the-highway beauty in Tallulah Falls

In 1970, people flocked to the little town of Tallulah Falls to see the Great Wallenda walk 1,200 feet across Tallulah Gorge on a wire. The Gorge, 1,000 feet deep and two miles long is breath-taking from the fenced-in lookout points — much less balanced on a wire above it. Then 65 years old, Karl Wallenda completed his walk successfully, even standing on his head on the wire. The towers that held the wire are still here, although one is on its side now.

In the early part of the last century, Tallulah Falls was a popular summer resort that Atlantans came to by train to avoid the summer heat. The Falls was dammed in 1913 to produce power. The train station is now a Crafts store, and in the next few years, the train-track will be a part of the Rails-to-Trails pathway that stretches to North Carolina. Highway 441 is a four-lane now, and if you don’t know about the Gorge and the Great Wallenda, you’ll zip right by on your way to North Carolina.

Just a mile before you cross the county-line from Habersham into Rabun (at mile-marker one) look for a state sign that says “Overlook next right.” Turn right (coming from Atlanta) and after the Tallulah Gallery and the Indian Springs Trading Post arrive at the Tallulah Point Overlook, which has been here since 1912. Advertising a “free” view of the Gorge, this little place sells T-shirts, soft-drinks, ice cream, books about Georgia and some kitschy toys kids will love. They also have restrooms.

Follow Scenic Overlook back to Hwy. 441, then turn right to continue north. Just across the bridge on the left is the Georgia Heritage Center for the Arts, where you can shop for unique Georgia-made art of all kinds. Further on the right is the entrance to Tallulah Gorge State Park. Here you can hike into the gorge, cross the Full Moon Suspension Bridge or take the Hurricane Falls Staircase to the gorge floor. Warnings are posted that both the staircase and the gorge floor are strenuous. (There’s a stair workout every morning at 8 a.m. if that tells you how strenuous it is!) A free permit is required to be on the gorge floor and it must be acquired at the top.

Insider tip: Many people get to the bottom and then, seduced by the beauty, decide they’ll just explore a little and take a chance they won’t get caught without a permit. I know of several who have been fined.

You can see the falls from several overlooks in the park and from the suspension bridge. On a normal day, the water flowing down the falls is 35-40 cubic feet per second (CFS.) Twice a year, the Tallulah Falls is released to thunder down the mountain as it did almost 100 years ago. On April 3 and 4 and again on April 10 and 11, whitewater enthusiasts and spectators will gather to the spectacle of the water falling at a rate of 500-700 CFS. It will happen again three weekends in November.

There are also Aesthetic Release weekends, when the water is released at the rate of 200 CFS. These begin April 17-18 and repeat each weekend in May through May 23.

There are a few places to eat in Tallulah Falls and north on  Highway 441 in Clayton, Mountain City and Dillard. But with all this natural beauty around, it’s a shame to eat in-doors. If you haven’t packed in advance, go get some provisions about 5 miles away at Goats on the Roof and Hillside Orchard Farms and have an old-fashioned picnic.

(Gorge photo: personal)

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