Etowah Mounds

From Etowah Mounds

Just outside of Cartersville and not too far from the Allatoona Pass site, stands a legacy to the culture that came before: the Indians. We’ve seen their last greatest moments on our visit to New Echota, but their beginnings are best reflected in the monuments built by the Mississippian Moundbuilders, the Etowah Mounds.


The Moundbuilder culture left several of these testaments to their civilization, the three major ones stand here in Etowah, along with Ocmulgee near Macon and Kolomoki in SW Georgia (There’s also a curious single mound outside of Helen surrounded by cows). The Etowah Mounds are thought to be a center of commerce and considered the largest community of its kind around 1000 AD.


According to their literature, Etowah consists of 6 mounds, labeled A-F. Realistically, there are three major mounds A, B, & C, and three barely visible mounds D, E, & F. Mound A, thought to be the site of Tribal Leadership stands over 60 feet high and spans three acres. Mounds B & C are a bit smaller but still very impressive to view.


You are allowed to walk up the stairs to the tops of the mound and view the surrounding area. If you look to the North you will see a Nuclear Power Plant, and the contrast of time and culture is expressed simply by standing on a 1000 year old dirt hill and viewing the future.


Included in the admission (Parking is Free, admission is $3 2007), is a nice little museum which tells the story of the Etowah Indians and has some interesting unearthed artifacts. The Grounds includes a nice place to sit next to the Etowah River, a nature path built by Boy Scouts along the perimeter, and also the Ditch, thought to be either a defense mechanism or simply where the dirt was retrieved to complete the mounds.


I hesitate to call this a hike because the whole thing is only about a mile and a half round trip, though with the museum you could easily spend a couple of hours here. Its just off highway 75, and would be an excellent hour stop on a long road trip. It would be a nice place for a picnic, but they don’t allow food on the grounds. If you want to stop and eat there is an unnamed park with benches just across from the entrance to the site.

Suwanee Greenway

From Suwanee Greenway

After buying a mountain bike this Summer, I found myself looking for nice flat stretches of land for a casual ride. It’s not that I can’t do all the ups and downs. It’s more that sometimes I don’t want to. And you never really notice how hilly Atlanta is until you start biking around. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Whatever the case, the best piece of flat stretch bike path in Gwinnett County is the Suwanee Greenway (Map of the Trail available here).

Now, some will talk incessantly about the Silver Comet Trail. And I’ll admit, the Silver Comet Trail is nice. But it has two things I don’t like. First, you have all those Vehicle Crossing intersections. Secondly, it’s got something that Atlanta unfortunately has in Spades, specifically pretentious jerks. In this Case, pretentious jerk cyclists with their $500 bike, super tight racing shorts, and get out of my way attitude. I want a nice, casual yet physical run. Thus Suwanee is the place for me.

At a short 5 miles one way, it keeps the fanatics off the course, but to me 5 miles is just about perfect. It runs from Suwanee Creek Park through to George Pierce Park with Paved surfaces all but the last part entering George Pierce. You need more riding, you could add several more miles in George Pierce Park. I prefer the paved flat road, and normally park on the only trafficked road you need to cross, Martin Farms Road.

It explores the Suwanee Creek, which has become quite the story in reclamation of environmentally damaged areas. There was a time about 30 years prior, when the creek ran black due to dumping by the Bon Allen Tannery in Buford. Today, its pretty, relatively pristine, and a haven for birds and plant life. It demonstrates visibly how we can improve our surroundings, if we decide that’s important to us.

So here is a nice, reasonably flat stretch of space for the Gwinnett beginner can get his/her feet wet at the Biking Game. And you can hang out under the overpass, should you get caught in the rain.

Toccoa Falls

Georgia‘s Tallest Sheer Drop Waterfall map
From Toccoa Falls

Just a short trip West of Helen, Gainesville, or Cleveland and just a scant 10 miles South of the majestic Tallulah Gorge stands a beautiful creation in nature, known as Toccoa Falls.

Many believe that Toccoa Falls are the highest single drop waterfall in Georgia (some have said the Eastern United States), but both are false. Cascade Falls (AKA Caledonia Cascade), part of the Tallulah River system, has a single drop of over 250 feet (Part of a 600 foot cascade). However, Toccoa’s lone and majestic simple 186 foot drop creates a most memorable image. I think it would be proper to say that it is the tallest single drop fall in Georgia, but if I am wrong let me know.

It doesn’t take much effort to see the Falls. It’s located on the Toccoa Falls college campus and its a simple 1/3 of a mile walk from the parking lot. If your in the area, it is well worth a quick drop by. The Falls are open to the public, normally accessed through the Gift Shop/Restaurant. After the store closes, they normally open a gate to the right of the building for general access.

Toccoa Falls College is a Christian College founded in 1907 and has been at this location since 1911. In 1977, the Kelly Barnes Dam burst, dumping water from a 40 acre lake over the falls onto the campus. This event left 39 dead and over 60 injured. There is also a memorial to this event on the site. The lake is now gone, so there is no chance of a similar occurrence ever happening again.

Because of the hour long drive from Atlanta, and the very short walk to see Toccoa Falls, I wouldn’t recommend a special trip just to see this waterfall. However, if you are in the general vicinity and are looking for something interesting to see that would take about an hour or so, this is a must see.

Atlanta History Center


One of my favorite spots in Atlanta to get out of the heat or to get away from the approaching cold is the Atlanta History Center. It comprises 10 or so exhibits at any given time, some temporary, some permanent. The three cornerstones of the museum complex are the History Center with its collection of Civil War Artifacts and Local History, along with the Tullie Smith Farm and the Swan House.

The History Center’s beginnings date back to the 1820’s, but its current majestic location in Buckhead began in 1989. The permanent exhibits include Atlanta History, a tribute to Atlanta Native and master golfer Bobby Jones, an Olympics exhibition, the Civil War collection, a local Folk Art retrospective, and a presentation on the Architecture of Phillip Shutze.

I don’t want to drone on and on about the site, but it merit’s a visit and revisit. I took my 14 year old godson to the site and he enjoyed it. The Olympic stuff is very interactive. The civil war exhibit had guns, and swords, and cannonballs, along with uniforms and much information. The Bobby Jones exhibit included golf clubs and Masters jackets and trophies. The Folk art exhibition’s highlights were a listening room for Uncle Remus Tales and Southern Preaching/Song Traditions.

I always try to keep the financial aspect in mind, so I want to remind ever body that AtlanTix can get you tickets for $10.72, saving 4 bucks of the $15 admission. But mostly I post this because this is the most interesting museum in town and should be appreciated.

The Swan House

From Swan Coach House

Attached to Atlanta History Center as kind of a centerpiece (the other two are the History Museum and the Tullie Smith Farm) to the whole experience is the Swan House. Built by Master Architect Phillip Shutze in 1826, it stands as one of the more majestic of the many majestic old Buckhead homes. It is included in the price of admission to the Atlanta History Center (discounts on AtlanTix)

The home was owned and donated by the Inman Family, so it is completely open to the public with guided tours and its interior has been decorated, with no expense spared, by fellow Atlantans who actually live there.

The tour includes the famous one piece staircase, the dining hall, several bedrooms, the bathrooms, and kitchen area. There is also a very detailed audio tour available giving real breadth to the realities of what makes the house special and significant.

My godson enjoyed the tour immensely, making it seems to me it was like MTV Cribs, for the generation that made their money not by dribbling a basketball or speaking over a Earth, Wind and Fire sample, but by folks who built our great city.

Additionally there house is available for receptions and weddings, though I shudder to think of the cost. Places like this sometimes confuse my sensibilities. I often rail at the decadence of the rich, but I do appreciate the beauty of decadence done well.

Tullie Smith House

From Tullie Smith ...

In my never ending quest to see all the old houses in the Area, I ran down to the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead to visit the city’s oldest house, the Tullie Smith House. It is attached to the center and included in the price of admission (discount admission at AtlanTix).

The house was built in 1826 and was moved to this site from its original spot in Druid Hills, on the site of the current Executive Park complex. I hear this location is in line for a Atlantic Station type renovation, but who knows

The house is a simple Georgia Farm, built by Robert Smith. The house is named for its last resident Tullie, who left the home in the early seventies.

There is an included tour, with guides often in period outfits. Unfortunately, there is no photography allowed inside the home itself. The guides are fairly knowledgeable and happy to answer questions about how things were done during the heyday of homesteads like this one.

Also on the premises are a working farm with sheep and chickens, as wells a foodstuffs. And external but very necessary structure like an outhouse, storage, and tenants quarters.

As part of the multifaceted Atlanta History Center (which includes the Swan House and the History Museum), the Tullie Smith house is one of the more interesting of all the oldest houses in the area. And its West Paces Ferry location means its very easy to get to.


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