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History Of Tallulah Falls

The Past

The Tallulah Gorge is a breathtaking chasm (over 1000 feet deep) that was carved by the Tallulah River.  It took millions of years, but the result was worth the wait.

The town was named after the five falls that cascade through the Gorge. Visitors outside the area discovered the falls in 1819.  Early visitors include:  Vice President John C. Calhoun in 1829 and John Howard Payne, author of “Home Sweet Home” in 1835.  Joseph LeConte, one of the founders of the Sierra Club, made numerous visits.  By 1835, visitation of the falls had grown enough that a local resident offered lodging and food to travelers.  Although it was only a rough cabin, The Tallulah Hotel was opened in 1840.  When the railroad reached Tallulah Falls in 1882, the area was opened to many more tourists.  At its peak, there were seventeen hotels and boarding houses in and around the town.

Referred to as the Niagara of the South, there was much to do in addition to viewing the falls.  The hotels rented riding horses, offered billiards, tennis, wide hammocks, and rocking chairs for front porch relaxation.  At night, the air was filled with music for dancing in the major hotels.  On July 24, 1886, Professor Leon crossed the Gorge on a high wire, a feat that was repeated by Karl Wallenda on July 18, 1970.

After the Georgia Railway and Electric Company merged to form the Georgia Railway and Power Company, a dam was begun in 1912 to harness the raging power of the falls.  In September 1913, electricity was sent from Tallulah Falls to Atlanta.  Then, in December 1921, a fire started and burned for several days.  The fire destroyed stores, hotels, and many homes.  Very little that was destroyed was rebuilt.  In ruins today, the Glenbrook Hotel is the only hotel that is still standing from that grand era.

The Present

Large numbers of visitors are again coming to view the splendor of the Gorge.  Here they will discover a variety of delights.  There is fishing and boating on 3 lakes; hiking on several trails at Tallulah Gorge State Park; a 7-mile mountain bike trail in the park, plus forest service roads;  rock climbing in the Gorge (by permit issued by the State Park); swimming at Georgia Power Company’s Terrora Beach and picnicking at the State Park.  On Saturday night, during Spring, Summer, and Fall, live bluegrass bands gather on Bluegrass Square in downtown Tallulah Falls.  Stay to enjoy the music and food, or bring your instrument and join in.

Nestled in the North East corner of the beautiful Georgia Mountains, Tallulah Falls is conveniently located on Highway 441 an hour and a half northeast of Atlanta.  Take I-985 north, which will feed into 365 north, Highway 23, and Highway 441.  Tallulah Falls is 12 miles north of Clarkesville and 12 miles south of Clayton.

Though the falls may not be as spectacular as they once were, scheduled water releases throughout the year restore the flow for a few days at a time, attracting large numbers of visitors.   In addition, a beautiful State Park, a joint venture between Georgia Power Company and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources,  has been added with a learning center that features the natural history of the Gorge.