North Georgia is filled with natural attractions such as mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and streams. Although the mountains, forests, rivers and streams predated human civilization, North Georgia’s biggest and best lakes are all man-made. The need to control flooding of the Chattahoochee River and other rivers in order to prevent damage to Atlanta and other cities in Georgia caused the U.S. federal government to authorize funds to build a series of dams. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the dams and because it was understood that the new lakes would create environments filled with recreational opportunities, the Corps of Engineers was also given responsibility for developing and maintaining the surrounding land areas for public use. The largest, best known and most popular man-made lakes in North Georgia are Lake Chatuge, Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona, Lake Hartwell and Lake Russell.
The North Georgia Mountains are part of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain that extends from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The Cherokee Indians who originally lived in the North Georgia Mountains called them the Sah-ka-na’-ga, which means the Great Blue Hills of God. The U.S. federal government preserves and protects a large portion of the North Georgia Mountains in the 750,000 acre Chattahoochee National Forest, and with a peak elevation of 4,784 ft. Brasstown Bald is the tallest mountain in Georgia.
Stone Mountain Park, one of Georgia’s most popular tourist attractions
Stone Mountain is one of the most unique mountains in Georgia because it is an enormous granite pluton that was formed during a complex geological folding process approximately 350 million years ago. Stone Mountain Park is one of Georgia’s most popular tourist attractions and it contains the Crossroads, the Antebellum Plantation, the Scenic Railroad and the Summit Skyride. The Crossroads is an 1870’s southern town where docents wearing period costumes demonstrate the arts of glass blowing, candy making and blacksmithing. The Antebellum Plantation contains many historic buildings built between 1783 and 1875. The Scenic Railroad takes visitors on a 5 mile excursion around Stone Mountain in open air cars pulled by a 1940’s locomotive, and the Summit Skyride is a high-speed Swiss cable car that transports visitors to the top of Stone Mountain where they can enjoy a stunning view of the Atlanta skyline and the Appalachian Mountains more than 60 miles away.
The Toccoa and Chattahoochee Rivers
The Toccoa River is a very popular tourist attraction because it provides the perfect setting for a quintessential North Georgia vacation. During the summer, the upper Toccoa is a popular location for canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Flowing through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in North Georgia, the Toccoa River reaches Blue Ridge Lake where boating and bass fishing are the most popular activities. The lower Toccoa is renowned for being the best tail water trout fishery in Georgia. The Toccoa River is also known for whitewater rafting. Stretching from the Deep Hole Recreation Area to Sandy Bottoms in Georgia, a 13.5 mile long section of the river features class I-II difficulty according to American Whitewater. There is also a 13.8 mile Toccoa River Canoe Trail that is ideal for beginning canoe paddlers who can traverse a few easy rapids. The Toccoa River Canoe Trail winds through pastoral scenery containing thickets of laurel and rhododendron, and it is renowned for being one of the best designated canoe trips in the United States.
The Chattahoochee River attracts people from all over Georgia who enjoy wide variety of recreational sports. Fishing, boating, canoeing, tubing, camping and hiking along its shores are all popular activities. Beginning at Buford Dam and continuing downstream for 48 miles through four counties to Peachtree Creek near downtown Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area provides outdoor recreation for more than 3 million visitors per year.
North Georgia’s state parks
North Georgia contains many state parks and all of them are popular tourist attractions. During the 1800’s, Tallulah Gorge was North Georgia’s first tourist attraction and Tallulah Gorge State Park contains an 80 ft. high suspension bridge with spectacular views of Tallulah Gorge, and the 63 acre Tallulah Lake with a white sand beach. Unicoi State Park is one of the most popular parks in North Georgia because of its close proximity to the City of Helen, a tourist destination also known as the Alpine Village of Helen. Helen is renowned throughout the South for its Bavarian mountain chalet style architecture, its picturesque cobblestone streets and its annual 6 week Oktoberfest celebration, which is one of Georgia’s biggest public parties. Amicalola Falls State Park near Dahlonega contains the tallest cascading waterfall in America east of the Mississippi River, Amicalola Falls, and it also has 12 miles of hiking trails through some of the most beautiful scenery in North Georgia.