Exploring Northeast Georgia – Our Wild and Scenic River – By Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia

Our Wild and Scenic River


Kitty Stratton

The Chattooga River or Tsatugi named by the Cherokees marks the border between Rabun County in Georgia and Oconee County in South Carolina. This area was well known to the Cherokees. There was a village named Chattooga Town close to the meeting point of the Chattooga River and the West Fork of the Chattooga River. A census taken in 1721 shows roughly ninety people living in the Chattooga Town village.

Dugout Canoe at Oconee Heritage Center

Dugout Canoe from the Chattooga River

On display at the Oconee Heritage Center in Walhalla, South Carolina is a 32 ½ foot Native American, dugout canoe, discovered in 2004, which has been carbon dated from the late 1700’s. The canoe was made using iron tools and constructed using Southern Yellow Pine.

The fifty mile Wild and Scenic Chattooga River begins at the base of Whiteside Mountain near Cashiers, North Carolina. It descends rapidly until it flows into Tugaloo Lake in Northeast Georgia. The Chattooga is well known for its abundance of whitewater rapids and waterfalls.

At the headwaters of the Chattooga River, weather and terrain conditions combine to create a high rainfall of more than eighty inches a year, creating a rich moist atmosphere. This creates one of the most biologically diverse regions in the nation. These lush forests are home to eastern hemlocks, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, ferns, trillium and lady slipper, to name a few.

Chattooga River Wild & Scenic River Designation Boulder Hwy 76

Boulder with Inscription

On May 10th 1974 Congress designated the Chattooga River a Wild and Scenic River. A boulder, shown above, commemorates this designation at the parking area near the Highway 76 Bridge. Very few rivers have been awarded this designation. The Chattooga is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the Southeast. The Wild and Scenic designation is a result of the outstanding scenery, geology, biology and recreation of this remote and primitive treasure.

Chattooga River at Bull Sluice

The Chattooga River at Bull Sluice

This article is dedicated to my brother Tom Green who passed away on April 12th 2015.


. Exploring Northeast Georgia Hardman Farm Georgia’s Newest State Historic Site. By Kitty Stratton


.  Exploring Northeast Georgia

Hardman Farm

Georgia’s Newest State Historic Site.

By Kitty Stratton

Hardman Farm is the newest jewel in the crown of Georgia’s State Historic Sites. The Hardman House sits in the beautiful Nacoochee Valley with a view of the area’s well known gazebo atop an ancient mound. This area is ripe with history and one of Northeast Georgia’s most beautiful landscapes. The mountains in this area are some of the oldest in the world.

2015-03-25 13.27.52

The gazebo atop the Indian Mound was built by the first owner, Captain James Nichols. The mound was excavated in 1915 and there was evidence of approximately seventy burials. The artifacts that were found are on loan to the Smithsonian Institution. It is probable that the mound predates the Cherokees and dates back to the mound builders. One piece of pottery from the valley floor is on display at the Pottery Museum in Sautee.

2015-03-25 13.32.39

The Hardman House is amazing in that it has been lovingly preserved for over one hundred years without much change to the original structure. The Italianate style house was built in 1870 by Captain James Nichols, who lived in Milledgeville with his wife and family. The family suffered during the civil war and Captain Nichols, a civil war veteran, recovering from malaria needed a quiet and peaceful place for his family to rest and recuperate. The beautiful waterfall near Unicoi State Park, Anna Ruby Falls was named after Captain Nichols only daughter Anna Ruby. She and her father rode horses over their large estate and enjoyed rides to the Anna Ruby Falls area.

The second family to own the house were the Hunnicutts who lived there during the summers from 1893 to 1903. Dr Lamartine Griffin Hardman was the third owner of the Hardman House and owned it from 1903 to 1999 at which time the family donated the house, farm and land, including the Indian Mound to the Georgia State Parks system. Dr Hardman had been Governor of Georgia from 1927-1931 and spent many summers with his family at their beloved Nacoochee Valley home.

2015-03-25 13.37.41

The tour includes a look at many of the original outbuildings including the separate outdoor kitchen building, servant’s quarters, a spring house, carriage house and the large barn that housed the Nacoochee Dairy operation from 1910 until the mid-1920s. Visitors will learn how the milk was processed and transported from the Nacoochee railway station.

2015-03-25 13.50.00

The Hardman House and outbuildings are open to the public four days a week on Thursdays through Sundays with tours currently at 10am, 12.30pm and 3pm. The tour lasts for one and a half hours and includes an extensive history of the house including the many outbuildings. The Indian Mound is not available for tours. Reservations for guided tours of the house and outbuildings are recommended. Visitors must be accompanied by park staff when inside buildings. Group reservations are required and can be made by calling 706 878 1077. 

Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62 and older), children 6-17 $7.00 and younger than 6 is $3.00. Entrance to the property is off of Hwy 75 coming into Helen on the right just past the intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 75.  The visitor’s center is in the red brick building when you first turn in at the property. 

More information about Hardman Farm and scheduled events can be viewed at the following website, http://gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm

Exploring Northeast Georgia Chenocetah Tower By Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia

Chenocetah Tower

Kitty Stratton

Many visitors to Northeast Georgia may unintentionally bypass some of the area’s hidden treasures as they move rapidly northwards up the 441 corridor. Almost hidden away in a quiet neighborhood of Cornelia. overlooking the area from an 1,830 feet elevation the Chenocetah Tower is a surprising structure.

Chenocetah Tower

The tower was constructed in 1937-1938, and built by local craftsmen, who used native granite to build the fire tower and entrance columns. Chenocetah Tower was constructed on top of Chenocetah Mountain located on a 472 acre tract of land.  In 1820 the property had been owned by Caleb Griffin and at that time Chenocetah Mountain was named Griffin Mountain. There had also been a wooden tower before the current stone tower and the mountain had once been named Tower Mountain.

The inside of the tower is not open to the public but includes a wooden observation room that can be reached by climbing a spiral metal staircase. For those who have viewed the surrounding area from the observation room the panoramic views are spectacular.

Chenocetah Tower historic marker

In June of 1984 the tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The tower has been protected and in 1985 the Chenocetah Conservation Corps was formed.  The goal of the Corps is to “preserve and maintain the scenic beauty of the Chenocetah Tower area”.

From 1938 to 1971 the tower was used for fire observation. For a period of time from 1971 to 1986 the tower was inactive when the Forest Service began to use aircraft to watch for fires on public lands. From 1986 to 2000 the tower was reactivated by the Georgia Forestry Commission to serve as the only stone fire tower in the state of Georgia.

From 1999 to 2000 the tower benefited from a restoration project implemented by the U.S. Forest Service. The slate roof was replaced, along with windows and the stone structure was cleaned and sandblasted

I was fortunate enough to visit the tower on a beautiful cool, January Sunday when the sky was clear and blue and true to the meaning of Chenocetah, which means “see all around” in Cherokee, the views of the surrounding landscape and especially Lake Russell were truly awesome.

View of Lake Russell from Chenocetah Tower

According to information in the USDA Forest Service brochure, “A History of Chenocetah Tower”, the tower area has one of the largest stands of Rhododendron minor in the nation and there is a Rhododendron Trail from Chenocetah Tower to Lake Russell.

Thanks to a unique partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the The Chenocetah Conservation Corps the Tower and surrounding area are lovingly protected and maintained.