Exploring Northeast Georgia
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.
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.
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.
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.