Gorgeous gorges: State park offers views of canyon walls, floors
May 29, 2009
If a drive to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon is too far or out of your budget, try a detour 35 miles south to Providence Canyon State Park, also known as Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon." Though the western canyon is far deeper - 5,000 feet compared with 150 - there's nothing "little" about the Georgia version, at least not when you're standing on the canyon rim looking into a massive chasm below.
The park's not small on color either: red, orange, pink, mauve, maroon, brown ... and that's only the canyon walls. Around this time of year, several flowers, including the rare plumleaf azalea, bring shades of purple, fuchsia, white and yellow to brighten up the rich greenery of the trails.
Tailor a trip to this colorful haven to suit your tastes. Looking for the "rugged outdoorsman" experience' Sign up for a primitive campsite along the backcountry trail, a seven-mile path that loops through the woods around the gorges. The sites are true to their name. Don't expect electrical outlets or running
water. Instead, you will have your own fire pit and maybe a chance for a bit of adventure.
If you prefer to keep your distance from Mother Nature but still want stunning vistas, drive to the park for a Sunday afternoon stroll and stick near the picnic tables and playgrounds. You can walk along the rim and get some of the best panoramas of the valley without getting your shoes dirty.
For a middle-of-the-trail approach, try the White Blaze Trail. This three-mile walk brings you to the bottom of the canyon floor and ends with scenic views from the top. The trail includes several benches as resting points and a few cars - but don't expect to drive the rest of the way if you're tired.
The rusting and dilapidated relics were abandoned by their owners a century ago. They have since become fully incorporated into the surrounding ecosystem as homes for animals, bugs and plants, so much so that they can't be removed without damage to the surrounding environment.
Whether you visit the park for a leisurely ramble or a serious hike, be sure to drop in at the visitors center for an informative look at the history of the canyons.
You'll find out about the accidental beginning of the gullies, formed in the 1800s by farmers who razed the ground of vegetation then plowed up and down the land. Plowing in contours helps prevent erosion, but the plowing methods of the growers created deep furrows in the land, which over time widened into gullies and eventually huge rifts in the earth.
Seven miles west of Lumpkin, Ga., this 1,000-acre natural retreat is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. It closes three hours earlier starting Sept. 15. Picnic shelters and campsites are available for rent, and parking is $5.
Providence Canyon also hosts several events throughout the year. The next one is Snakes Alive, Saturday at 1 p.m., where visitors can learn about serpents both venomous and harmless.
For more information about events, rentals or directions, visit
www.gastateparks.org/info/providence or call 229-838-6202.