Hike 0.8 miles on the moderately difficult Raven Rock Trail in Rabun County, Georgia, to see sandy beaches, green pools, rapids, and river boulders on the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.
By TIM HOMAN
Raven Rock Trail follows an old roadbed, now closed but still used occasionally, that continues from the back right corner of the turnaround area for FS 511-B. After 0.4 mile, where the old road is blocked with felled logs, the trail angles down and to the left on wooden steps and descends, sometimes steeply, 400 feet to the river. A careful eye can pick out ferns, trillium, Indian pipe, redbud, flowering dogwood, wild hydrangea, partridgeberry, and trailing arbutus. Along the way the trail approaches Daniel Creek, then turns left and leads to a level campsite with a fire pit. Here the trail turns 90 degrees to the right, dropping downhill to the Georgia bank of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River.
The path ends beneath an eastern hemlock rooted at the top of a tiny white sand beach. Upstream and down, the banks are jumbled with boulders; between them are more pockets of sand. This is a perfect vantage point to watch rafters, canoeists, and kayakers as they come out of Raven Rock Chute and enjoy a breather before tackling the Class IV and V rapids downstream called Five Falls. Directly across a deep, eddying pool, just downstream from a shoal, Raven Rock arches upward from either side, coming to a point perhaps as high as 150 feet, perhaps higher; it is difficult to judge. The cliff face is striated gneiss, vertically streaked with black mineral stains. Stunted eastern red cedars are growing on ledges and out of cracks in the cliff.
During periods of low water in summer and early autumn, it is possible to bushwhack, rock-hop, and wade up and downstream from the sandy beach. The 2.5-mile segment of the Chattooga – from 0.5 mile upstream of Raven Rock all the way downstream to Tugaloo Lake – more than lives up to its designated “wild and scenic” status. Raven Rock Chute and Deliverance Rock Rapids (both Class IV), giant boulders, and a beautiful Long Creek waterfall on the South Carolina side are close by upstream. Downstream, there are pools, rocks, and rapids that build in size and strength as you head toward the lake. Camp Creek Trail provides much closer access to the Class V rapids along the lowermost Chattooga.
The beauty of the river is easily marred by inconsiderate sightseers. Please do not build fires along the shoreline, and remember to leave this small, special place cleaner, if possible, than you found it.
Mile 0.8: Small sandy beaches, shading hemlocks, green pools, river boulders, and rapids along the banks of the Chattooga River. Striking view across the river of Raven Rock, a gneiss cliff with dark mineral stains.
From the Riley C. Thurmond Memorial Bridge in Tallulah Falls, travel on US 441 North for approximately 3.0 miles, then turn right onto paved Camp Creek Road. After driving approximately 1.5 miles on Camp Creek Road, turn left onto FS 511 (Water Gauge Road) just up the hill from a small concrete culvert bridge and immediately beyond a large house on the left. Continue on FS 511 for approximately 2.4 miles, then begin looking for FS 511-B (Daniel Creek Road), a narrow, unmarked road with two entrances, the first dropping down and turning to the left at less than a 90-degree angle. Seventy-five yards farther on FS 511, you will find the second entrance, seldom used, angling toward the first. Beyond the second entrance, there is a pull-off place to the left of the road. You should find this road after approximately 2.4 to 2.6 miles on FS511.
Proceed on FS 511-B only in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Each dirt road is narrower and rougher than the one before. If you don’t have a pickup or a jeep, but still want to see Raven Rock, you will have to hike this road, only a mile long and easily walked, to the trailhead. On FS 511-B, stay on the main road at all forks; it ends at a turnaround area after approximately 1.0 mile. The trail begins at the lower right corner of the turnaround area, where the road once continued.
This hiking guide to the Raven Rock Trail is adapted from The Hiking Trails of North Georgia by Tim Homan and is published in cooperation with the publisher Peachtree Publishers. With his meticulous attention to detail and accuracy, Homan has long been recognized as the authority on North Georgia hiking trail by serious hikers. His other books include Hiking Trails of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Citico Creek Wilderness, Hiking the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness and others. For a complete inventory of his books see his Amazon Author Page.
For an inventory of Peachtree Publishers books including its Nature books for children, go to the Peachtree Publishers website.