A jam-packed weekend: the natural water slide at Long Shoals Wayside Park, a hike to Bull Sluice on the Chattooga River, Anna Ruby Falls, and the highest points in two states, Sassafras Mountain and Brasstown Bald. We were taking the scenic route home from Lake Chatuge; from Unicoi State Park we headed west towards Lake Burton and Clayton, with one final stop in mind.
It was getting to be late in the afternoon when we arrived at the parking area for Minnehaha Falls, basically a wide spot in Bear Gap Rd. Only a couple of other cars were parked at the trailhead, Labor Day weekend being in full swing. We had come in past Seed Lake, and now we were parked overlooking Lake Rabun; both were filled with water skiers and boats, the air fragrant with barbecues. My guess is that had we arrived earlier, we might have seen bigger crowds at what is a popular local waterfall.
Minnehaha is named for the Dakota word for ‘waterfall’. The falls trail is managed by the Forest Service, a green diamond and #147 marking the spot off Bear Gap Road. This Georgia waterfall should not be confused with Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota, which Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made famous in “The Song of Hiawatha.” However, this is the waterfall featured in the photograph behind the desk in the Lodge at Amicalola Falls in the movie “ A Walk in the Woods” (starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte).
We made quick work of the short trail; there and back is less than ½ mile. It starts with a wooden staircase labeled “Minnehaha” and climbs southwest along Falls Creek through a forest of rhododendron. After passing several smaller waterfalls we reached Minnehaha, a 60-foot cascade. Being the tail-end of summer, the water flow wasn’t as impressive as in some of the photographs I had seen, but the beauty of the water flowing over the sharp, geometric ridges was breathtaking, and I could have spent hours on the banks and splashing in the creek.
The boys quickly donned swimsuits and waded in. A word of warning; the rocks are slick in parts, and as always, extreme care should be exercised on, in and around all waterfalls. However the boys had a great time searching for treasure in the shallow waters beneath the falls, and with such a short hike out we stayed longer than we had intended.
This waterfall is one of my favorites in eastern Georgia, and I would love to get back in the spring when the rhododendron are in full bloom and the water is really flowing. It could possibly be combined with a trip to Tallulah Gorge, and it’s really not that far from the Chattooga and the point we had crossed into the state on Highway 76. With these thoughts in mind we headed out towards Clayton, racing daylight to make it out of the mountains and back home to Greenville.