Every family has many Christmas traditions that they enjoy preserving. For this writer, one of my family’s favorite things to do is to go drive around and see all the Christmas lights! However, when you’re not from around here, you wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for lights to enjoy. Well, we tried to make it easy for you and stalked as many of our friends pages to locate all the Christmas light displays that you HAVE to go check out!
Each community offers a brief directions, but click on the town name to access a Google map to help you find your way! If you’re a local reading this and know of other places we’re missing please drop a comment or send us a Facebook or Instagram message. Merry Christmas!
Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds– Mountain Country Christmas in Lights every Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 6pm-9pm through December 28th. Here you will enjoy beautiful light displays and food ops along with food, music, arts & crafts, hot chocolate, marshmallow, a petting zoo and Santa. Admission is $5 per person and children 12 and under are FREE! On the main drag – Hwy 76 in Hiawassee.
Bugscuffle Road – Through the town of Hiawassee, but before the School. See Uhaul & Parker Oil, next road on left is Bugscuffle. On Hwy 76, just west of Towns County School.
Scataway Road – About 5 minutes past the Towns County School, see sign for Mount Zion Church on left and follow the red glow. Off of Hwy 76, 5 minutes east of town. See Santa on certain nights.
Panter House – Gumlog Rd off of Hwy 66 in Young Harris. On the Towns County side of Gumlog.
Fall is finally here! And that means taking the more scenic route, to enjoy all the beautiful fall foliage that Blue Ridge and the surrounding areas have to offer. Here are our 5 favorite scenic roads to drive this fall that will provide you with the best views and a variety of fun stops along the way that the whole family will enjoy!
A drive through Suches, on Highway 60, has to be one of the most beautiful drives through Blue Ridge’s countryside! It is one of the most elevated areas in the state of Georgia, approaching 3,000 feet above sea level, which is why many people call it “The Valley Above the Clouds”. It’s such a beautiful place that, up until recent years, the Tour of Georgia bicycle race went directly through Suches and onto Dahlongea. Suches is completely surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest so there are many fantastic hiking trails and pit stops to make. If you’re up for a little adventure there’s the Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa River. It’s the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River at 270 feet long! It’s the perfect place to hike or even kayak down the river. Nearby is also Preacher’s Rock, a great place to hike and catch some stunning views.
We couldn’t make this list without a trip through the beautiful Cohutta Wilderness! The Cohutta Wilderness is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi taking up over 40,000 acres of land. They also make up a part of the oldest mountain chain in the world, running all the way from Fannin County to the Tennessee and North Carolina borders. For the best views take Highway 5, which will lead you through the Cohuttas and be surrounded by fall beauty all around! Make sure to take a pitstop at Mercier Orchards to pick up some fresh apples and enjoy fun for the whole family. And be sure to check out the historic site of Prater’s Mill, a pre-civil war building and continued working mill.
Cherohala Skyway passes through Tennessee and parts of North Carolina, but we assure you it’s worth the drive. It’s a 43 mile long National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway, passing through both Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests which gives the road its name Chero-Hala. While on the drive be sure to make a stop at Bald River Falls. It’s a beautiful, 90-foot waterfall and a great place to take some awesome pictures. Another great stop is located in Tellico Plains, TN; The Charles Hall Museum and Visitor Center. The museum features many antiques from Charles Hall who was a local businessman and resident of Tellico Plains. From old photographs, guns, telephone equipment, and other historic artifacts there’s sure to be something fun and interesting for the whole family!
Ocoee Scenic Byway
Ocoee Scenic Byway is another Tennessee road filled with stunning mountain views, rock peaks, Lake Ocoee, and the Cherokee National Forest. The area is also filled to the brim with Civil War and Cherokee Indian historic sites. One historic site to check out on your drive is the Old Copper Road. Originally, the road was used to transport copper ore from Copperhill and Ducktown to Clevland, TN. They moved the copper by horse-drawn wagons and once they reached Cleveland the copper was then transported by train all the way to Richmond, VA and Birmingham, AL. The copper transported here was the main source of copper for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The original Old Copper Road has now been rehabilitated into a hiking trail at Ocoee Whitewater Center. The river at the Ocoee Whitewater Center was even the site of the canoe and kayak competition in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games!
Highway 180 connects with Georgia’s only national scenic drive, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Drive. You’ll circle around the Chattahoochee National Forest on this road and have a front row seat to all the trees changing colors. If you follow highway 180 for about 12 miles you’ll reach Brasstown Bald, which has the highest elevation in the whole state of Georgia. Make sure to check out the observation tower where you’ll have a view of 3 different states at once! Hop back on 180 and pass through Helen, GA where you can stop at Habersham Vineyards & Winery, one of Georgia’s oldest and largest wineries. Relax for a bit and enjoy a refreshing glass of one of their award winning wines. Also in Helen, GA be sure to check out The Georgia Mountain Coaster. It’s the first alpine roller coaster in Georgia and a quick ride on it will be sure to be a thrilling experience!
These roads are the perfect trip to enjoy the views and the vibrant colors that the mountains have to offer. So grab your family, fill up your tank, and keep the windows rolled down for an awesome trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains this fall! And please share your photos with us. We love to see them!
I’m supposed to write to you about telling ghost stories around the campfire, but the truth is this writer is a big ‘ol scaredy cat and just researching good ghost stories is enough to have the hair on the back of my neck stand up! Why do we like telling ghost stories? Do we like to be scared or do we prefer to do the scaring and see someone else’s reaction? Is it the thrill of the story? The adrenaline rush when your brain is thinking is this a fight or flight situation? I mean, we know it’s not real and can’t possibly be true, but…….why is this so scary then?
I’ve been around firepits where some of the funniest moments that ever happened was when someone got super scared. You know the scared I mean, when they are all tensed up, on high alert, and usually make some really strange and high pitched shrieking sounds. Next thing you know, they are tripping over themselves and acting a fool running back toward the safety of the cabin in a frantic wail! (That may or may not be a rather personal experience, but I’ll let you be the judge of that!)
A dear friend is an amazing storyteller that puts on the Georgia Mountain Storytelling Festival and participates in Appalachian Story nights at the Haunts & Harvest at Blue Ridge Community Theater. So, I reached out to her to find out if there are any legends or lore in these Blue Ridge mountains that would be fit for a ghost story tale. She shared this super creepy Cherokee Tail that happened right here in these mountains that you may be interested in. But fair warning, if you don’t like to be scared or don’t want to be super creeped out try these lighter ghost stories and don’t scroll below to read the Cherokee Legend of Spear-Finger!
Ok. I lied. There is no such thing as “lighter” ghost stories. Even the kid’s ones are totally creepy! Why can’t we just stick to roasting marshmallows and singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire?! Ok. I’m pulling myself together. Here we go. I remember hearing this one as a kid. Maybe this was the beginning of my trauma. Courtesy of Café Mom, enjoy “The Pink Jelly Bean”.
Premise: At the end of a long, dark road is a long, dark path. At the end of the long, dark path is a lone, dark house. And the lone, dark house has a single, dark door. Behind the single, dark door is a long, dark hall. At the end of the long, dark hall are some tall, dark stairs. (Story continues, narrowing in from a room to a closet to a chest to a box, etc.) And in the small, dark box is … a pink jellybean!!!!
Notes for telling: The idea here is to build as much suspense as possible before you leap forward and dramatically shout the jellybean line. You’ll know you did it right if your audience reacts by instantly pooping their pants.
Long, long ago there dwelt in the mountains a terrible ogress, a woman monster, whose food was human livers. She could take on any shape or appearance to suit her purpose, but in her right form she looked very much like an old woman.
But not an ordinary woman: her whole body was covered with a skin as hard as a rock that no weapon could wound or penetrate, and that on her right hand she had a long, stony forefinger of bone, like an awl or spearhead, with which she stabbed everyone to whom she could get near enough.
On account of this fact she was called U `tlun’ta “Spear-finger,” and on account of her stony skin she was sometimes called Nun’yunu’I, “Sone-dress.” There was another stone-clothed monster that killed people, but that is a different story.
Spear-finger had such powers over stone that she could easily lift and carry immense rocks, and could cement them together by merely striking one against another. To get over the rough country more easily she undertook to build a great rock bridge through the air from Nunyu’tlu `gun’yi, the “Tree rock,” on Hiwassee, over to Sanigila’gi (Whiteside mountain), on the Blue Ridge, and had it well started from the top of the “Tree rock” when the lightning struck it and scattered the fragments along the whole ridge, where the pieces can still be seen by those who go there. She used to range all over the mountains about the heads of the streams and in the dark passes of Nantahala, always hungry looking for victims. Her favorite haunt on the Tennessee side was about the gap on the trail where Chilhowie mountain comes down to the river.
Sometimes an old woman would approach along the rail where the children were picking strawberries or playing near the village, and would say to them coaxingly, “Come, my grandchildren, come to your granny and let granny dress your hair.”
When some little girl ran up and laid her head in the old woman’s lap to be petted and combed the old witch would gently run her fingers through the child’s hair until it went to sleep, when she would stab the little one through the heart or back of the neck with the long awl finger, which she had kept hidden under her robe. Then she would take out the liver and eat it.
She would enter a house by taking the appearance of one of the family who happened to have gone out for a short time, and would watch her chance to stab someone with her long finger and take out his liver.
She could stab him without being noticed, and often the victim did not even know it himself at the time – for it left no wound and caused no pain – but went on about his own affairs, until all at once he felt weak and began gradually to pine away, and was always sure to die, because Spear-finger had taken his liver.
When the Cherokee went out in the fall, according to their custom, to burn the leaves off from the mountains in order to get the chestnuts on the ground, they were never safe, for the old witch was always on the lookout, and as soon as she saw the smoke rise she knew there were Indians there and sneaked up to try to surprise one alone.
So as well as they could they tried to keep together, and were very cautious of allowing any stranger to approach the camp. But if one went down to the spring for a drink they never knew but it might be the liver eater that came back and sat with them.
Sometimes she took her proper form, and once or twice, when far out from the settlements, a solitary hunter had seen an old woman, with a queer-looking hand, going through the woods singing low to herself:
Uwe’la na’tsiku’. Su’ sa’ sai’.
Liver, I eat it. Su’ sa’ sai’.
It was rather pretty song, but it chilled his blood, for he knew it was the liver eater, and he hurried away, silently, before she might see him.
At last a great council was held to devise some means to get rid of U `tlun’ta before she should destroy everybody. The people came from all around, and after much talk it was decided that the best way would be to trap her in a pitfall where all the warriors could attack her at once.
So they dug a deep pitfall across the trail and covered it over with earth and grass as if the ground had never been disturbed. Then they kindled a large fire of brush near the trail and hid themselves in the laurels, because they knew she would come as soon as she saw the smoke.
Sure enough they soon saw an old woman coming along the trail. She looked like an old woman whom they knew well in the village, and although several of the wiser men wanted to shoot at her, the other interfered, because they did not want to hurt one of their own people. The old woman came slowly along the trail, with one hand under her blanket, until she stepped upon the pitfall and tumbled through the brush top into the deep hole below.
Then, at once, she showed her true nature, and instead of the feeble old woman there was the terrible U`tlun’ta with her stony skin, and her sharp awl finger reaching out in every direction for someone to stab.
The hunters rushed out from the thicket and surrounded the pit, but shoot as true and as often as they could, their arrows struck the stony mail of the witch only to be broken and fall useless at her feet, while she taunted them and tried to climb out of the pit to get at them. They kept out of her way, but were only wasting their arrows when a small bird, Utsu’ gi, the titmouse, perched on a tree overhead and began to sing “un, un, un.”
They thought it was saying u’nahu’, heart, meaning that they should aim at the heart of the stone witch. They directed their arrows where the heart should be, but the arrows only glanced off with the flint heads broken.
Then they caught the Utsu’ 1gi and cut off its tongue, so that ever since its tongue is short and everybody knows it is a liar. When the hunters let go it flew straight up into the sky until it was out of sight and never came back again. The titmouse that we know now is only an image of the other.
They kept up the fight without result until another bird, little Tsikilili, the chickadee, flew down from a tree and alighted upon the witch’s right hand. The warriors took this as a sign that they must aim there, and they were right, for her heart was on the inside of her hand, which she kept doubled into a fist, this same awl hand with which she had stabbed so many people.
Now she was frightened in earnest, and began to rush furiously at them with her long awl finger and to jump about in the pit to dodge the arrows, until at last a lucky arrow struck just where the awl joined her wrist and she fell down dead.
Ever since the tsikilili is know as a truth teller, and when a man is away on a journey, if this bird comes and perches near the house and chirps its song, his friends know he will soon be safe home.
As the season changes from summer to fall, make sure you don’t miss out on the crisp weather, changing leaves and fun in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia! Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year so don’t miss your chance to create memorable traditions with your loved ones! Check out the events below and Escape To Blue Ridge!
David Nail will be performing at Morganton Cove on the shores of Lake Blue Ridge on Saturday, October 3rd. Later in the month Alex Guthrie and Jennifer Lynn Simpson will perform on October 24th. The event will be compliant to social distancing and you are encouraged to bring your own chairs and coolers. All proceeds go to St. Jude Hospital for Pediatric Cancer.
The Humane Society of Blue Ridge is hosting their annual fundraiser at Grumpy Old Men Brewery. Enjoy a day of music, food, & cold beer! Jeff’s Hotdogs will be onsite and all furry friends are allowed to attend!
This 2 weekend event will feature more than 80 arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, and musicians playing throughout the Fairgrounds! The event will take place October 9th, 10th, & 11th as well as October 16th, 17th, & 18th. Admission is $5 per person and children 12 and under are FREE!
Fame The Musical inspired generations to fight for fame and light up the sky like a flame! Conceived and developed by David De Silva – now known affectionately to the planet as “Father Fame” – this high-octane musical features the Academy Award-winning title song and a host of other catchy pop numbers.
The 2020 Appalachian Brew, Stew, & Que Festival brings you 35+ great craft breweries from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina & Alabama. There will also be delicious food from area restaurants, regional arts & crafts, and lots of Appalachian & Americana music!
What’s better than trick or treating? Chimp or Treat, of course! At Project Chimps, children will take a 30-45 minute guided walking tour, get treats at seven different stops along the way and get a chance to see a chimpanzee from the viewing window!
The Riverwalk Run Series presents the Bigfoot Boogie 5K. 3.1 Miles, 2 States, 1 Steelbridge. A 5K like no other, and costumes are encouraged! This scenic run follows the historic Toccoa River along McCaysville, GA and into Copperhill, TN for a Spooktacular day of fun!
NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM
Surrounded by tranquility and the beauty of nature everywhere you look, staying at Mountain Blu is like being in an enchanted forest, with tall shady trees above you and the sound of the babbling creek below. Located on nearly four wooded acres in the private community of Mountain Tops, this magnificent, secluded property offers you the ultimate in mountain luxury!
Wolf Mountain Hideaway makes a stunning first impression. Tucked away on a wooded hillside, it has glorious long-range mountain vistas visible above the trees and a prow roof pointing toward the sky. Beautifully designed on three levels with a wraparound deck, the pine log cabin is spacious yet cozy, its bright and airy open-plan design and elegantly rustic décor creating a comfortable, inviting ambiance.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Adventure Awaits in Aska!
Nestled only a few miles outside of downtown Blue Ridge, the Aska Adventure Area is packed with plenty of activities for visitors. Whether you are hoping to explore the serene North Georgia Mountains or grab a bite to eat at a mom-and-pop restaurant, you’ll have a blast in the Aska region of Blue Ridge. The Toccoa River, Appalachian Trail, and the Benton Mackaye Trail all intersect through the Aska Trail System. When you are ready to make your Escape to Blue Ridge, don’t forget to pack your hiking boots, load up the bicycle and get ready to have some great outdoor fun!
September is a time of transition, when summer is coming to an end, but the crisp nights promise something even better! As the season changes to fall, make sure you don’t miss out on the cool mountain weather and fun fall traditions in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains!
Spend the day at the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association! Previously a historic courthouse, you will now find a creative place to view art, take classes, pick up art supplies, and mingle with fellow artisans.
This September, the Art Center will be hosting a Plein Air Paint-Out, an art display by the Blackberry Creek Artisans, plus this month’s Artist in Residence, Colleen Sterling! Note: The winner Of the Plein Air Paint-Out will receive a $500 gift certificate for a cabin of their choice!
Enjoy a trip out to the twin cities of Mcaysville & Copperhill to shop and dine for the day. If you’re there on a Thursday, stop by Horseshoe Bend Park and enjoy the appalachian sounds. No cost to attend, and you are welcome to bring blankets or chairs.
Kick back and relax with your favorite glass of wine at Blue Ridge’s wine bar. Along with tasty tapas options you can also enjoy live music and wine themed movie nights!
September 5th – Robert Ferguson September 10th – Special Wine Tasting Event September 11th – Surrender Hill September 12th – Topper Unplugged September 16th – Trivia Night September 19th – Loose Shoes Duo September 23rd – Shannon York & Rob Harper September 26th – Danny Rhea
The Blue Coyote is known for their live music and entertainment. While you’re there you can enjoy their tasty bar food and a whole bunch of beer! They even have a dog-friendly patio! Stop by, check it out, and enjoy the music!
September 4th – Hughes Taylor September 5th – Gregg Erwin Band September 11th – Fish and Grits September 12th – Donny Hammonds Band September 18th – Disciples of Sound September 19th – Breaking Point September 25th – Topper September 26th – Mind the Stepchildren
Great beer (18 beers on tap), a fun atmosphere and a stellar philosophy – delicious beer, dog-friendly, people tolerated. Plenty of craft beers, including those brewed in the brewery, and lots of live music. It’s one of those places that locals like!
September 4th – The Orange Walls September 11th – Barefoot Boon September 18th – Radio Rangers September 25th – Travis Bowlin
The Appalachian ladies are back in the midst of harvest season to share some of their favorite Autumn recipes. As always, they will prepare, cook, and share cooking secrets and recipes before sitting down and breaking bread together.
The Outsider September 17 – 30 LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater
Live theater is back! Take in a show at the Blue Ridge Community Theater and just in time for the election, this comedy will have you laughing all the way to the polls!
Kids and kids at heart will enjoy this special day of art and discovery at the Project Chimps sanctuary for former research chimpanzees. Spend a few hours with the chimps to see their forever home. Tour the sanctuary and learn about the lives of the chimps!
NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but to truly appreciate the magnificence of Star Mountain you have to see it in person. High on a hilltop and nestled in the trees on three wooded acres, it makes a great first impression, with stunning long-range mountain vistas that will take your breath away. Spacious enough to accommodate large families or a group of friends yet cozy and intimate, Star Mountain will make you feel relaxed, at peace, and at home as you disconnect from life’s stresses and reconnect with nature.
Entering Fireside Retreat you can’t help but feel a comfortable inviting vibe with its soaring ceiling, exposed beams and floor to ceiling stone fireplace greeting you! Featuring two great rooms, on the lower and upper level, each has a stone gas fireplace with 55” Smart TV outfitted with DirecTV and Apple TV. The lower level modeled after a late 1800s English pub is an experience of itself and has been dubbed The Green Dragon. It features a foosball table, electronic dart board, an array of family games as well as some captivating décor that is better seen than described! The Green Dragon also features a full bar area with a full size refrigerator, sink and microwave.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
The moments when we conquer our fears are the moments when we feel most alive! Extreme activities in the great outdoors allow you to capture the place we all call home from an entirely different perspective. You’ll be chasing the adrenaline rush for days to come! And what better place to try out a new and unusual outdoor activity than in the Blue Ridge Mountains? These 7 extreme activities will swipe you off your feet…literally!
When we say the old Blue Ridge mountains, we mean it! As part of the Appalachian mountain range, the Blue Ridge mountains are the second oldest range in the whole world. Over 1 BILLION years ago, shifts in our Earth’s tectonic plates caused the Blue Ridge mountains to form in a system of peaks and valleys that span eight states! Learn more about how the Blue Ridge Mountains formed.
The Blue Ridge mountains are an ideal habitat for both vegetation
and animal life due to several factors including rainfall, climate, and soil
types. In just Blue Ridge alone, 40% of our county’s land is located in and
protected by the Chattahoochee National Forest which creates a safe environment
for abundant flora and fauna to thrive.
Our mountain ranges are covered in over 140 species of trees
and is notably one of the most extensive broad-leaved deciduous forests still
flourishing in the world. The combination of southern plant growth known as the
Appalachian Forests put on quite the dramatic show throughout the year making
fall one of the most popular times to visit and experience all the changing
colors of fall. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular plants and animals
that inhabit this special region.
The evergreen Mountain Laurel is a staple plant in the hills of the Appalachian Mountains. Tolerant to shade, these North American shrubs produce gorgeous flowers in the late spring and early summer. The spectacular blooms range in color from white to pink to deep rose and have distinctive and symmetrical purple dots or streaks. Mountain Laurel is slow growing, but average 6-15 feet in height. You will often see mountain furniture and home accents made out of the bark of the Mountain Laurel. Of Note: These plants are poisonous if ingested.
The evergreen Rhododendron come in many shapes and sizes, but they are most known for their spectacular blossoms that appear in the early spring to mid-summer in a variety of colors. The blossoms can be pure white, soft pink, yellow, red, purple and blue! Of Note: These plants are poisonous if ingested.
Azaleas were designated, in Georgia, as the official state wildflower in 1979. A relative to the Rhododendron, and in fact a part of the Rhododendron genus, but as all azaleas are rhododendrons, not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Similarly, azaleas bloom in brilliant colors like scarlet, crimson, orange and more. The main difference between the rhodies and the azaleas is the leaf size, quantity of stamen, and azaleas are deciduous as opposed to its evergreen cousins. Of Note: These plants are poisonous if ingested.
Close by in Hiawassee, there are rhododendron gardens filled with azaleas, mountain laurels, and many other native Georgia plants. Plan to visit The Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge and learn more about area flora. Admission is a suggested $5 donation.
The official state flower of Georgia is also found thriving
in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Cherokee Rose is both beautiful and interesting.
Rooted in Cherokee legend, the Cherokee Rose is said to have been created from
the tears of Native American mothers crying for their children journeying on
the Trail of Tears. The fragrant rose is white for their tears, a gold center
represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and 7 leaves for the 7 Cherokee
clans. The evergreen Cherokee Rose plant is a climbing shrub that has
Probably the most common and most exciting animal to see
grazing in the woods. These beautiful animals are the smallest of the North
American deer population and graze on leaves, corn, fruits, and acorns. Male
deer are called bucks and are easily recognizable by their antlers which grow
each year and fall off in the winter! The female deer are called does and they
give birth to 1-3 fawns a year. The best time to spot deer are at dawn and at
dusk since deer are primarily nocturnal animals.
You might see wild turkeys on the side of the road on your
drive up to the mountains or out in a field foraging with their flock. Turkey
are a large game bird with a long neck and long legs. Male turkeys are distinguished
by their unfeathered heads and large red throat known as a “gobble”. Turkeys
can fly short distances and often roost in trees or under shrubs.
The Black Bear is the smallest of the North American bears. These
bears are ominivores which means they eat both plants and meat. Bears are also
nocturnal which means they sleep during the day and come out to hunt at night. While
we are intrigued by them, it is best for black bears to meander through the
woods without human interaction.
Bird is the Word
Birding is a popular pastime for nature lovers and there are more than 80 species of migratory birds and 200 species of native x to spot in the mountains! The Georgia State bird, the Brown Thrasher, can be seen here along with the Ruffed Grouse, Owls, Ravens, Wrens, Woodpeckers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and many varieties of Warblers and Hawks including Bald Eagles.
Resembling a small dog, coyotes are indeed canines, but they
are not of domesticated variety. They have keen eyesight, an acute sense of
smell, and the ability to quickly adapt to a variety of habitats. In the evenings
you may hear distant high pitched cries, shrieks, barking or howling as these animals
communicate with each other. Contrary to popular believe, coyotes do not hunt
in packs, but are primarily solo hunters and are effective in maintaining a
balance in Georgia’s rodent population.
Exploring the flowing waters in Blue Ridge can be such fun! There are many types of wildlife that are easily discovered, while some creatures remain hiding in their secret spots where only they know. The two main waterways where our water-bound friends live are Lake Blue Ridge and the Toccoa River. These bodies of water are known for their stunning location, scenery, and marine life. Other bodies of water include local streams and ponds. The Blue Ridge Mountains are an ideal habitat for a variety of animals. The rocky terrain, cool streams, and climate all provide support for the aquatic animals’ lives.
Bog turtles are the smallest turtle species in North America at about 11.5 inches in length. These turtles tend to hang out on the banks of streams and soak up sunlight. They are most active between late March to early October. Bog turtles tend to favor wet areas and thick, dense vegetation to live in. Their black/brown shell can easily camouflage them on pieces of wood. Certain bog turtles will have a yellow/orange stripe or patches throughout their shell. Bog turtles are one of the most rare turtles found in the United States and are currently critically endangered.
Northern Water Snake
Don’t be scared, these slithering non-venomous fellas can’t harm you! These snakes may make you squirm, but it’s not you that they’re after. Georgia has almost 50 species of snakes, and only six are venomous. The venomous and notorious Copperhead snake is commonly mistaken as a Northern Water Snake. But these two differ by the shape of their heads, swimming path, and pattern of their eyes. Rivers, lakes, swamps, and ponds are where Northern Water snakes like to camp out at. They tend to be dark-colored snakes, with tan, black or brown scales. If they are young or wet, their scales will display a vivid pigment. Their diets consist primarily of amphibians and fish.
Also, known as ‘brookies’, Brook Trout are a beautiful speckled fish that is found throughout North America. Since they are often found in clean, cool mountain waters, the Blue Ridge Mountains are a perfect spot for some to call home. Mostly active during dusk and dawn, Brook Trout are likely found in deeper waters during the day. Aquatic insects are their favorite choice of food. They also will eat smaller fish, ants, and beetles when available.
While they may look like Brook Trout, they are a different species! Brown Trout often have a brassy appearance, and display olive-brown to black spots along their sides. Due to their large size, they are a dominant predatory fish amidst their environment. They become a threat to smaller, native fish that also live in the mountain waters. If the Brown Trout population is smaller than 12 inches, they will feast on aquatic insects. But if they become larger than 12 inches, they will snack on crayfish and smaller fish.
For good reason, Blue Ridge is referred to as the Trout Capital of Georgia. Rainbow Trout were given their name due to their colorful appearance. The color of these fish can depend on their age and habitat. They prefer the chilly and clear waters that are found in these Blue Ridge Mountains. Rainbow trout are surprisingly a member of the salmon family. Does their pink stripe give it away? They survive off insects and smaller fish.
Smallmouth Bass are found primarily in the rocky and deeper areas of Lake Blue Ridge. These fish prefer waters that are fast-flowing and enjoy pools with gravel bottoms. The reason that Smallmouth Bass do well in Lake Blue Ridge is because of the cool water temperature. Crayfish can be a staple in their diet, but when small fish are present, they also feed on those. Smallmouth Bass are a part of the sunfish family. and are known to leap through the water!
Walleyes tend to stick together in small groups when cruising through the North Georgia waters. They are known to chase each other and swim in circles when in their small groups. Walleyes are native to lakes and streams. They have large, glassy eyes (hence the name) that help them catch their prey. But the downfall is that their eyes appear under lights during nighttime, which makes them easily catchable.
Mudbugs, crayfish, crawdads, or crawfish… call ‘em what you want! Depending on where you live, you may even call these speedy crustaceans a different name. They require clean water to live, so they are commonly found in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams in North Georgia. They are active most of the year until the water drops in the winter. Crayfish adapt their bodies to their surrounding environments and blend in with the waters around them. They peruse along the floor of the creek or lake bed and will bury themselves under rocks. Crayfish are scavengers and will hunt for fish, eggs, and aquatic vegetation to feed on.
The Green Salamander is speedy and often slimy, and not to be mistaken for a lizard. While they can be spotted on land and water, they must have a water source nearby to keep their skin moist. Salamanders also have their offspring which hatch from eggs and remain in the water. Crevices in rocks and bark from fallen trees are where salamanders can be found when not re-moisturizing.
When we say the old Blue Ridge mountains, we mean it! As part of the Appalachian mountain range, the Blue Ridge mountains are the second oldest range in the whole world. Over 1 BILLION years ago, shifts in our Earth’s tectonic plates caused the Blue Ridge mountains to form in a system of peaks and valleys that span eight states!
Sometimes it’s a little confusing that you can see the Blue Ridge mountains in other states besides Georgia but these mountains are vast. There is a Northern section that includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The Southern section includes West Virginia, Tennessee, North & South Carolina, and of course right here in Blue Ridge, Georgia! Our particular section of the range is known as the Appalachian Mountain Range and we are a part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
They Really are Blue!
Have you ever wondered why these mountains are called Blue Ridge? If you catch any section of the range at the right time of day, you’ll see that the mountains have a distinctive blue color. The forests that cover these rocky protrusions are predominately made up of spruce and fir trees and they emit isoprene into the atmosphere creating the blue hue!
The Blue Ridge Mountains can span across 60 miles in some locations. While the tallest mountain in this system is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina rising at 6,684 feet high, just 30 minutes from downtown Blue Ridge is the tallest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald rising at 4,784 feet above sea level! Here you can see 4 states!
The Native Americans, and specifically the Cherokee, lived in the Blue Ridge area more than 12,000 years ago! The moderate climate and the character of the mountains themselves, made a perfect region for inhabitants to settle. They farmed and hunted in the valleys and mountains that they called “the Enchanted Land” until they were forced to leave on the Trail of Tears.
One popular trail system that follow the Blue Ridge mountains all the way through Virginia is the Appalachian Trail. Hikers along the trail get the advantage of seeing the stunning untouched beauty of the mountains.
At the extreme Southern tip of the Appalachian Trail and the
entire Blue Ridge mountain system is the spectacular Amicalola
Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi!
It’s time to kick back and relax river-style! Tubing and kayaking are two activities that need to be at the top of your “Mountain Fun Bucket List”. While on the water, you can enjoy the stunning scenery and let the flowing waterways of North Georgia work their magic! Kayaking requires some arm strength and a bit of determination, but there are definite moments of downtime. Tubing on the other hand involves a whole bunch of sitting and relaxing! If you’re looking for an adventure that makes you feel at ease and involves kicking your feet up, tubing is the type of trip for you.
These activities are enjoyed by all ages and allow you to see an entirely new side of the Blue Ridge nature. You may experience a rush of excitement navigating through low-class rapids, but that’s what helps you move along! Whether you’re on a kayak paddling with an oar or using your palms to guide your tube, a day on the waters is never wasted! The businesses listed below attribute to why Blue Ridge continues to have visitors explore the great outdoors year after year!
Toccoa Valley Campground
11481 Aska Rd, Blue Ridge, GA 30513 | (706) 838-4317 | Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 10am-6pm
Located only a few miles from downtown Blue Ridge, the Toccoa Valley Campground has everything you could need for an outing in the mountains. Tubing, kayaking, and rafting are all available. Their water route takes you on a private 6-mile stretch of the Toccoa River. It has been one of North Georgia’s most popular attractions for over 50 years!
This tubing trip will take you through parts of the beautiful Toccoa River in less than an hour and a half. Shallowford Bridge Tube Rental is one of the oldest, family-owned companies for tubing in the Aska Adventure Area. Visitors are launched into the river at Sandy Bottoms and are sent off on their breezy cruise. At the end of your adventure, you’ll get an up-close view of the historic steel truss Shallowford Bridge!
Blue Ridge Mountain Kayaking
56 North River Rd. Morganton, GA 30560 | (706) 258-2411 | Hours: Monday-Sunday 9am-6pm
You can choose your journey while at Blue Ridge Mountain Kayaking! This kayak-only business is located just 2 miles away from downtown Blue Ridge. They offer 2 thrilling expeditions on the Toccoa River including a 6-mile and 12-mile trip. The 6-mile kayak trip takes travelers an estimated 2 hours to complete and the 12-mile trip takes an estimated 4 hours to complete. While kayaking, adventurers can enjoy fishing, swimming, and breathtaking sights of mountains along the route!
Toccoa Wilderness Tubing
8436 B Aska Rd. Blue Ridge, GA 30513 | (706) 455-6496 | Hours: Monday-Sunday 10am-3pm
All you have to do is bring your crew and the fun will follow! The Toccoa Wilderness Company makes river tubing easy and enjoyable. With a shuttle to the Sandy Bottoms launch area, your toes will be in the water in a matter of minutes. Sit back and let the water carry you away! The 2-mile float finishes its course at the Shallowford Bridge.
Lakewood Landing Boat Launch
Boat Ramp Rd 30560, Morganton, GA 30560
If you are already a lucky owner of a kayak or a boat, then this is the spot for you! This boat launch is located on the north side of Lake Blue Ridge. You can spend the day as you please on the 3,000+ acres of the lake. The lake offers unbeatable views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Jon Ron Toccoa River Outfitters
15 Black Ankle Creek Rd. Cherry Log, GA 30522 | (706) 838-0200 | Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 10am-2pm
At Jon Ron Toccoa River Outfitters, there are plenty of options for you to hit the water! There are half-day and full-day solo or guided kayak trips that take you through the upper Toccoa River. They also have trips that can shuttle guests to kayak or canoe at Lake Blue Ridge. If you’re a beginner or pro, Jon Ron Toccoa River Outfitters can satisfy your need to explore the great outdoors!
Toccoa River Tubing Company
340 Toccoa Ave. McCaysville, GA 30555 | (706) 492-5280 | Call for Seasonal Hours
Grab your family and get ready to go! The Toccoa River Tubing Company, located on the border of Georgia and Tennessee, offers a variety of canoeing, kayaking, and tubing trips. Tubing at this spot of the Toccoa River involves a 1.5-mile and 3-mile float. If you are looking to kayak, there are 1.5-mile and 6-mile trips available. With small rapids, clean water, and picturesque scenery, this is an activity that you’ll have to experience for yourself!
Grab your fishing gear, license, and get ready to go! Fishing in North Georgia is one of the most peaceful, but also exhilarating past-times! Some of the state’s best freshwater spots are conveniently located in and around Blue Ridge. Whether you’re searching for trout, bass, walleye, or all the above, you can find it all by boat or wading in the beautiful chilly waters.
For beginner and advanced anglers, the fishing spots found in North Georgia rank in with top sights and top catches. With waterfront property rentals, Escape to Blue Ridge will ensure that your lodging experience is first-class after a long day of fishing. The summer season in North Georgia brings an assortment of adventure and a wonderful chance to test your fish-catching skills!
There’s a reason why Blue Ridge is named the Trout Capital of Georgia, and you’ll have to come fish around to agree. We picked a few of the best fish-biting spots in North Georgia, and with peak season upon us, you won’t leave empty-handed!
The Toccoa River
The trout found in the Toccoa River include rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout. The variety of the species found in these waters weigh in heavier than average and seem to continue growing with each passing year. The consistent cold rushing water in this river makes it a prime spot for year-round fishing. The two main sections of the Toccoa River, the Upper and Lower areas, offer almost 20 excellent miles of available fishing spots. Access points for entry include the Blue Ridge Dam, Horseshoe Bend Park, and Tammen Park.
This spot is located on the Toccoa River and provides fishing spots under the bridge or along the side of the river. The bridge is located on Aska Road and is a part of the Benton Mackaye Trail. This section is a Delayed Harvest Area, so you are almost guaranteed a catch if you are with fly fishermen. There are strict ‘catch and release’ policies during certain times of the year, nonetheless, this location is a great spot to strengthen your skills.
Lake Blue Ridge
The crystal-clear waters and mountain peak views make Lake Blue Ridge one of the most premier spots for a full day of fishing. The waters are packed with a variety of species, with the bluegill being the most plentiful in this area. This lake is known for its walleye, catfish, white bass, smallmouth bass, and bluegill. There are several points to enter these waters, and a boat is necessary if you’re wanting to explore all that Lake Blue Ridge has to offer. Lake Blue Ridge Marina, Morganton Point Recreation Area, Lake Blue Ridge Day Use Area, and Lakewood Landing are top access sites. Lake Blue Ridge’s consistency and abundance of fish make this spot a must-visit!
This stream in the heart of Ellijay stretches for over 15 miles. Its ample width and length are full of brook trout, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass. These waters are private and some of the most pristine in North Georgia. All you need is your tackle and a little bit of patience and you are good to go!
One of the best-kept secrets in North Georgia for bream and bass fishing is the Cartecay River. This waterway only 0.2 miles away from Ellijay is stocked with trout once a month. Popular species caught at this stream also include rainbow trout and flathead catfish. The sounds of the flowing waters and rolling hills in view make up a picture-perfect scenery for a fishing adventure. Enter the 34.691475 latitude, and -84.483536 longitude coordinates into your GPS or smartphone to find the Cartecay River.
This fish hatchery spot found in the Chattahoochee National Forest reels in a large population of wild trout. This creek has nearby streams that flow into these waters, providing several spots to cast a line. Rock Creek is nestled in between Dahlonega and Morganton, only 45 minutes from Blue Ridge. It’s found off Forest Service Rd. 69 on State Rte. 60, making it an easy entry for fishermen. This is a prime spot for rainbow trout, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch native brookies in the higher elevations!
Jacks and Conasauga Rivers
These two rivers run parallel to each other, providing about 45 miles of ample fishing opportunities. The Conasauga River is open year-round and Jacks River is open from March to October. The overhanging branches keep these waters cool and have a population of Appalachian brook trout. The rugged terrain and 60-foot waterfall on Jacks River are added bonuses to the fishing experience!