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Apr 10

Chenocetah Fire Tower Now Open!

Posted on April 10, 2018 at 12:56 PM by Brittain Williams

How many of us have taken time recently to get out and explore our community?

It is very easy to get stuck in the work-school-grocery store-home loop where we don’t take the chance to really get to know our surroundings. Even if you grew up in an area, it is easy to miss things. We keep our heads down and focus on our everyday lives. Hey, it happens to the best of us. We become so accustomed to the ordinary that we fail to recognize the history and interest around us.

Take, for example, Chenocetah Tower. How many of us know the history of the fire tower? How many of us have visited in the last year?

The tower was built in 1936 and is 56 feet tall and made of granite. It was built as a part of a public works project which sought to employ farmers as agriculture was becoming more mechanized. Granite is a local resource and Elberton, Georgia is considered to be the granite capital of the world. It is the only granite fire tower in the United States. This tower is on the United State National Register of Historic Places so it is a unique destination here in Cornelia’s backyard.

So why do we need fire towers in Georgia? As we saw in the summer of 2017, we do have fires here, despite them being fairly infrequent. Appalachian forests actually have what foresters call a history of disturbance and a fire regime. This is why various forests have “controlled burns” from time to time. It is done to clear out leaf litter (aka fuel) from the forest to prevent the big fires from happening. In nature, fires usually occur after a lightning strike and many of our native trees and shrubs are actually fire adapted to make it so they can survive small forest fires. However, we definitely want to keep fires away from homes and buildings so the fire lookout towers help the Forest Service keep an eye on our natural resources.

Outside of the functionality of the tower is beauty. It is a great spot for photography. Have you considered having your engagement photoshoots up there or high school senior photos? The sunsets from the top of Chenocetah Mountain are spectacular and would add beauty to any photography adventure. There is also a stand of rhododendrons near the tower and their blooms are vibrant and large. Whether is it nature photography or just a cool backdrop you are looking for, Chenocetah Tower has it.

After taking in the views at the tower, you can then take the hike down to Lake Russell to cool off. Note that this is a strenuous hike as it is all downhill one way and then all uphill the other way. But don’t miss out on this excursion! The trail winds past more rhododendrons and you can cool off in the lake once the beach is open to the public for the summer. It really is a perfect little stay-cation for people living in the Cornelia area or those that are visiting.

Chenocetah Tower is open to the public every Saturday from March to November from 9-1 for tours of the inside of the tower. After exploring the Tower, make sure to come down to the train museum for a tour of the Depot!


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