Monday, July 6, 2020

A Bamboo Forest on the Chattahoochee River

Last year I visited the West Palisades Trail and I'd heard about the East Palisades Trail's bamboo forest, so it's been on my list for a while. Now, having been, it's my favorite trail in Atlanta, hands down! Both trails are part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

Toward the end of the East Palisades Trail is a magnificent bamboo grove! It's magical! The fallen bamboo leaves feel like you're walking on a field of pillows. The bamboo is so tall, about 30 feet tall, it'll remind you of the first time you visited New York City and couldn't stop craning your neck to see all the skyscrapers. The changing vistas within the grove felt like being in a fantastical labyrinth

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

Exploring the grove reminded me of a time in my childhood when we lived in the mountains and my step-grandparents had a bamboo forest. We loved playing in there as kids, all seven of us (long story). That was definitely a different type of bamboo from this. That was thin and the stalks were growing super close to each other. Here, however, this bamboo is thick! And it's spread such that you can explore the entirety of the grove.

This place feels like a destination! I can hardly wait to return. When I do, I'll be taking more time to make more photos in this particular stop on the trail, including some looking up! (I've seen other photos with the camera pointed at the sky from inside the bamboo grove and they're awesome!)

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

The overlook is the end of the trail and it's quite the spectacular reward. Don't be surprised if you see kayaks on these Class 1 and Class 2 whitewater rapids. You can't see it for the canopy of trees, but that's the Cumberland area straight ahead.

This is a "lollipop" trail. The "stick" end is where the overlook and bamboo grove is and the "pop" part is a huge circle. I hiked first along the river first and then, after returning from the overlook and again enjoying the bamboo grove, I returned via the inland trail.

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

There are so many wondrous things to see here, so be careful as you're looking around. The path's surface is constantly changing from dirt to roots to stone...don't miss the reason you're there, but watch your step.

I think I have more photos of rock outcroppings than anything else. They're fascinating and beautiful. And they're everywhere here!

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

When I was a kid, there was a Big Leaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophyllain the back woods. We had no idea what it was and I didn't see them again for years, but lately, I've been seeing them more frequently, and quite few on this trail. That's one at the top of the above photo. They have beautiful blossoms, similar to the Magnolia that many know and love.

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

Passed this on the way back. It's one of the larger, more dramatic rock outcroppings on the trail and this photo only shows a portion of it. Truly spectacular!

On the trail before you reach the bamboo grove are the remnants of a man-made structure. You can easily see a stone foundation and rock steps leading to a door now long gone. According to an September 2013 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ranger and local expert Jerry Hightower recalls that the ruins are from a 1930s cabin built by the Collins family and although you can't tell by what remains, it featured the modern amenities of indoor plumbing and running water! The Yardum family demolished the dwelling in 1969, but you can't miss the stone foundation, which sets the imagination to wondering.

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

The plant-life here is quite diverse! This blossom I found quite fascinating! It's Cephalanthus Occidentalis, or commonly known as a Button Bush. Beautiful, isn't it? 

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

This is a hike of moderate difficulty, with varying ascents and descents. It's 4-4.25 miles and it's well-marked. If you have a copy of the map with you (with the markers noted on the map), you should have no difficulty finding your way. The portion along the river is bit easier, but I'm so glad I didn't miss the other leg of the trail, even if a bit more difficult.

Speaking of maps, the address supplied here will get you to the park's gate where you'll see a "Whitewater Creek" sign with the National Park Service logo. Enter here and drive a short distance to the Whitewater Creek parking lot. There's another parking lot, but I recommend this one for a start-to-finish experience. 

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

While you're most of the time on this trail either in the woods or walking along the river, there are a few "meadows", this one I found to be beautiful. 

East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
East Palisades Trail | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

With all the hustle and bustle of city life, it's sometimes hard to imagine that we have such beautiful places, so ecologically diverse, right here in Atlanta...inside the perimeter! Whether a curious or a seasoned hiker, I think you'll enjoy the East Palisades Trail!

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