Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon: Providence Canyon State Park

Hwy. 39C, Lumpkin, Georgia The farmers who scratched a hard living out of the soil here in the 1800s didn’t

Providence Canyon State Park, Georgia
The chasms, plateaus, cliffs, and pinnacles of this canyon were created by water runoff from early 19th-century farms.

Hwy. 39C, Lumpkin, Georgia

The farmers who scratched a hard living out of the soil here in the 1800s didn’t know about contour plowing, cover crops, and crop rotation and would be astounded at the erosion they started with their mule-driven plows.

Under the grass and sod lies a deep layer of red clay called the Clayton Formation. Underneath it is the Providence Formation, whose susceptibility to erosion is dramatically demonstrated by the gullies, some 150 feet deep, which began to form generations ago in the white, pink, and purple strata.

This scenic area, which contains 16 canyons, dominates the 1,003-acre park. It serves as a colorful backdrop for wild plants and shrubs, including the rare plumleaf azalea, whose flowers, ranging in color from orange to various shades of red, bloom from July to September. Other indigenous plants include verbena, maypop, wild ginger, and prickly pear.

The three-mile Canyon Rim Trail, with 20 overlooks, winds past clumps of sumac and stands of hickories and slash pines, where raccoons and opossums might be seen and hawks circle overhead. Visitors are amazed at the 43 breathtaking colors of Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon.”

The park also has primitive campsites, a group shelter, and two picnic shelters. The interpretive center offers two dioramas, a live beehive, and exhibits showing the park’s history.

Geologists say that because of the claylike erosion-resistant soil underlying the Providence Formation, the canyons will not get deeper, but the sides of the canyons will continue to erode. Visitors are warned not to cross any barriers at the canyons’ rims.

Open daily.

www.gastateparks.org

(229) 838-6202

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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