TALLULAH FALLS, Ga. — Starting in the 1880s, Tallulah Gorge and the surrounding waterfalls gained notoriety as a tourist attraction.
Hotels and related businesses soon sprang up in the area around the gorge, and the Tallulah Falls Railway shuttled tourists to see the two-mile-long, 1,000-foot tall gorge and the “Niagara of the South,” as the falls were known.
In the 1880s, a tightrope walker named Professor Leon crossed the gorge — a publicity stunt for a nearby hotel. Karl Wallenda followed suite, crossing the gorge on a tightrope on July 18, 1970.
But, the gorge started to change with the turn of the 20th century. Georgia Railway and Power started building dams along the river in the early 1900s. Although many residents along the river opposed the dams, an effort headed Helen Dortch Longstreet, the widow of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, failed to stop the damming of Tallulah River.
For better or worse, Tallulah Falls and the gorge are probably best known as the filming location for Deliverance. But, don’t let that taint your view of the area. After all, Tallulah Gorge is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.”
The 2,739-acre Tallulah Gorge State Park was established in 1993 under Gov. Zell Miller as part of a partnership with Georgia Power. Visitors can hike the gorge’s rim to a number of stunning, albeit hair-raising vantage points with nothing more than an iron railing keeping guests from falling over the edge.