Scull Shoals: An Old Southern Ghost Town; plus A Wingless Pegasus, and a Herb Walk

If you’ve ever been to Greensboro, GA, down highway 15, you’ve probably been by the Iron Horse. (Pegasus without wings) It’s a piece of iron artwork made by an abstract artist named Abbott Pattison in 1954. It was originally at the University of Georgia until it was vandalized by students. Then, they stored it in a warehouse for a while. It was moved to its final resting place in 1959, at the request of the farmer (also a professor) who owns the land where it still sits. It officially still belongs to UGA’s art department, and has even been vandalized in the field where it still stands. It was restored after its last graffiti attempt in 2011. There are rumors of students moving the horse across the road as a prank, but it weighs a ton, so they couldn’t have done it without a crane. The road there was rerouted once, so maybe that’s where the rumors started. On your way to Greensboro or Lake Oconee, there’s no way you’ll miss it. And you should certainly stop and take some photos. It’s usually not crowded, but if there is more than one person there, just be mindful to share your photo time with others.20181013_184552A little farther down the road, just across the bridge, on your left there is the Oconee River Recreational Area. Might we suggest a stop over here for a picnic at the river and a pit stop at their pit toilet (there is not restrooms at Skull Shoals). Their picnic tables and benches are rough concrete, so you may want to bring a towel or blanket to sit on.

In dry weather (i.e., no rain for a few weeks), you can walk the trail from the Oconee Campground to Skull Shoals (if you have your America the Beautiful pass, it’s only $2.50 a night to camp, and there is room in some of the spots are large enough for decent sized RVs like ours). If it’s rainy weather, the trail is usually flooded. If this is the case, continue about a mile or so down Hwy 15 until you see the sign to turn left to go to Skull Shoals. Once you reach the 2nd sign, you will turn down a gravel forest service road. This road seems to go along forever. There are several other side roads that lead to turn arounds, perfect for pulling a camper into (you can stay for free up to 14 days, boondocking). You will also see a Herb Walk trail, which we will travel after we leave Skull Shoals. You can horse back ride (with your own horse) or ride bikes as well through all this area. Once you get to Skull Shoals, be sure to read the sign to soak up the history of the place. Before anyone else arrived, it was Creek Indian territory. Once the pale faces came into play (as the Indians refer to them, Europeans by our terms), a fort was built on the land by the Oconee River, and this original fort was attacked by the Creek Indians. After this, it was deemed as Fort Clarke, in the Oconee Indian War. Pioneers were granted land rights for their military service and they built a sawmill and a grist mill here. After that, a paper mil was operated until the end of the War of 1812. The reason for it’s cease wasn’t the war, but a huge drought. After the Civil War, it struggled to get back up and running, but due to the lack of funds to update equipment and all the cotton farming eroding the land, severe flooding caused settlers to vacate Skull Shoals for good. Today, it is part of the Oconee Nation Forest. There is a group called “Friends of Skull Shoals” that volunteer to come out and maintain the ruins (cutting grass, holding events to make people aware of the historical site), but from the looks of it, the last meeting of the “Friends” was several years ago. It is a short walk to go around the ruins that remain. The old bridge from the fort area to the paper mill is my favorite section of the ruins. The architecture of the brick bridge and the fact that is still standing after many floods is amazing to me. On the back of the historical signage is a board for hunters that are in the area to sign in. Because it’s in the National Forest, during hunting season, be cautious. Although hunters are not allowed within so many feet/miles of the historic site and campground, their presence can be felt all around in the fall.

 

After we left Skull Shoals, we stopped at “Durham Herb Walk”. It’s on the way to/from Skull Shoals, on the same gravel road. I had heard of this little spot the last time I was at an event at Skull Shoals about 4 years ago. I was excited about it, but was disappointed shortly after beginning the hike. It is almost like they created the walk and then, never went back to maintain it. If it was properly maintained, this would be a great little walk. There are dozens of signs describing plants that are either not in bloom due to the time of year, or the plants were covered in a thick layer of pine straw. Some of the plants were still there and obvious as to what they were, but they were few. This would be lovely if the walk was trimmed and the plants were uncovered. It is a loop trail about a quarter of a mile in length.

Some of the plants had placards “in memory of” different people. If these had been maintained after they were placed, it would be a nice way to remember those loved ones. At the end of the loop, there is a meeting place with wooden benches and a fire ring, and a shade structure known as a summer-house. As you round the bend to the very end, there is what is supposed to be a Native American Directional Garden. There are many signs in this mass of grown up weeds, and several on the opposite side of it. It would be very informative and probably very pretty if it had just been kept up. There is a sign stating it was placed by some Eagle Scouts and there is a website listed. We are going to email these individuals to let them know what sort of disarray the garden is in. Hopefully, the next generation of scouts will resurrect it. Maybe with your help, we can reach someone who can restore this quiet little walk to its’ original glory. It’s still a nice little area to go to and explore.

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