Highest in a spine of mountains collectively known as Wolfpen Ridge, Brasstown Bald looms over the Southern Appalachians taller but less popular than its' better known brothers, Blood and Trey Mountains. Easily recognized by the tower atop the peak it is actually the third station to sit on the acme.
The pristine wilderness from which Brasstown Bald rises is in and of itself unique. Below the peak to the north and east is a "cloud forest," the only one in Georgia. This environmentally sensitive slope features lichen covered yellow birch and spectacular wildflower displays. The area is usually dripping wet from the moisture in the clouds that give this forest its name. A boulderfield typical of a cloud forest is nearby, but be cautious--the rocks are slippery. Here in the shadow of Brasstown Bald is the southernmost habitat of many northern species and home to many animals that populate the forests of Georgia including the brown bear. Off hour visitors often report bear sightings in the park itself. Throughout the area varieties of oak dominate with willow, ash and occasionally beech and sugar maple. This natural mix makes for an truly marvelous fall view. Clearings in the area sport laurel and rhododendron, while herb, allium(locally called ramp), and wood fern abound. More astute naturalists will detect a wide variety of lesser known plant and animal life.
White men first visited the area around Brasstown Bald in the 1500's under the command of Hernando deSoto while controlled by Georgia's first inhabitants, Georgia's Moundbuilders. Cherokee inhabited the area near the bald as early as 1650. The Cherokee, who called it Enotah, respected the peak but worshiped Blood Mountain, unusual in a culture that traditionally took the highest places as holy. Their legends tell the story of a flood that killed all people except for the families that landed on top of Enotah in a great canoe. The land was cleared by the Great Spirit and the survivors planted crops so they could live until the flood subsided. When whites began to encroach en masse after the Georgia Gold Rush the Cherokee Nation was forcibly removed from the area in the "Trail of Tears." The name "Brasstown" comes from settler's confusion over the Cherokee itse-yi ("Place of fresh green") and untsaiyi ("brass").
Today Arthur Woody still greets visitors to the tower that he conceived, originally designed and, with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps, built. The story of how those structures got there goes back to a young man who grew up not far from the peak in the sleepy town of Suches, Ga. The world to Arthur didn't extend much past the town of Dahlonega to the south. He lived where the places took the names of families in the area, and his family was no exception, lending it's name to Woody Gap and Woody Lake. Arthur grew up with simple dreams, like most boys. He dreamed of his beloved mountains covered with trees the way his father described, before the lumber companies stripped the land bare. He dreamed of deer, frolicking without a care in these imaginary woods. And he dreamed of tower, to watch it all from, on the highest point in Georgia.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the opportunity arose to build the tower of which he dreamed. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), formed to provide work and a living wage for unemployed men, moved into the area. Headquartered in a storage shed in Suches, the men spread out across the Georgia National Forest constructing buildings that would remain as monuments to a time long past. The shelter on Blood Mountain is one of their buildings, as was the original tower on Brasstown Bald.
A rough sketch of the tower was completed in less than a week on Arthur Woody's kitchen table. The men would follow (and improve) an old logging road up to the peak, build a camp and use local material to construct the station. The stone building was completed during the summer of 1935 and remained until a modern steel structure was completed by its side in the late 1940's. The present stone structure, completed in 1965, sits near the location of the original tower and houses a museum that explains much of the natural and human history of the area in an exhibit entitled "Man and the Mountain", hosted by a very lifelike Arthur Woody. Although access to the tower is restricted, a 360 degree panoramic vista of North Georgia and neighboring states can be seen from the observation deck.
On a dark night in March, 1997, amateur astronomer John Iatesta journeyed to the mountain armed with a highly specialized camera to photograph the comet Hale-Bopp. The mountain offers him a refuge from light, the astronomer's worst enemy, and, as the highest point in Georgia, reduces the "atmospheric turbulence" to the lowest levels in the state. Climbing the bald at 2:00 a.m., John took this remarkable picture of Hale-Bopp. Astrophotography is popular at the Bald, and astronomers from Atlanta are frequent visitors.
Trails and their origins Local residents still laugh at the confusion some mapmakers have exhibited in local cartography. State Road 66(180 Spur), the access road to Brasstown Bald is shown on some maps as completed to Young Harris. When the approach was developed a road was cut around the mountain to the city but never developed. This road is known today as Wagon Train Trail. Jack's Knob Trail, which heads south from the parking lot is the logging road the CCC improved to build the original tower in the 1930's. It serves as an access path to the Appalachian Trail. The Arkaquah Trail follows high ridges to the Track Rock Road Archaeological Area, where ancient Cherokee writings are protected from modern vandals by obtrusive wire cages. The Brasstown Bald Trail climbs 500 feet in half a mile. It is the equivalent of walking a thousand miles north. This footpath is the only place in Georgia where rhododendron bloom in June.
The visitor's center at the top of the mountain and the gift shop/bookstore at the base are open daily from May to October and on weekends through November. A picnic area at the south end of the visitor parking center has 15 tables
For a free brochure including maps and hours contact:
Blairsville Ranger Office
1881 Highway 515
Blairsville, GA 30512(706) 745-6928
Additional information available from:
Brasstown Bald Visitors Information Center(706) 896-2556
Heritage Association Bookstore (706) 896-3471