Take a historic inn in Clarksville, Georgia, combine it with world-class dining and add in some of the best outdoor activities the state has to offer and you are only beginning to describe Glen-Ella Springs Inn. In addition to these features, the spring water showers and the spring water pool also add to the attraction as they melt away the aches and pains of all the healthy activity.
It was obvious to us that Ed and Luci Kivett were involved in every aspect of their inn. We met Luci in the dining room making sure that everything was up to the Kivetts demanding standards. Luci told us of coming to the United States as a teenager from her native Brazil as a competitive swimmer. She loved this country so much that she made arrangements to stay.
Ed Kivett broke away from breakfast duty to spend some time discussing Glen-Ella Springs with us. Ed was a marketing major at Wake Forest, graduating in 1994. After 12 years in business Ed and Luci bought Glen-Ella Springs with the belief they could take something great and make it better.
Ed and Luci both believe that it is the excellent staff that makes the inn. Our waitress was excellent, our room was exceptionally clean when we entered, and everybody we dealt with on the property was pleasant. It seems as though Ed and Luci, along with sons Edward and Andrew, have succeeded.
From the 1400's, present-day northeast Georgia was part of the Cherokee Nation. When the land was ceded to Georgia in 1817 Tallulah Falls State Park was part of the acquisition. Clayton, then known as The Crossings, and Clarksville already existed and were connected by stage to Athens, Georgia in 1830. Today's Bear Gap Road, was part of the Old Stagecoach Road, where seasonal, privately-owned stagecoaches would carry passengers to Clayton.
A garden at Glen-Ella Springs Inn
Natural Springs were attractive to many people, with the Athens area having Madison Springs, Indian Springs and Franklin Springs. In 1870 Glen Davidson built the earliest portion of Glen-Ella Springs, now the dining room and the floor above.
In 1871, with the arrival of Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line (later Southern Railroad) at Cornelia, Georgia, northeast Georgia rekindled the idea of a short line into the rugged mountains. What would become the Tallulah Falls Railway was completed to Turnersville in 1881 and took 1 hour for the 16 mile ride. In Turnersville, Glen Davidson would pick up visitors in a surrey and bring them to Glen-Ella Springs.
In 1882 the railroad was completed to the city of Tallulah Falls, end of the line for nearly 20 years. In 1903 the railroad once again moved north, crossing the Tallulah River. The town of Tallulah Falls became a resort town, attracting visitors from around the world. Even the damming of the Tallulah River in 1913 only reduced the visitors. The disastrous Christmas fire, however, ended the towns attraction. The Davidson family boarded up the hotel and it sat for 60 years.
Bobby and Barrie Aycock found the inn, purchased it in 1986 and opened for business in 1987 after extensive renovations. Over the years positive word-of-mouth reviews led many new guests to their doors. Positive reviews of the Glen-Ella Springs restaurant brought others to the inn to find out what was cooking. In 2006 Ed and Luci Kivett purchased the Inn, adding a number of new features while improving on ideas from the Aycocks.
Above all, reservations are a must for the inn or the restaurant. This isn't the kind of place you can count on stopping by and getting a room at the inn or a table at the restaurant. The Kivetts host a number of special events such as weddings and retreats throughout the year, which normally means all rooms are booked for two or three nights.
Rooms are well-appointed, some using texture-rich fabric on the walls as an accent to antique fixtures in the rooms. Beds can be king or queen, with suites and penthouses having either king or queen. One of the most remarkable memories was the soft, cozy linens that the Kivetts provided. When we arrived there was a bottle of wine with assorted cheeses, fruits and crackers.
Another of our favorites was the natural spring water in the shower. It seemed to us that the water did have the power to rejuvenate us after a busy day visiting some of the many nearby outdoor adventures in the Habersham County - Rabun County area. The same natural spring water is used in the pool.
The dining room at Glen-Ella Springs is part of the oldest section of the building and you can sense the history. The history, however, is only part of the attraction. An incredible menu includes rainbow trout, jumbo shrimp, french-cut pork chop and a beef tenderloin that easily rivals the top Atlanta steakhouses.
Breakfast is normally a well-stock buffet table with a single hot dish or eggs cooked to order.
Behind the inn, Panther Creek begins its run to become one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state, in the middle of Panther Creek Trail. The 7.0 mile round trip hike is an all day affair, especially if you include some time staying and playing at the falls.
Tallulah Gorge State Park is one of Georgia's seven wonders. The gorge is nearly 2 miles in length and more than a 1000 feet deep at one point. The moderate 2.5 mile Tallulah Gorge Loop Trail follows the rim around the gorge to 10 overlooks before plunging on stairs to Hurricane Falls, the tallest waterfall within the gorge.
Minnehaha Falls begins as narrow creek at the top, then widens in a series of cascades. It is up Bear Gap Road from Glen-Ella Springs.