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Rock City
About North Georgia

Introduction

Modern entrance to Rock City
Rock City is a natural attraction on the brow of Lookout Mountain in Georgia. The attraction combines scenic overlooks separated by peaceful walks along winding paths through rock gardens and into narrow passageways created by massive granite outcrops. At the end of the gardens is a man-made cave known as Fairyland Caverns, where elfin creatures inhabit a world of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Because of Rock City's closeness to Chattanooga it is frequently believed to be in Tennessee.

History

Both the name of the park and its slogan "See Seven States" predate the attraction by more than a hundred years. Park literature dates the name Rock City to the early 1800's, but is not exact as to the source of the date. Elias Cornelius wrote a description of the area in 1817, but the journal is only available in extract form at libraries, and the Lookout Mountain description is not included. In August 28, 1823 David Butrick, a missionary to Brainerd School traveling with William Chamberlain, wrote in his diary about the "immense boulders...a citadel of rocks...arranged in such a way as to afford streets and lanes" but did not use the name Rock City.
Grant on Lookout Mountain
Until the Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears in 1838, the area of the park was part of the Cherokee Nation.

In 1861 a Tennessee regiment signed up in Nashville as the "Rock City Guard." On June 27, 1864, they fought at Cheatham Hill at Kennesaw Mountain. Future United States President Ulysses S. Grant visited the area in late 1863 or early 1864 when he was in command of Union forces following the Battle of Chattanooga. A soldier in the Union Army of the Cumberland wrote to his wife on December 10, 1863 that he was going up Lookout Mountain where you could "See Seven States."

Rock City Gardens

Garnet Carter
at Rock City
In the 1920's Garnet Carter began purchasing land at the top of Lookout Mountain. Originally, his wife Freida planted gardens throughout the piece of property known as Rock City. In 1930 Frieda marked the path that is used today. Garnet and Frieda also spoke of opening Rock City to visitors to Lookout Mountain. Since the Civil War, Chattanooga and North Georgia had been attracting visitors to its Civil War battlefields and Point Park. When a road was built to the top of Lookout Mountain in 1927 and U. S. 27 was extended to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1928, an auto tourism boom began.

Today's Rock City opened on May 21, 1932, and was called Rock City Gardens in honor of the gardens planted by Frieda Carter. The original entrance was in a different location, still accessible inside the park in an area known as Legacy Lane. It features a history of the attraction and other displays on the Carters.

By 1935 visitation had dropped dramatically. The Great Depression was taking its toll on America's love affair with the automobile and many tourism-related businesses in the area closed. Carter wanted to increase advertising, covering nearby roads with signs by offering to plant local barns near roadways for free, if his painter, Clark Byers, could paint three words on either side of the roof - "See Rock City."

In 1939 the original entrance to Rock City moved to the familiar rock building known then as the Trail Entrance. One of Garnet's earliest additions was a filling station across the road from the entrance, originally known as Fairyland Gas Station and, later, Cornerstone Gas. Over more recent years this two-story rock building has served as a variety of things, including offices for the attraction. Today the building houses a Starbucks.

With the increase in traffic in the late 1940's Rock City hit its highest popularity. Throughout the 1950's and into the early 1960's cars were adorned with the magical phrase "See Rock City" attached to the bumpers of visitors cars with baling wire.

In the mid-1960's I-75 came into being. As long-distance travelers abandoned nearby US 41 and used the interstate instead, traffic dropped. Then, in 1971, a mouse took up residence in a different Fairyland in Orlando, further decreasing traffic to the attraction atop Lookout Mountain. In 1982, Chattanooga added an aquarium, and expanded it in 2002. Traffic to historic Lookout Mountain began to grow.

In 2005 Rock City announced expansion plans. Phase I, completed later that year realigned the front entrance and added wrought-iron fencing to complement the rock buildings. Additional ticket booths were added, trails were reconfigured and many additional improvements were made within the facility.

Touring the Gardens

Goblins Underpass
The tour of Rock City begins in the aptly named Garden's Gateway on the far side of the Rock City gift shop. An ADA-accessible entrance is down the hall to the right of the Gateway. The Grand Corridor is an excellent way to acclimatised your group to the rigors of walking in Rock City. The pathway occasionally narrows and there are some steps, but face it, if you have a problem here, bail out and take the ADA accessible (green) trail.

At the Needle's Eye the trail narrows significantly, and walking sideways may be required, before it opens into Deer Park. Goblins' Underpass is a reference to Fairyland, later on trail. On the left after Goblins Underpass a set of rock steps takes visitors up to Legacy Lane. This is a section of the ADA accessible trail that leads to the 1932 Rock City entrance. It can also be used to get to the Birds of Prey show.


Seven States Plaza

A choice presents itself before you enter Rock City's most scenic area. For those free-spirits willing to throw caution to the wind, take the Swingalong Bridge, a solidly built swinging bridge with an excellent view of the Tennessee River valley on clear days. For those who want to keep a little earth under their feet choose the Stone Bridge, crafted from solid rock with an excellent view of the swinging bridge.


See Seven States
Across the bridge lies was is collectively known as Seven States Plaza, featuring what is one of the best-known scenic views in the world. Peering into Georgia's Ridge and Valley section featuring long mountains (like Taylor's Ridge) separated by well-defined valleys. Within the plaza is the See Seven States marker showing the approximate directions of the states. On a clear day (only about 10% are clear enough in the summer), a knowing eye can spot the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Cohutta Mountains and Rich Mountain in the southern Appalachian province.

Flag Court
Added to the plaza in 1991, the Seven States Flag Court has additional scenic views backed by the flags of each of the seven states. The following year the Cliff Terrace was added with food, a movie on Rock City, and amenities. In 2005 a pavilion was added to the plaza so Rock City could host larger events.

Leaving the plaza the trail makes a dramatic drop into Fat Man's Squeeze before returning to the area near Seven States Plaza. Here is a dramatic view of some man-made falls and additional scenic views into Georgia's Valley and Ridge area. Continuing on, the 1000-ton Balanced Rock is the final natural attraction in Rock City. Watch for a shortcut shortly after Balanced Rock if you do not wish to see Fairyland Cavern.

Fairyland Cavern and Mother Goose Village

Frieda Carter loved the children's stories from her native Germany and created Fairyland Cavern as an homage to these tales in 1947. Garnet hired Atlanta sculptor Jesse Sanders to replicate the images of Frieda's childhood. Sanders first had to learn how to work with the relatively new concept of black light, which would allow the cavern to remain dark but light up the statues. In 1964 Sanders completed Mother Goose Village, based on the characters in various nursery rhymes.

Natural History

Once inside the roughly 17-acre gardens, visitors see over 400 species of ferns, azaleas, rhododendron, and mountain laurel along with shade tolerant wildflowers and shrubs. Most of the path is on solid ground comprised of granite that also form the massive rock outcroppings of the area. Although Rock City presents itself as a "one-of-a-kind attraction," local hikers are familiar with a smaller, 5-acre area in the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area known as Rocktown.

Other things in Rock City

Barn Owl at Birds of Prey
In the Southeast, Birds of Prey shows have become an enduring hit with both the kids and parents. Located in the Critter Classroom, the Rock City Birds of Prey show was added in 2005 and has a number of birds including a barn owl, an eagle and hawks. The classroom is located on the ADA trail (green on the current maps) and there is a staircase to the trail just past Goblins Underpass. A rock climbing wall has been added to Seven States Plaza. A small performance area in the plaza features area bands. During the fall Rock City Corn Maize operates at the bottom of Lookout Mountain.

Popular Culture

See Rock City is the second in a trilogy of light-comedy/drama one act plays written by Beth Lincks under the pseudonym Arlene Hicks. When World War II ends, a young couple is forced to face hidden truths and find uncommon solutions to the challenges of a new postwar America.

The famed "Rock City Barn" has been recreated as a birdhouse that is very popular in the Southeast, although it can be found in some backyards in most states.

Rock City Slogans

Eighth Wonder of the World
See Rock City
See Seven States
When you see Rock City, you've seen the best!

Nearby Attractions

Cloudland Canyon State Park
Ruby Falls
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Tennessee Aquarium

Other Information

Web site: Rock City
Address:
Rock City
1400 Patten Road,
Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

County: Walker County

Rock City, Lookout Mountain, Georgia





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