Upper Tallulah River, GA

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#1)  Upper Tallulah River, GA

Postby Jess Riddle » Sun Aug 03, 2014 8:36 pm


The Tallulah River arises on a high mountain arc in extreme southern North Carolina, and empties into Lake Tugaloo on the Georgia-South Carolina state line.  In between, the river has produced some of the most scenic terrain in Georgia, most famously the multiple cascades and 600’ quartzite walls of Tallulah Gorge.  Six hydropower lakes consume much of the stream, but above the highest lake the river turns wild again in a less severe but lusher gorge.  A single gravel road threads a blasted-in path through the upper gorge as dark rhododendron covered slopes press close and the river’s waters swirl around large boulders.  Like The Tallulah Gorge, the upper gorge calls weekend travelers from the Piedmont hills. However, the upper gorge invites more intimate recreation, whether trout fishing, playing in the cool waters, or just listening to the water slide by in one of the three Forest Service campgrounds on the banks.

The river has also produced some of the best white pine habitat in Georgia.  White pines tower above surrounding hardwoods along the entire length of the stream in Georgia, and pines over 160’ are known from both the upper and lower reaches.  Without all the lakes, Georgia might well have more 180’ trees.

In mid-July, my dad, my uncle, and I checked out a small pocket of the highest LiDAR hits in the upper gorge.  Given the location and terrain, I anticipated the hits would be white pine, but still didn't know quite what to expect.  White pine grows fairly well on very steep slopes, and in such habitats frequently leans or has swept over tops.  Consequently, white pine produces many more high LiDAR hits than there are actually tall white pines.

After waiting out a summer shower, an easy ford took us to a small alluvial flat and moderately steep north-facing slope opposite one of the campgrounds.  Tuiptree, sycamore, and white pine dominate the acre or two of flat ground.  On the lower slopes, large white pines dominate with scattered tuliptree, red maple, and oaks tucked amongst them.  The adelgid has removed the formerly abundant hemlocks from the understory leaving quite a few silverbell and a smaller number of hornbeams.  Farther up the main shallow cove, the white pine gives way to hardwoods.  Black birch, red maple, a mixture of hickories and scattered rich cove hardwoods grow among the typically dominant tuliptrees.  Silverbell again dominates the understory, but patches of spicebush and white pine mix in.  False hellebore and Christmas fern are prominent and widespread in the ground layer. Between all the plants, the sound of children playing rises from the river below.

TallulahRiverCampgroundMeasurements.JPG (49.86 KiB) Viewed 734 times

Georgia can now claim five sites with white pines over 170’ tall.  The crowns of these pines are beginning to show some wear and tear, but they have not flattened.  Hence, their growth likely continues upward at a slow pace.  Based on LiDAR, I think I managed to measure the tallest tree at the site, but there are likely a few more 160’ trees.  The upper part of the cove is surprisingly rich for a white pine site, and several of the hardwoods have also reached significant heights.  The black birch is the fourth tallest known from Georgia, the bitternut hickory the second tallest, and the Biltmore ash within ten feet of the state record.  Surprisingly, the skinny sycamore is also the second tallest known in the state.

7’0” cbh x 108.9’ tall black birch

Forest on the lower slopes dominated by large white pines.   The 10’3” cbh x 172.7’ tall tree is in the center background.


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#2)  Re: Upper Tallulah River, GA

Postby AccipiterGentilis » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:46 am

Super report Jess.   The height on the white pines is towering.  The bitternut hickory is impressive as well.   I've always found bitternut hickories to be one of the prettiest hardwoods in our state in the summer.   This sounds like an amazing area to camp and hike around in.


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