Land & Water
The Jasper city limit sign reads “First Mountain City” highlighting the county’s most striking geographic feature – the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachian chain that originate here. The Approach Trail of the Appalachian Trail that runs all the way to Maine is just a few miles away in neighboring Dawson County at Amicolola Falls. The original start of the Appalachian Trail was at Oglethorpe Mountain, here in Pickens County. Facing southwest from Burnt Mountain, Sassafrass Mountain and Mount Oglethorpe rise above 3000 feet in the background along the horizon, framing the distinctive Sharp Top Mountain (2500 feet) in the foreground.
Southwest of Jasper, there is another geologically different group of mountains called “Sleeping Woman” by the Cherokee reaching 2200 feet – Sharp, Cagle, Henderson, and Oakley Mountains.
The Jasper-Hightower Ridge District bisects the county between these two mountain groups functioning as a “pass” for all the major transportation routes – the Old Federal Road through the Cherokee Nation, the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad, Georgia Highways 5 and 53, and now the modern four-lane Georgia Highway 515.
The southeastern corner of the county is geographicly distinct – the hilly Dahlonega Uplands. It’s the locale of the seven mile long marble deposit mined by the Georgia Marble Company. The pits are still in use, but the market for marble is dramatically diminished from the heyday of the early twentieth century, and some of the marble processing plants now have “for lease” signs in place over their carved marble entrance markers. Tate’s history, however, is being preserved with Tate, Georgia being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Colonel Sam Tate’s “Pink Palace” has been restored as the Tate House, a popular bed and breakfast, becoming an Inn as in the 1830s when the original Sam Tate came to Pickens County. The nearby Tate Elementary School is the only all marble elementary school building in the country.
The low hills of the Cherokee Uplands in the west are dotted with pastures and evergreen forests, unlike the hardwood forests in the east. The small towns of Blaine, Ludville, Hinton, and Jerusalem lie in the valleys. This is the more sparsely populated area of county – less people, but more cows and horses. Toward the western border, Highway 53 goes around Fuller Mountain and enters Gordon County, descending sharply into the Coosa Valley to meet I-75 running between Chattanooga and Atlanta.
Pickens County is not where water goes to, it’s where water comes from. The county is interlaced with streams and creeks carrying water from the highlands, but has no rivers or natural lakes. There are a number of small man-made lakes, all privately owned for recreational use, or, in the cases of Bent Tree and Big Canoe, for water supply. The only public reservoir in the county was created recently by the City of Jasper, diverting water into an abandoned marble mine along Long Swamp Creek. The streams drain into two different river basins – the Etowah River to the east and the Coosawattee River to the west.
The stream system supports a healthy population of trout year around, and there are a number of stocked seasonal streams in the northern part of the county. We even have several unique species of fish, the darters, found throughout the Etowah Basin. The Etowah Darter inhabits Long Swamp Creek and is on the endangered species list.