Providence Canyon (the State Parks tour continues)

A few years ago, I set a goal to visit all the Georgia State Parks in a year. Great goal! Didn’t happen.

Life happens. You know how that goes. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that jazz. But I’d like to get back at it … visiting all the State parks … and it will take as long as it takes.

And I will write about those visits here and share those experiences with you. The writing about things here part also got sidetracked. I started up an online magazine (www.southernsoil.org – check it out!) and turns out that requires an awful lot of writing and when you’re writing all the time, sometimes writing “for fun” isn’t so much fun. Or that’s what I thought. But truthfully when you’re writing for fun, it IS a lot more fun! And maybe I need more of that.

So… onward!

Recently my friend Jamie and I took a little trip to West Georgia mostly for my aforementioned magazine work, but I firmly believe in mixing business with pleasure so we also planned a detour to Providence Canyon State Park … it had been on both of our must-see lists for quite some time.

Time to check it off the list!

First off, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way.

The whole reason there is a canyon here is due to some seriously bad agricultural practices led to some massive erosion … this is pretty much a man-made “natural” wonder. But, let’s look at it as a great lesson to learn from! Top soil is important, erosion is not good, sustainable agriculture that protects soil is the way to go!

But now that this canyon is here… let’s enjoy it!

When I was a teenager, I had the privilege of visiting the Grand Canyon (it was a quick visit, we were traveling and getting Dad to make stops when traveling … well … we all count ourselves fortunate that we had a few hours to spend marveling in the majesty that is the Grand Canyon (again… erosion, bad – results, kinda cool).

Providence Canyon is referred to as “Georgia’s little Grand Canyon” and I was prepared to be skeptical of this correlation. (I mean, aside from the oxymoronic diminution of GRAND.)

And, honestly, from the top looking down … there is no comparison. It lacks a certain vastness.

BUT … from inside the canyon, I totally had this feeling that I had been transported into a scaled down version of the Grand Canyon. One where I could walk through it and put my hands on it and be completely surrounded by it. I’m sort of a “hand on” kinda person, so that was fun!

And from the bottom, looking up through the canyon was much more impressive and the nickname felt much more appropriate (again, aside from the oxymoronic diminution of grand).

We got there around noonish on a Thursday and there were very few people there. By the time we were leaving around 3:30 or so it was starting to get a bit crowded. We only had a few hours to spend there because of our travel schedule (uh oh – am I my dad now???), but it was plenty of time for walking part way around the rim and hiking down into the canyon and BACK UP (don’t forget that part).

We had GORGEOUS weather for the day. Nothing but blue skies. And sunshine. And a nice breeze. The high that day was somewhere around 60. Perfect, in my opinion. I would not want to go there during summer. But, then again, I don’t want to go anywhere in Georgia in the summer (change my mind on that one, please!).

It was also a great time of year because some of the trees were blooming, but not all the trees had leafed out … which made viewing the canyon more … viewable.

If you have limited time or are limited in your ability to cover a lot of ground with ease, prioritize Canyons 4 and 5. They are very accessible (keeping in mind the trip down and back up) and provide some of the best views. I can’t speak to any of the back-country hiking trails, because as I mentioned we were limited in our time (also, I’m out of shape).

Carry water with you. It’s only a couple miles round trip and it’s doable for anyone who is moderately fit. If you can walk up say … 20 flights of stairs or so … you’ll be fine. Paths on the canyon floor are pretty well marked. The canyon floor is fairly flat to Canyons 4 and 5, access to the other canyons requires traversing more uneven terrain.

For those of us in the Eastern part of the State, finding a place to stay overnight is advisable. We stayed about 40 miles South in Bluffton at White Oak Pastures. They have on-farm lodging available, as well as, a couple houses in town that can be booked. Yep. Agri-tourism at its best. Check out my next blog for more specifics on that!