The Origins of Stone Mountain - The Natural Beauty of Georgia

Stone Mountain, Georgia
Stone Mountain in Georgia has a fascinating history, both geologically and historically, which includes the famous carving. For more contemporary fun activities for the family, there is the natural beauty of the park. Find more information about this interesting place in this article.
Stone Mountain is a town that is located in Dekalb County in Georgia and is considered to be almost a district of the city of Atlanta. This town has got its name from Stone Mountain, which is the largest exposed granite dome in North America.

Geological Origins

It is perched on the edge of the western part of a large belt, made up of Lithonia Gneiss granite. The strange thing is that, the intrusive granite which the mountain is comprised; is younger and completely different from Lithonia granite. Standing at 1,683 feet above sea level, approximately 650-750 feet above Georgia Piedmont, which surrounds it; Stone Mountain is visible from Mount Yonah at its northeast, Amicalola Falls State Park on the north, and Kennesaw Mountain in the west.

Technically referred to as a pluton, which means a massive intrusive igneous rock which is thought to have solidified deep inside the earth, this mountain was created during the complex faulting and folding that formed the Blue Ridge Mountains, though it is not part of that mountain range. The molten rock that formed into this mountain, in other words, was created deep within the earth, and forced its way up from the molten center of the earth. Before this massive molten rock surfaced into the air, it stopped forming the western side of the pluton initially. Consecutive efforts at erupting through the earth's surface failed too, although it added to the size of this dome-like rock from the west to the east. Once it formed fully, the pluton started cooling down. This took place during the geological process known as the Alleghanian orogeny, involving the collision of massive tectonic plates, around 350 million years ago.

However, geologists are baffled about how this massive rock, which is considered to be the largest granite formation known, got to become exposed. One of the conjectures is that the whole region of Georgia Piedmont was at a higher level than the mountain, and that the erosion that took place over a period of time, simply wore away the metamorphic stone and dirt that surrounded the mountain. Others are of the belief that, after it was formed, the area flooded, resulting in the water eroding the material that surrounded it. According to a third theory, geological events such as earthquakes could have been responsible. According to the analysis of the rock, it has been revealed that the magma from which the pluton was formed, comprised muscovite, microcline, feldspar, and quartz along with smaller amounts of tourmaline and biotite. Pieces of amphibolite and biotite gneiss are also embedded inside the granite.

Historical Origins

Several clans and tribes of native people had made this area their home long before European settlers arrived here. The ancient burial grounds and stone walls are the evidence archeologists have found, that prove the existence of many tribes inhabiting the area. The Creek Indians inhabited this region when the first white explorers arrived here, in the 16th Century. By the early part of the 19th Century, Europeans started settling in this area in large numbers, after taking much of the land that belonged to the Creek Indians, paying merely $19 for 200 acres in the Fourth Georgia Land Lottery. Farms, roads, and forts came up along with several stores, a hotel, and a post office. By the 1850s, the mountain itself became a source of work, as large amounts of its granite began to be quarried. The quarry industry was the reason the area's first railroad was constructed, around the late 19th Century. Granite was quarried right up to the 1970s.

It is also the place the Ku Klux Klan regenerated themselves in 1915, and for the next 45 years, they continued holding their meetings there regularly. In fact, the area became so famous that Martin Luther King, Jr. mentioned it in his famous speech, "I have a Dream", which he made in August 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington: "... Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia...", he said. Nowadays, it is a quiet and quaint suburb of Atlanta, with its most celebrated tourist attraction being the carving on the mountainside.

The Carving

The biggest attraction is carved on the town's famous mountain itself. On the northern side of this huge monolith of granites is a bas relief, which is considered the world's largest of three famous Civil War personas: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. The Ku Klux Klan were closely involved in the carving's planning as well as execution, and were also responsible for raising a large part of the money required for the commencement of the project.

Although the carving began in 1923, it was not until 1972 that it was completed, after years of the project being started and stopped. Nowadays, it can be viewed from the town, and is of course its most popular tourist attraction. The area that surrounds the carving is known today as Stone Mountain Park, maintained and owned by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. The sculptures of the Confederate soldiers came into focus worldwide, even though briefly, when this city hosted the cycling and tennis events of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

The Park

Stone Mountain Park is located on US Highway 78, 16 miles on the eastern side of downtown Atlanta. Exit 39B off Interstate 285 has to be taken and Highway 78 should be followed east for 8 miles. Exit 8 is the main entry point of the park. Situated on 3,200 acres of beautiful nature, this park has a wide range of fun activities for families along with lots of things to do in the Atlanta area of Georgia. Plenty of adventurous activities await you while you discover interactive attractions for children. Plus, there are fun events held annually such as the Indian Pow Wow and the Yellow Daisy Festival.

Given below are some of the fun activities you can do here:
  • Have fun exploring a 3-story tree house and a 4-story barn, which has trampoline floors, climbing structures, and many interactive games.
  • Enjoy the thrill of a sky-ride to the summit of Stone Mountain with the added advantage of getting a close-up look at the carving.
  • Revel in a picturesque train ride circling around the mountain.
  • There are paddlewheel cruises on a riverboat named the Scarlett O'Hara that you can enjoy on Stone Mountain Lake.
  • You can take a self-guided tour in the 'Discovering Stone Mountain Museum', located in the Memorial Hall'.
  • There are 15 miles of nature trails, which traverse the mountain's slope and through the wooded areas, where you can go on hiking trips. For example, there are trails that connect to the Songbird Habitat and a Nature Garden, and also to the scenic Grist Mill areas and Covered Bridge. There is also a historic six-mile long Cherokee Trail that meanders along the foot of the mountain and the 1.3 Walk-Up Trail that climbs to the summit of the mountain.
  • For golfing enthusiasts, there are Lakemont and Stonemont, two championship golf courses that ramble around the lake and through a pine forest.
  • For those who like to swing a tennis racquet around, there are 16 outdoor courts with hard lights along with a stadium court that can seat 8, 200 people.
  • You can end the day with a spectacular laser light display, considered to be the largest in the world, along with a finale made up of fabulous fireworks.
  • This place also features a family campground where wooded campsite options are on offer, which range from primitive camping tents to full-service motor homes and pop-ups. Check out the website of Stone Mountain Family Campground for information about reservations and pricing.
Although this beautiful place is open all through the year, the hours of the attractions can vary according to the season. Hence, you need to check out the events calendar and the hours of operation on their website in order to schedule your visiting days. There are annual attraction passes available online, and don't forget to check out their vacation packages and special offers.