Wilderness playground

Wilderness playground

August 13th, 2012 by Mariann Martin in Glimpse 2012-a

You can't ignore past generations in present day Chatsworth.

An ancient mystery wall and historic house are constant reminders that ancient civilizations once called this northwest Georgia region home.

Generations later, local officials tout Chatsworth as Gatlinburg without the tourist congestion.

The rolling countryside and mountain ranges attract historians and outdoor enthusiasts to explore and enjoy challenging hikes, quiet lakeside fishing and ancient artifacts.

— Compiled by staff writer Mariann Martin

Fort Mountain State Park is located on Fort Mountain Park Road in Chatsworth, Ga., and offers an array of activities from hiking to swimming to camping.

Fort Mountain State Park is located on Fort...

Photo by Alyson Wright /Times Free Press.

Who built the wall?

• Fort Mountain State Park (181 Fort Mountain Park Road) offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, camping and swimming.

• It is named after an ancient and mystical 855-foot long rock wall built along on the highest point of the mountain.

• Local legends attribute the wall to early Americans for protection or as part of religious ceremonies; to a race of "moon-eyed," fair-skinned people; a Welsh prince Madoc, who arrived in Mobile Bay and moved north into the area; or to Hernando de Soto, who built it to defend the mountain against the Creek Indians.

• Several lookout points around the park provide views of Chatsworth and rolling farms to the west, while the Cohutta Wilderness stretches to the north and east.

Source: Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce

Showplace of the Cherokee Nation

• The Chief Vann House was built by Cherokee chieftain James Vann, a wealthy businessman, who owned the largest and most successful plantation in the Cherokee Nation.

• The house, built in 1804, was the first brick mansion in North Georgia, and features a canti-levered, "floating" staircase and a 12-foot mantle.

• The Vanns lost their home in the 1830s, when almost the entire Cherokee Nation was forced west by state and federal troops on the infamous Trail of Tears.

• The home (82 Highway 225 North) is open Thursday - Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. with admission for a guided tour ranging from $3.50 - $6.

Source: Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce

Roughing it

• The Cohutta Loop is a loose term for a network of roads through the Cohutta Wilderness that provide breathtaking views of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

• The Cohutta Wilderness, at 37,000 acres, is the largest national forest east of the Mississippi River, with elevations as high as 4,000 feet.

• Most of the roads are dirt or gravel, pocked with large rocks. A four-wheel drive is recommended but not absolutely necessary.

• To access the loop from Chatsworth, take U.S. 411 north and turn right onto Grassy Street, right on Crandall Ellijay Road and left on Mill Creek Road which is in the forest.

• Lake Conasauga, on Grassy Mountain, is the highest elevation lake in Georgia and has campsites along the lake shore.

Source: Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce, Georgia parks

Bear costumes and Christmas traditions

• Vann House Days - Local craftspeople demonstrate 19th century skills such as blacksmithing, weaving, quilting, spinning wool, chair caning and blackpowder shooting (July 21, 82 Highway 225 North).

• Black Bear Festival - Music, food, a pet parade, costume contest and arts make this unique festival fun for the whole family (October, downtown Chatsworth).

• Christmas Candlelight Tours - Visitors are invited to enjoy the sights and sounds of a 19th century Christmas in one of America's best-preserved Cherokee Indian homes (Dec. 14-15 5 - 9 p.m., 82 Highway 225 North).

Source: Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce, Georgia State Parks

Food like granny used to cook

• The Village Cafeteria (121 N. 2nd Ave.) serves up a classic "meat and three" but also serves special order like hamburgers and philly steaks.

• The daily buffet has 6 - 8 meats and 23 veggies every day, served up by Teresa Morrison, who has owned the restaurant 25 years.

• A customer favorite is the fried chicken breast.

• Strawberry and coconut cakes are homemade and taste like grandma's.

Source: Teresa Morrison, Dinah Rowe, Chamber president

Gateway to the Appalachians

• Population: 3,531

• Biggest employers: Carpet manufacturers

• Number of miles from downtown Chattanooga: 45

• Date founded: 1906

• Historic Info: The area around Chatsworth was the heart of the Cherokee Nation before white settlers arrived. Few white settlers moved into the area until after the Cherokee were removed in the 1830s.

• Most famous resident: Cherokee Chief James Vann

• Unique aspect: One third of Murray County is protected forest land

• Fun fact: According to legend, the city's name was taken from a sign that fell off a railroad freight car with the name "Chatsworth."

Source: Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce