RISING FAWN, Ga. -- The Preserve at Rising Fawn will be preserved after all.

Uncertainty shrouded the 2,200-acre piece of Dade County for years in the wake of a failed real estate development that landed two men in jail for money laundering and wire fraud, but the area is taking on a new identity.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust announced a partnership with the Southeastern Cave Conservancy earlier this month that will create the Charles B. Henson Cave Preserve at Rising Fawn.

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Cave preserve coming to Johnson's Crook area of Dade County


The preserve will include 1,300 acres of land acquired by the land trust in the years since plans to turn the area into what developers dubbed a "mini-Pigeon Forge" tanked.

Though there is no single cave that stands out in the preserve, there are 34 caves in the area where "you can have a great day," Southeastern Cave Conservancy board member Patty Springer said.

Springer was married to Charles Henson, who died in 2013 after serving an instrumental role in acquiring parcels of land in the area for the sake of preserving it in the wake of the failed development.

With property values plummeting, officials and conservationists worried the land might fall into the hands of miners or clear-cutters who would tarnish the area's natural beauty.

Thanks in part to Henson's efforts, that did not happen.

"You've always got that concern," Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said. "But this is a win-win for our community and for conservation."

The land is about 35 minutes from downtown Chattanooga along Newsome Gap Road in an area known as Johnson's Crook, where remnants of the would-be real estate development are still standing in the bluffs of the Lookout Mountain Ridge.

A partially completed home stands on the side of the road, eroding, almost as if a construction crew left it there in the middle of the day and never returned.

Rumley said most locals did not want expensive vacation homes in the area, and although there are still 33 privately owned lots in the preserve area, the cave conservation appears to be a long-term solution that will not border any sort of organized development.

Cavers have known of the area for a long time, Springer said.

Now the area is designated for caving, and she hopes others will become familiar with it, too.

"I think Dade County, for one, is aware of the natural resources it has," Springer said. "I'd like to see the same community interaction that you see at Cloudland Canyon here with Johnson's Crook."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at 423-757-6249 or