Among the rolling hills outside of Eufaula, AL, is a place called Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon. My friend suggested we check it out. The sandy soil around the canyon was deposited 59 and 74 million years ago when Georgia and Florida were part of a great coastal plain. The passing seas, deltas, streams, and beaches during different geological eras left varying colorful sand deposits that can mesmerize in the right light. The primary problem farmers faced when they first utilized the land to grow food and cotton in the early 1800s was soil erosion control. The techniques the farmers used to till the land caused erosion to proceed uncontrolled in the sandy deposits, and within a few decades, a canyon appeared. Now, the rain continues to cause the hillside to drain away, and the canyon grows each time the clouds drop water from the sky. The nice thing is that the geological eras of the coastal plain age have been uncovered as the ground seeps down into the valley. That’s a big part of why it’s a great place to hike, explore, camp, and appreciate the beauty found in the passage of time!
My three buddies and I loaded into the car on an increasingly hot morning and headed out to the canyon. My friend, Dave, who moved down into the area about a year ago, told us he had gone there a couple of times since moving to Eufaula and found it to be a great place for a hike.
He was right!
We parked, had a couple of beers to give us a little pep, and headed out into the canyon. The first stop was the gift shop and bathroom area. There are a couple of signs on a wall outside the building to tell about the area’s human and geological history. There are also artifacts on display. We stopped for a moment and then headed out onto the Canyon Loop Trail.
The trail down into the canyon was pretty easy. You transverse back and forth a little until you get down to a red clay bottom. There the air was fresh and still had a little coolness left by the morning dew.
A Stream Runs Through It
A stream greeted us once we descended the trail. The water down on the canyon floor is not only the result of runoff from above but also from groundwater percolating up from the soil. Apparently, this area is a little below sea level at spots. The floor is mostly hard clay, which helps slow the deterioration of the hillside since it resists erosion better than the sandy soil.
The clay also makes a nice path to walk on as we walked toward the canyon walls. The water was manageable while we were there and I walked the stream wearing a pair of breathable sneakers that weren’t waterproof at all. With careful stepping, my feet stayed dry.
The sides of the canyons at this spot were filled with vegetation and trees planted to control the erosion by volunteers a few years back.
Inside the Canyon
Getting to the sides of the canyon doesn’t take long from the trail, so going off course a little to check out some of the cliffs up close won’t wear you out or cost much time. It’s definitely worth it.
Just make sure you don’t get too close to the sides, especially after any heavy rains, as they may have weakened and could collapse. Other than that, it’s a cool place to walk around.
The hike up the trail after you cross the stream is somewhat strenuous. One of the first sights at the top of the trail is an auto graveyard; a common sight on old farmlands throughout the country.
I don’t know what types of vehicles these might be, but if you recognize any of them, leave a message in the comment section to tell us what they are.
From here, it doesn’t take long after you pass the rusting relics that you get to the edge of the rim with its spectacular views resulting from 180+ years of erosion.
The Rim Walk
Hiking around the edge of the ridge provides gorgeous views of the growing canyon and the beauty of the geological features. It’s an easy walk, but you don’t want to get too close to the edge. Although the erosion down in the valley is slowed by hard clay and vegetation, the upper sides are still supported by the sandy soil. Soil that gives way frequently and should be avoided unless you are sure it’s solid where you walk.
Methodist Providence Church and Lowe Cemetery
As you round the bend at the ridge’s top, you return to the main road to the parking lot. This is when you can go explore Methodist Providence Church. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open to the public at the time we were there and the windows were too high off the ground to peer through and see the inside, but this site shows some good images. The original log cabin church was built in 1832, but it succumbed to the collapsing cliffs of the emerging canyon. This wooden structure was built in 1859. It’s still used today for special events.
The Lowe Cemetery is behind the church. It appears to be a small family cemetery of early church members. Some served in different regiments during the Civil War and died on one of the many battlefields in this part of the south. The cemetery isn’t well-maintained except for a couple of gravesites that are recent.
The trip around the Canyon Loop Trail took a couple of hours with a couple of appreciation stops included. The hardest part was walking back up from the valley floor, which was manageable. Unique clothing or equipment wasn’t needed, and we only packed a couple of water bottles. If you want more, you’ll have to bring it from home as there isn’t a store or food service in the park (outside the little ill-supplied gift shop). This is worth the excursion, especially if you’re going to camp so you can explore more intensely.