Georgia SuperGraphic

Beauty Born From Bad Farming

In the early 19th century, the land of present-day Georgia was all countryside, with sloping hills and large trees. But over time the land was eventually given over to farming due to the number of European settlers who arrived between 1790 and 1830. Small farms began to dot the hilltops of southwestern Georgia, and shortly thereafter ground erosion began to take place because the soil was weakened by repetitive plowing. Early 19th century farmers did not take any measures to prevent soil erosion. They were unconcerned with preserving topsoil or using any type of fertilizer, and they would also plow up and down hills instead of across. These types of misguided early farming methods encouraged the formation of erosion gullies. Farmers also exhausted the land through overuse, and then they abandoned it.

Beginning in the 1820s and continuing for many years, clearing of old-growth trees (roots that deeply stabilize the soil) in order to grow cotton set the early stages for the extreme erosion that was to come. The area was exposed to frequent, treacherous thunderstorms which caused tremendous water run off in the area. During the 1940s, farmers had to keep their eye on every little ditch in case it turned into a gully. Farmers claimed that the soil "melted like sugar and ran like water." The soil in the area that is now "Georgia's Little Grand Canyon" was always, and still is remarkably soft. As water ran across it, rapid erosion took place.

During these heavy downpours, rainfall removed vast amounts of sand and silt, which eventually washed down the braided Turner's Creek into the Chattahoochee River. As the sediment washed away, it eventually blocked off the end of neighboring valleys, which then formed two lakes known as the North and South Glory Holes. Year after year, many farmers lost animals and farm equipment over the canyon rim. Once anything went over the rim it was lost, because recovery was far too difficult. Those who have lived in the area for many years can remember lying in bed on cold winter nights during an intense rainstorm and hearing bangs that sounded like cannon fire, as big chunks of earth fell from steep-sided walls.

Related images

Georgia's Little Grand Canyon
Photos Courtesy of Joy Joyner.
Georgia's Little Grand Canyon
Georgia's Little Grand Canyon
Photo Courtesy of Harris Hatcher.

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