What do people see when they come to Columbia County?
This is a good week to find out. Columbia County, especially the area in and
around West Lake and Jones Creek, provides lots of housing for Masters
guests. They won't see much of Columbia County beyond a couple of golf
courses and a few restaurants, unless a local provides a tour.
We're not exactly the kind of community that has guided tours. Our
historically significant sites are few and far between.
A few years ago, I hired a new reporter and took her on a mini-tour of the
county. It reminded me of the scene in National Lampoon's European Vacation,
when the family is stuck in traffic on a roundabout; Chevy Chase's character
keeps pointing out Big Ben and Parliament as they pass the buildings over
Here, it's pretty much Savannah Rapids, Justice Center. Drive far enough,
and it's Clarks Hill Lake, Appling Courthouse. Grove-town. Harlem.
There also is an unbeaten path in Columbia County, however - stuff you don't
see unless you know to look for it. Here's the high point, the low point -
literally - and something in between:
A high point: Burks Mountain. Yes, we have a mountain range. Sort of. The
little mini-mountains are best viewed from the Clarks Hill Dam, looking
Don't expect Everest. Columbia County is pretty much a plain because of the
Savannah River. But Burks and Mt. Carmel are mountainous "geographic
anomalies" rising from that plain.
They don't rise far. Burks Mountain's elevation is just 475 feet; Mt. Carmel
towers over it at 537 feet. In fact, they aren't even the county's highest
elevations; that point is on Cobbham Road at the McDuffie County line, a
patch of asphalt rising to the dizzying height of 606 feet above sea level.
The low point: Commuters on River Watch Park-way probably don't realize
they're passing within a few hundred feet of the lowest point in Columbia
It's inside the rock quarry between the parkway and the Augusta Canal.
There's a marker on the canal towpath describing the quarry, but about all
you can see of it from there is a big pile of rubble and dirt. A couple of
years ago we asked for permission to photograph inside the quarry, and they
reacted as if we were looking for weapons of mass destruction. So we flew
over and took pictures from the air.
It's a hole in the ground that produces a lot of rock for road-paving, and
its bottom is more than 500 feet below sea level - deep enough to drop Burks
Mountain inside. Even though the hole is man-made, it is a thing of almost
industrial beauty. You can see part of it along the power line that crosses
Evans-to-Locks Road near Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
A truly remarkable place that few of us, outside an organized tour, will
ever see: Heggie Rock. Located near Appling off Old Louisville Road, Heggie
Rock is a cousin to Stone Mountain.
Heggie Rock once was doomed to become another quarry. It's now owned by
Georgia's Nature Conservancy, which restricts access to the mammoth
outcropping's fragile ecosystem.
Those conservationists would probably have a cow to know that when I was a
kid, families used to drive out on the rock to picnic and enjoy the
breathtaking view. We weren't ecologically sophisticated enough to know that
we shouldn't leave tire tracks across the moss, which survived in spite of a
lack of human protectors.
I'd much rather have a conservationist group protecting Heggie Rock than
guards at a quarry - especially when the conservationists let you take
ost of our visitors this week will revel in the hyper-manicured beauty of
the Augusta National Golf Club, and many will spend their nights in Columbia
County where unscripted natural beauty abounds - if you know where to look
for it, in a roundabout way.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail
comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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