"A visit to Heggie's Rock should be undertaken in early spring in order to see the crimson pools created by the small fragile stalk plant diamorpha cymosa, as well as the confederate daisies and a myriad of other rare lichens, mosses, and grasses found there."
-- The Nature Conservancy
Familiarity doesn't always breed contempt, as the saying goes, but it often leads to disinterest or neglect. Or, to twist another phrase, not in my backyard becomes, "That's in my backyard?"
All this may explain why few Columbia County residents have seen or even know about Heggie's Rock Preserve, the large granite outcropping and rare plant life off Louisville Road in Appling, while visitors all the way from Georgia -- Soviet Georgia, that is -- paid a visit to "the rock" when they were in town as part of the International Friendship Force's Georgia-to-Georgia exchange a few years ago. Besides their whirlwind tour of our modern landmarks and facilities, television producers Tea Gadabadze and Baya Meliava spent an afternoon exploring this unusual formation, created from volcanic activity in the mountain ranges north and west of (U.S.) Georgia more than 200 million years ago.
With the news that Columbia County has purchased a 140-acre tract adjacent to the Preserve, both for a buffer and as part of a plan to preserve 20 percent of county land for greenspace, now seems like a good time to remind seasoned county residents and acquaint newcomers with details of this wonder in our midst.
Granite outcroppings in the southeastern United States follow a 90-mile wide band stretching from eastern Alabama to southern Virginia, with more than 6,000 acres in Georgia alone. Stone Mountain just east of Atlanta is the largest and best known, while the much flatter Heggie's Rock (a stone plateau, perhaps?) is among the best preserved. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy in Georgia, which acquired the property in 1983, and to the county for this additional purchase, traffic from the tourist to the curious will be more carefully controlled than in the past, and the area will remain "well-preserved."
But there was no preserve or private ownership in this part of Colonial Georgia until land ceded from the Creek Indians to the Crown in 1763 and beyond was granted to settlers moving in north and west of Augusta. What we call Heggie's Rock today was part of a 300-acre tract granted to Randol Ramsey around 1772, and then sold to Archibald Heggie in 1811. Each man left his mark on the property by building a gristmill dam on separate forks of nearby Little Kiokee Creek. Heggie was the last known private owner, and his name has been associated with the property ever since.
For some time prior to 1980, the Martin-Marietta Corporation, which maintains a quarry along the Columbia County section of the Augusta Canal, owned much of the area's granite outcropping. But thanks also go to the late Robert Pollard. He recognized the value of Heggie's Rock, purchased that portion of the outcropping from Martin-Marietta and resold it to the Nature Conservancy at a reduced price.
Although there is some question about the type of the granite found at Heggie's Rock being less suitable for Martin-Marietta's needs than what is being quarried now, Mr. Pollard's kind gesture guaranteed that this rock would not become another quarry for anyone's purpose.
Now that I've excited you about making a springtime visit to see Heggie's Rock for yourself, I'm sorry to say you can't just park your vehicle along Louisville Road and make the short walk to the preserve.
Considerable damage was done to the area years ago, especially to the rare plant life, when hikers, cyclists, or folks on a picnic roamed the area without restriction. However, for additional information or to arrange a guided tour, contact the Nature Conservancy in Georgia at (404) 873-6946.
(Information for this column was taken from the writings of local author and historian Michael White, an April 28, 1990, article in The Augusta Chronicle by Cathy Geyso, and the files of the Nature Conservancy in Georgia.)
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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