Lula Lake Trail

Hikers on the old railbed pause at Lula Falls.

The 17-mile Chickamauga and Durham Railroad ran from Chickamauga, on the Central of Georgia Railroad, to the mining town of Durham, high atop Lookout Mountain. Along the way it passed through the scenic Rock Creek canyon, a wild and beautiful landscape of waterfalls, cascades, and sheer cliffs.

Completed in 1892, the railroad took coal from the Durham mines down the canyon to Chickamauga, where it was converted to coke, a hot-burning fuel for Chattanooga's steel industry.

A modern bridge crosses Rock Creek at the site of an old railroad trestle.

Bike riders at one of the points where the railroad cut through the sandstone cap of the mountain.

In the early 1900s, the railroad was acquired by the Central of Georgia, which operated it for a half-century before abandoning it in 1951.

In the late 1950s, Robert M. Davenport, a son of Krystal restaurants co-founder Rody Davenport, Jr., bought the lake and waterfalls and over the next two decades acquired adjacent properties to help protect the natural character of the upper canyon. In his will, he established the Lula Lake Land Trust to continue the preservation effort.

Another of the railroad cuts along the trail.

Today, the land trust carefully manages the 1,200 acres he acquired, along with several thousand other acres within the watershed.

Lula Lake is generally open to the public on the first and last Saturday of each month, but check the Trust's website to verify open-gate days and times.

The upper falls as seen from the railbed.

The lower falls as seen from the railbed.

Ca. 1864 photograph of the upper falls. From: 'Chattanooga, Tennessee (vicinity). Lulu lake (Lookout Mt.)'. Civil War glass negative collection at Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Image online here.

Ca. 1864 photograph of the lower falls. From: 'Chattanooga, Tennessee (vicinity). Lulu Falls, Lookout Mt'. Civil War glass negative collection at Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Image online here.

Two more old photos of the upper and lower falls. From: Chattanooga and her Battle-fields, 1904. Online at Internet Archive here.

Durham, the former coal mining site, is about five miles southwest of Lula Lake off Hwy 157 (Hinkle Road). Here another trail system can be explored in the new Five Points Recreation Area, managed as part of Cloudland Canyon State Park. Several miles of multi-use trails, including some among the old mine tailings, are available for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.


RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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