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Stone Mountain: Georgia

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

TRAVELING ON U.S. HIGHWAY 78 IN GEORGIA, little did we know the pleasures that awaited us
as we drove our motorhome into the campground at Stone Mountain Park. Here we learned that
Stone Mountain, located 16 miles east of Atlanta, Georgia, and covering 583 acres, is the
largest isolated body of exposed granite in the world. Evidence has been discovered showing
that the area around the mountain was inhabited about 5,000 years ago. Spanish Captain Juan
Pardo’s expeditions in 1567 provided the first written records of Stone Mountain. In 1845,
before the mountain became a tourist attraction, its granite was mined for use in
construction projects all over the world, including the U.S. Capitol Building in
Washington, D.C.; the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan; the University of Havana in Cuba; the
gold depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky; and the locks of the Panama Canal. Visitors stand
in awe at the world’s largest bas-relief carving on the north face of Stone Mountain.
Covering an area as huge as a football field 400 feet above the ground, the carving depicts
the equestrian figures of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and
General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Dedicated in 1970, the carving itself is 90 feet
high by 190 feet wide and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. A visit to the Stone
Mountain Museum at Memorial Hall explains the fascinating story behind this incredible work
of art. An exceptionally interesting film depicts scenes of work actually in progress on
the mountain. Although conceived in 1912 by C. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United
Daughters of the Confederacy, the carving did not begin until 1923. Gutzon Borglum, the
first sculptor to work on the carving, completed the head of Lee in 1924. As a result of a
dispute, Borglum left in 1925 and went on to carve the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in
South Dakota. The second Stone Mountain sculptor, Augustus Lukeman, began in 1925, but by
1928 funds had been depleted and work was halted for 36 years. In 1964, sculptor Walker
Kirkland Hancock resumed the work. Dedication of the Confederate Memorial Carving was held
on May 9, 1970. To give you an idea of the size of the carving, workers could stand inside
a horse’s mouth or on its ear! Lee’s head is 15 feet tall, and Davis’ thumb is the size of
a couch. At the museum, visitors also learn about the cultures of Native Americans,
including Creek and Cherokee, who lived in this area for more than 10,500 years, and the
settlers who came in the 1820s to inhabit the Georgia frontier. Take a train tour around
Stone Mountain, or hop onto the Skylift for a ride to the very top of the mountain, where
you can see for miles in every direction. The city of Atlanta is clearly visible from here.
Those who would rather walk than ride prefer to take the trail to the summit. There, you
will find a nature center where souvenirs and park collectibles may be purchased. You might
have lunch in the restaurant and stroll around, taking in the sights, before hopping back
onto the Skylift or hiking down the mountainside. Since there are so many attractions and
places to visit in 3,200-acre Stone Mountain Park, you may want to leave your motorhome in
the main parking lot and take the free shuttle to the various sites. Attractions include an
authentic antebellum plantation, complete with a mansion, a barn, a well, a log cabin,
slave cabins, a coach house, a smoke house, a four-seater “necessary” house and many other
buildings. All of the buildings at the plantation are original, having been moved here from
other locations in the state. The log cabin was built around 1826 by one of DeKalb County’s
first doctors and was used as a home, office and drugstore. The Thornton House, built in
Greene County circa 1790, is believed to be the oldest restored house in the state. Two
slave cabins from the Graves Plantation in Covington were built around 1830. An exquisite
mansion, the Dickey House, circa 1840, was occupied by descendants of the original owners
until 1961, when it was moved here. The lawn is graced with lovely formal gardens and a
gazebo. The Antique Auto and Treasure Museum features vintage cars and bicycles, as well as
memorabilia that will appeal to visitors of all ages. Children will particularly enjoy the
Family Fun Sports Center and playground, as well as the Lazershow, Wildlife Preserve and
Petting Zoo and the beach with its water slide. The Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad is a
great way to see the area on a narrated five-mile tour around the base of the mountain. A
paddlewheel riverboat ride on beautiful Stone Mountain Lake is a nostalgic experience.
Various special events are scheduled in the park throughout the year. Visitors will enjoy
exploring the lakes and woodlands. Sports and fitness enthusiasts will get plenty of
exercise playing golf or tennis (lessons are available), swimming, bicycling, hiking or
boating (boats may be rented). Fifteen miles of scenic sidewalks are provided for walkers
and joggers. Group activities include volleyball, basketball and other competitions. Since
we were traveling in our motorhome, we stayed at the 400-site Stone Mountain Park
Campground. Restaurants for every taste are found in Stone Mountain Park, from elegant
dining to fast food. You will want to spend at least two or three days at Stone Mountain
Park in order to take advantage of all the exciting things to do and see here. One ticket
includes unlimited admission to most of the attractions, and many are free. For
More Info
Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083; (800) 317-2006.
Campground information, (770) 498-5710. Peachtree State travel information, (800) VISIT-GA.

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